On the Conditions of Production of the Copper Surrogates (2008–)
Art Handling-based Copper Surrogates (2010–)
Material Composition and Production:
The art handling-based Copper Surrogate works [such as Copper Surrogates (February 10–17/ May 2–6 2011, Malmö, Sweden; June 13–20/ October 31–November 4, 2011, Madrid, Spain; June 8/June 17–18, 2012, Basel, Switzerland)] are polished raw copper panels that are handled with bare hands during their installation and deinstallation, causing the surface of the panels to patina where they come into contact with the bodies of the installers. The designation “art handling-based Copper Surrogates” refers to both the flat panel works, and the bent panel works.
Labor and Meaning:
The meaning of an artwork is produced through its exhibition, originating in its relationship to its immediate surroundings—the term “meaning” here referring to the effect an artwork produces, how, through the work’s relation to the world, it proposes a model of that world, asserting a set of possible relations between things. An individual’s engagement with this proposition is the work’s effect, which is materially manifest in the subject positions the work produces. In installation, the relation between an artwork and its environment is explored through an active negotiation with the materiality of the work of art, and each repositioning of the work through the course of installation marks a further exploration of the work and its meaning. The meaning of the work is incrementally established in these moments, even if this process is only witnessed by a small number of individuals. These activities expand the realm of concrete possibilities available for the display of the work. The art handling-based Copper Surrogate works are materially transformed through this process, the handling of the works creating a tangible trace on their reflective surfaces. The forms on their surfaces constitute a material manifestation of the physical negotiation with the work of art, which is dependent on a multitude of factors, from the bodies of the installers and their numbers to the directives of those who are running the installation and the size, shape, and weight of the work itself. For example, a light small flat work would be handled differently from a large heavy bent work, or five installers would handle a work in a different manner than would four, producing different surface marks.
The art handling-based Copper Surrogate works propose a continuity between the installation and display of the work and the work’s physical appearance, drawing these aspects of the “life” of a work of art together—aspects which are usually treated as discrete. To this end, the works cannot ever be mistaken for existing in isolation; one must accept their dependence on their immediate surroundings and the labor used to install them. What is more, they cannot be seen as separate from these elements; their immediate environment is worn on their reflective surfaces, as are the marks of the hands that installed them.
Handling and Display:
The art handling-based Copper Surrogate work should always be handled with bare hands during installation and deinstallation. The work can be hung in any direction, as long as one side of the work is oriented parallel to the ground. In the case of the bent panel works, the work can also be installed as a free-standing sculpture. It is the responsibility of the receiver of the work to record the specific date and place of the installation and deinstallation, and record these events in the title. Upon any installation or deinstallation, the updated title should be reported back to the studio and gallery for archival purposes.
The oxidation that results from the transfer of the natural oils from the hands of the installation team to the work is intended, but this does not mean the work should be handled or touched with bare hands at any other time. During the display of the work, the usual rules governing the public display of artworks should be enforced (i.e., no touching). The work should be stored in a clean dry place, and no objects should be put into contact with the work during storage, installation, or display. The work should not be cleaned in any way other than dusting with compressed air. No solvent, liquid, or any other material should come into contact with the work. The work should be hung with anchored screws of appropriate size to support the weight of the work. The screws should be inserted through the predrilled holes on the cleat supplied with the work, and it is highly recommended that the screws be anchored into wall studs for enhanced stability. No other hanging hardware should be used, and the cleat must be used in order to safely stabilize the work. The crate should always be stored according to the orientation listed on the crate. If the work is to be stored in the crate, the plastic around the desiccant pack, included inside the crate, should be opened to prevent moisture from altering the work, and the crate should be securely sealed by closing the crate with all of the screws provided. The crate that belongs to the work is specific to the work, and the works should never travel or be stored by any other means.
The receiver of the work should take great care to make sure that it is not handled in any way other than that designated by this document. Deviating from these directives is detrimental to the work, and could result in the total loss of the work. The work is maintained by the adherence to a set of behaviors, and these behaviors, in conjunction with the object, constitute the work.
