Multiply & Conquer (2014)
Multiply & Conquer inverts the axiom ‘divide and conquer’ and examines the position of the multiple as a contested territory: a means to overwhelm and undermine, a tool used to both dominate and resist.
In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Benjamin argues that the multiple differs from the singular work in the lack of aura: the sense of uniqueness, of history, of the time and touch of the maker. While reproduction may diminish these qualities, it also increases availability, allowing many more people access to copied cultural information, be it visual art, music, or writing. Further, technology (such as the Xerox, word processor, etc.) has enabled lay persons to produce copies on large scales. As such, the medium of print has been utilized to both distribute information to the masses (via newspapers, zines, and pamphlets) and to amplify voices, to show the strength of numbers through the display of printed posters and signs in rallies/protests. It is the popular (as in populism) medium.
At the same time, the multiple and reproducible (printerly) processes are employed in industry as they make quicker, cheaper, and greater amounts of production possible. This, in turn, both allows more markets to be reached and greater profits to be achieved. Yet, mass-production is often accompanied by loss of jobs (through mechanization), lower wages (through exploitation), and increased competition for resources. These aspects have contributed to the significant income inequality, poor treatment of workers, and seizure of public resources that were a focus of the Occupy and Gezi park protests. Print's utility shines from this point of conflict, used both by industry and those protesting the effects these automated processes have had on workers and the public.
The ease of creating and disseminating copies has increased exponentially with the rise of the digital. Individuals are able to create near-perfect facsimiles at home, and make them available to mass audiences over the internet. With this increased ability, conflicts between those seeking to regulate, control, and monitor shared information (i.e. copyright holders, governments) and those seeking its free dissemination have come to the fore, giving rise to questions of ownership, fair use, safety, privacy, and the first amendment. Recent years have seen evidence of these conflicts, through controversies surrounding ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA (three piracy-focused acts/agreements), NSA spying, the death of Aaron Swartz, copyright trolls (such as Prenda Law), DMCA takedown notices, and regulation of 3D printed weapons.
The digital platform has also enabled creators to directly upload their work onto media sites (such as YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, etc.) The ability to reach mass audiences with content, and monitor them with analytics, has both allowed individuals to side-step (or supplement) traditional distribution channels and encouraged the development of content that will go viral. The pursuit of virality/fame, in which content is shared quickly among audiences, has impacted the form of these works: they are often short, rely on the unexpected, are funny or bizarre, and reference internet memes. Longer works, and those with a more somber tone, are not shared with the same scale/speed. Through digital platforms, print media allows content to quickly and widely disperse, but it often only obtains a wide reach if it meets the snappy dictates of internet culture.
This exhibition was presented in conjunction with the 2014 Southern Graphics International Conference. It featured the work of Amze Emmons, Juan Fuentes, John-Mark Ikeda, Laura Kim, John Lopez, Walter Robinson, Tim Sullivan, and Stephanie Syjuco.
Additional images available on request.