Version of the original or extension of the original?

Long gone are the days when Walter Benjamin expressed his deep concern over what constitutes the work of art in the age mechanical reproduction. We have now embraced reproduction so thoroughly that we get involved in it every other minute through taking pictures and posting them on social media to preserve and reproduce every moment of out lives. However, It is nothing new: as Andre Bazin pointed out in his writings on the ontology of the film form, mankind have tried to reproduce and duplicate all real things since ancient civilizations where death masks were carefully shaped by the contours of the real faces of the dead, so the former would resemble the latter.

Benjamin’s question about the blurred concept of art caused by the nature of mechanically reproduced works remains relevant in the digital era. Arnolfini bring us a fascinating video that explores their exhibition ‘Version Control’ – note the useful clue in the title. Versions of events, of objects, versions of the original: are they just versions, are they all truthful representations of the same or are they autonomous works of art? The exhibition taps into performance, visual art and screen media. Here is a version of what happened between the walls of Arnolfini between January and April…


The Film and Video Umbrella video about the making of Londonion is yet another observation of the production of versions through technology. However, the sound mix does not really alter the original, but merely brings Kurt Schwitters’ poem “London Onion” to life and makes it audible rather than readable – which is something that the author must have had in mind during writing lines such as these:

               Ell Ou enn De Ou enn.
               Ell Ou
               Ell ou enn
               Ell ou enn enn

In a way, Iain Forsyth’s and Jane Pollard’s work of sound art is an extension of Schwitters’ poem, rather than a version of it. In the same vain, the video coverage of the making of the sound mix is an extension of the latter. The video certainly adds some beautiful layers to the whole onion business, have a look at it here:



Do you agree with the distinction between versions and extensions?


Text by Kati Jägel



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