The art handling-based Copper Surrogates are titled with the dates of installation and deinstallation and the city and state of installation. The title is added to with each installation. An example title might read:
Copper Surrogate (February 10–17/ May 2–6 2011, Malmö, Sweden; June 13–20/ October 31–November 4, 2011, Madrid, Spain; June 8/June 17–18, 2012, Basel, Switzerland), 2011–
Copper Surrogate (February 10–17/ May 2–6 2011 [dates of first installation and deinstallation], Malmö, Sweden [city and state of first installation], June 13–20/ October 31–November 4, 2011 [dates of second installation and deinstallation], Madrid, Spain [city and state of second installation], June 8/June 17–18, 2012 [dates of third installation and deinstallation], Basel, Switzerland [city and state of third installation]), 2011 [first year of exhibition] –
In the case of the bent panel works, additional notations are included in the parenthetical describing the angle and direction of the bend. An example title might read:
Copper Surrogate (90º Lengthwise Bend: July 6, 2013/October 8, 2013, Los Angeles, California, December 20, 2013/April 12, 2014, New York, New York, May 3, 2014/August 30, 2014, Los Angeles, California), 2013–
Copper Surrogate (90º Lengthwise Bend [angle and direction of bend]: July 6, 2013/October 8, 2013 [dates of first installation and deinstallation], Los Angeles, California [city and state of first installation], December 20, 2013/April 12, 2014 [dates of second installation and deinstallation], New York, New York [city and state of second installation], May 3, 2014/August 30, 2014 [dates of third installation and deinstallation], Los Angeles, California [city and state of third installation]), 2013 [first year of exhibition]–
—Walead Beshty, 2010/2013
Tabletop and Desktop Copper Surrogates (2008–)
Material Composition and Production:
The tabletop/desktop Copper Surrogate works [such as Copper Surrogate (Table: designed by Florence Knoll, 1969; Regen Projects II, Los Angeles California, July 17–August 21, 2010)], are comprised of polished raw copper panels built to the dimensions of a preexisting table or desktop in use in an exhibition space; in short, the design of the preexisting table is taken as a readymade form. During their production, the copper tops take the place of the normal table or desktop and are used as a conventional table or desktop would be. The tops are installed for a finite period of time, usually according to some temporal metric that is natural to the exhibition space (in a gallery, one show rotation would be an example of such a metric). Once it is used for this period of time, production of the work has been completed, and from this point on, the work should be handled as a conventional work of art would. The other element of the work, which is present only in the final display of the work, is a black crinkle-coated steel support that is built to the same shape and dimensions as the table or desktop’s original support. These two elements comprise the work, and should not be separated under any circumstances.
Art and Furniture:
The features of the furniture present in exhibition spaces and the activities that they support affect the meaning of the art objects on display in these spaces directly. These choices indicate the aesthetic management of the exhibition space and the “backstage” offices, which construct an aesthetic field for the work, inflecting the perception of the work by showing accouterments which are, if not complimentary, at least within the same range of tastes. Like the architecture of the exhibition space, the furniture offers a depiction of at least one possible aesthetic sphere the work is a part of. Equally important are the discussions and negotiations that occur on and around these surfaces (i.e., the work of the gallery or exhibition space), which define how the artwork is distributed and how it is understood by the work’s stewards (be they collectors, art critics, journalists, curators, or art dealers). More specifically, the furniture acts as platforms from which information about the work is disseminated.
Of course, the information about the work is indistinguishable from the work itself, another element of its distribution through the world via the work’s stewards. Stewardship here refers not only to the literal care of the objects, but also the management of the perception of the artwork through secondary materials, such as images, text, and conversation (i.e., the dissemination of knowledge about the work). This is constituted in the act of an individual as a conveyor of and collaborator in the meaning of the work. The meaning of a work is not limited to its stewards and is distributed unevenly through the entire network of individuals who come into contact with it, either in its physical form or in any number of secondary forms, from photographs to rumors.
Labor and Meaning:
In effect, the activities that take place over these surfaces in the exhibition space (whether it be in the back offices, or at the reception desk) are a form of artistic labor that constructs the meaning of the work and thus is key to the production of the work of art. The tabletop/desktop-based Copper Surrogates trace the immaterial labor of discourse, transaction, and negotiation that occurs across these surfaces, whether between insiders (for example, the discussion between a curator and a gallerist) or with a public (for example the interaction between a gallery receptionist and a visitor to the exhibition). In each of these instances, the meaning of the work is being constructed incrementally in both large and small ways, and is distributed by those individuals who engage across those surfaces.
Furthermore, these works cannot be seen in isolation, either from their immediate surroundings (as their surroundings are reflected on their surfaces) or from the labor that supports them (for this labor changes the physical appearance of the work and could not be separated from it). Of course, this is true of all artworks; these works just manifest those qualities explicitly.
Handling and Installation:
The tabletop/desktop Copper Surrogates should not be used as tables or desks after their initial period of production. They can be displayed on the wall, or on top of the accompanying black crinkle-coated steel base. The black crinkle-coat paint was chosen because it absorbs light; the bases are the inverse of their copper counterparts in this respect. The steel base should always be exhibited along with the copper top, whether as a support or on its own. A plinth is recommended for the display of the black support, on its own or with the copper top on it, to indicate that it is no longer a functioning piece of furniture. The work can be hung in any orientation as long as one side of the work is parallel to the floor. In the case of elliptical works, one of its axes should be parallel to the floor.
*See the second paragraph of the “Handling and Display” section of the “Art Handling-based Copper Surrogates” document for further handling information.
The works are titled with the name of the designer of the furniture, the year of original design production, the site of use, the city and state of use, and the dates of use. An example title might read:
Copper Surrogate (Table: designed by Florence Knoll, 1969; Regen Projects II, Los Angeles, California, July 17–August 21, 2010), 2011
Copper Surrogate (Table: designed by Florence Knoll [designer name], 1969 [year of original design production]; Regen Projects II [site of use], Los Angeles, California [city and state of use], July 17–August 21, 2010 [dates of use]), 2011 [date of first exhibition]
—Walead Beshty, 2010/2013