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Artwork as Network: Printed Multiples and the Cybernetic Turn

John A. Tyson, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, National Gallery of Art. In his classic 1972 Artforum essay, critic Lawrence Alloway described the art world as a network. Taking cues from Alloway’s observation about the nature of art production in the 60s and 70s, John A. Tyson proposes that the era’s portfolios of printed multiples can be understood as networked coproductions. In this lecture recorded on April 3, 2017, as part of the Works in Progress series, Tyson historically contextualizes a selection of collective projects from the National Gallery of Art’s holdings: Walasse Ting’s “1-Cent Life” (1963), the Wadsworth Athenaeum’s “X + X (Ten Works by Ten Painters)” (1964), curated by Samuel Wagstaff Jr.; gallerist Leo Castelli’s multimedia “Ten from Leo Castelli” (1968), William Copley’s serial, boxed magazine S.M.S. (February-December, 1968); and, finally, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.)’s “The New York Collection for Stockholm” (1973). These portfolios consist of works in a variety of traditional and nontraditional artistic media—from poetry to silkscreen to plastic sculpture and even a vinyl record. As signaled by Nam June Paik’s Untitled print from E.A.T.’s portfolio, the notion of broadcasting information with art—evoking televisual connotations of “network”—was of concern to many. While scaled to tabletops, these multiples had a wide range of distribution: how they respectively negotiate concerns for materiality as well as desire for decentralization and dematerialization merits further analysis.