Erika Balsom (King’s College, London)
The Promise and Threat of Reproducibility
The advent of digital forms of reproduction has reignited the ambivalent status the copy has enjoyed since at least the development of photography in the nineteenth century: the reproducible image offers a promise of greater dissemination and access, but also threatens to liquidate uniqueness and jeopardize property rights. This talk explores the ambivalent character of reproducibility in the intersecting histories of experimental cinema and artists’ moving image, turning to a little-known episode – the desire to sell 8 mm reduction prints of avant-garde films to home collectors in the 1960s – in order to unfold how the aspirations and values attached to particular distribution initiatives are being rearticulated and challenged in light of digitization. More broadly, it will insist that distribution channels are not simply neutral pathways, but networks that exert a key impact on how we encounter, make sense of, and write the history of the moving image.
Erika Balsom is lecturer in Film Studies and Liberal Arts at King’s College London. She is the author of Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (Amsterdam University Press, 2013) and co-editor of the anthology Documentary Across Disciplines (MIT Press, 2016). Her monograph on the distribution and circulation of artists’ film and video is forthcoming from Columbia University Press later this year. Her writing has appeared in numerous exhibition zatalogues and publications including Artforum, Cinema Journal, and Screen, with recent texts on Omer Fast, artists’ uses of 3D, and the grid as metaphor in digital art.