Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
We’ve all heard of the idea of something being a ‘rip-off’. Hell I once wrote a blog pointing out that there was no such thing as an ‘original’ Disney film. But another name for ‘rip-off’ is ‘forgery’, which is what we’re looking at today. Namely: Can a forgery turn out to be better then the original.
The first view of this debate is by a man known as ‘Lessing’, who made the argument that aesthetic value is based solely on appearance. That how valuable a picture is depends on how pleasing it looks, or how ‘good’ it looks if you will. Note I should classify that it doesn’t have to be drawn well to have aesthetic value, since a lot of things that are drawn really bad are considered valuable. I’m looking at you Picasso. So following this logic, lets say I build a matter replicator and get an atom by atom copy of the Mona Lisa. According to this idea it must be worth as much as the original, and I should be able to sell off a few of them to gain a few quick bucks. What do you mean, supply and demand? I’ve watched the Douglas Adams penned episode of Doctor Who â€œCity of Deathâ€ where an alien gets Leonardo da Vinci to paint extra copies of the Mona Lisa to sell off (after stealing the original so everyone thinks they’ve got the original obviously). According to Lessing these copies must be as worthwhile as the original ones. And I have to say that I totally agree with. I think a copy of the Mona Lisa is just as good as the original providing that it is of the same standard of quality as the original. Or, as the appropriate reverse, that the Mona Lisa is worth as much as the copies I can find on the street. This seems a bit farcical, but nevertheless that is how the argument seemingly works. So is this the end on the argument on forgery?
Well next up into the ring is a man by the name of Walton, who argues that it is the category that is important when it comes to what makes a forgery different to the original. No doubt you’ve heard the term ‘art category’ at some point in your life, even if it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Well categories come to have three sections in them. You have the standard, something that makes the art automatically be part of that category. For example, it is standard for something to be a painting if it’s unmoving two-dimensional image. You have the variable, something that still fits in the category but isn’t something automatically associated with it. For example, you wouldn’t expect a painting to be done using blood, but it’d still be two-dimensional and unmoving. A contra-standard is when something the category of art has something that shouldn’t be associated with that category. For example a painting that has something sticking out of it, or that occasionally moves in a small way. Now if enough of these contra-standards stop being unordinary and start becoming somewhat ordinary, a new category is born. Hence the idea of moving pictures stopped being mind-blowing and started being in a category of its own, namely that of film. It’s how things like ‘The Abridged Series’ or Internet Reviewing stopped being one-off things and became a genre all of their own. They established their own categories. So what does this mean for forgery? Well it means we can put ‘forgery’ into its own category if we so desire. And the standard of this category is, quite simply, that they ‘lack originality’. So forgery is not so much a copy of the original, but something in a totally different category altogether.
A third outlook on the idea of forgery comes from Sagoff, who argues that forgeries merely misrepresent the original work in question. That forgeries fall into a separate category of work where they are done in the same ‘style’ as the original artist. So in this case you could say that forgeries ‘quoted’ the original, at least in terms of style. This argument has some strength to it. All artists tend to have their own individual style when it comes to them making art. If you don’t believe me, read five different works by the same author and see if there’s a reoccurring trend in how they write. It’s the reason why lecturers and teachers can tell you’ve directly stolen something because of the way your style suddenly changes to someone else’s. It’s pretty obvious whenever it’s me writing something, since my syntax makes me stick out like a sore thumb. Ergo anyone copying my and making a forgery of my blog would be ‘quoting’ my self-deprecating off-beat surrealist humour (since that’s how it’s generally put, along with the fact that it tends to be a bit of a wandering style in the literal sense). Ergo forgeries fall into their own little category altogether. That is to say they fall into the category of being quotes of the original. Thus forgeries merely lack an original style, hence why they’re inferior.
The final theory of whether forgeries can be better than the original (or what forgeries exactly are) comes from a man called Dutton, which is tied in part to the idea of Contextualism. I could easily get that matter replicator and make an exact copy of Mona Lisa. But you’d find it inferior. Why? Well simply because the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s. It is the historical context of when and where the work of art was made that makes it what it is. A version of Hamlet printed today is thought of as being less valuable then the original version of Hamlet written all those years ago. But more than that, it is the culture surrounding the artist that influences the work so greatly. Dutton believes that the history of the art is somewhat important, since it shows the artists achievement. It shows how they took ideas and practices found within their time period and turned that into making art. It reflects the culture biases they had at the time (for example, killing a king in Shakespearian times was considered more impolite then doing it today). If you take away that history and culture context from a work of art it becomes inferior in the process. Hence why forgeries are inferior. It’s not as good if you just do the exact same thing in today’s age.
So there you have it. Four views on forgery. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.