Magazine article Artforum International

The Art of Production

Magazine article Artforum International

The Art of Production

Article excerpt

What was once seditious is now ubiquitous. If ninety years ago Marcel Duchamp infamously claimed the products of industry as his own and a half century later Donald Judd furthered this scandal by directly co-opting the language of manufacture, today artists employ the hands and machines of others so commonly as to scarcely draw notice. A cursory survey of contemporary galleries, biennials, and art magazines reveals that a vast preponderance of artworks in our time--like the two dozen apparently disparate examples arrayed here--involve out-sourced labor, industrial processes, and custom fabrication. An artist might visit a specialized fabricator to realize a technologically ambitious project; or employ an in-house design and production team to engineer an elaborate construction; or turn to a craftsman to commission a bespoke object; or simply order a laser-cut placard, neon sign, or oil painting directly over the Internet or phone. Such approaches are now so varied and diffuse that they nearly defy categorization. This special issue of Artforum aims to draw them into sharp, if wide-angle, focus, momentarily shifting attention from finished artworks to the often unseen processes that bring them into being.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The term fabrication may at first seem too restricted to describe these almost limitless phenomena. But it is meant here to encompass numerous practices beyond artists' traditional reliance on studio assistants, print shops, and foundries to execute their work, just as it points beyond the simple use of readily available, store-bought commodities. The underlying impulse may be that of outsourcing, though the word risks implying too easy or literal a connection between a work's conception and the complicated negotiations among artists, curators, fabricators, and patrons that attend its realization. Questions of authorship, engineering, financing, and labor relations, whether local or global, abound. The artwork in this context is conceived not as an individual's production but as one that draws on the expertise, skill, and efforts of many others, some engaged intimately and collaboratively, some indirectly and from afar. In an era when the standardization of industrial production has given way to the illusion of infinite consumer choice and even customization, it should not be surprising, as several authors in this issue suggest, that artists would avail themselves of techniques and services that exceed their personal mastery. …

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