2010-11-26

Copy: In praise of copying

Over the weekend, I read my friend Marcus Boon's recently issued, "In praise of copying" (Harvard, 2010). it's a fine book, though in reading it, I considered that the premise of "copy" and it's ?opposite? "originality" present their own problems, something of course Boon begins by addressing. So, rather than approaching the dyad from the christian perspective that inflects Baudrillard and so much of post-ww2 french and US discourse--a move undone by new historicist defusion of the privileged historical genesis and its consequent effectual narrative march to the radically unsettled and unsettling anecdotal start--think of this as, "History does not start here, in Hegelian times, terms, motions, but everywhere the narrative lens is applied'---Boon situates his narrative within a Buddhist frame. The tension is not then between the fake and original--that's a non-issue here--but between states of perception.

But the problem, as I see it, is not to resolve the anxiety over copying, the copy, the fake. (Are they even apposite? Isn't a fake a different thing from a copy? I do not presume that Boon equates these all, either; and copying is by no means the same as the result, the "copy", which again implies not an production process (copying), but a result independent of any process and alluding to an original. Originals are not copies. So, to return, the problem is not to resolve the anxiety, for I see that as the product of a modern kind of power that constitutes us as much as we might wish it did not and which, for that reason, adopting a buddhist "take" on the problem will not, cannot, free us, as it were, for we never were really in need of that soft of freeing to begin with.

Rather, I find more interesting--and this is my own difference here, my own intervention--the problematic of power that is implied by the logic and logistics of copying, originality, etc. It is both a micro and macro power, to be sure; it affects every measure of doing and being: that's what makes it constitutive of our modern identity. So, what I find interesting is the history of this constitutive power and the local ways it can be bounded, curtailed, if not eliminated.

To be sure, it's a foucauldian perspective, that I adopt. And one could argue that the history outlined in _Discipline and Punish_, in which the modern subject is represented as essentially coming into being as a self-regulated (disciplined) copy of an endless stream of copies and models, has done it. No doubt, but abstraction hardly gets us anywhere.

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