Art in the
Age of the
Internet
Networks and Circulation
Gretchen Bender, American Flag, c. 1989. Courtesy The Gretchen Bender Estate and OSMOS, New York. © The Gretchen Bender Estate

Gretchen Bender

American Flag

1989

Fabric

72 × 108 inches (182.9 × 274.3 cm)

The Gretchen Bender Estate and OSMOS, New York

Bender’s American Flag employs a digital image of a flag taken from the broadcast of a sporting event on a major television network. Bender isolates the image of the American flag (one of the most widely circulated images in American culture) as it dissolves—in video editing, a dissolve is a gradual transition from one image to another—printing the image of the digitally-rendered, fragmenting flag on fabric. “I like that it takes this curious nationalistic symbol and destabilizes it,” the artist has said. 

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Dara Birnbaum, Computer Assisted Drawings: Proposal for Sony Corporation, 1992/2017. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Photo by Elisabeth Bernstein. © Dara Birnbaum
Dara Birnbaum, Computer Assisted Drawings: Proposal for Sony Corporation, 1992/2017. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Photo by Elisabeth Bernstein. © Dara Birnbaum

Dara Birnbaum

Computer Assisted Drawings: Proposal for Sony Corporation

1992/2017

Drawings on Plexiglas in custom aluminum frames

Sixteen parts, each set of four: 36 ⅝ × 15 ¾ × 1 ⅛ inches (92.7 × 40 × 3 cm)

Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

In 1992, Birnbaum was invited to create an installation for the New York City headquarters of the Sony Corporation. Though her proposal involved highlighting the historical importance of the groundbreaking technologies made by Sony, it was ultimately not realized. Birnbaum repurposed the schematic, computer-generated drawings she made for that project in the wall-mounted installation Computer Assisted Drawings: Proposal for Sony Corporation. Each of the drawings—which Birnbaum made using then-state-of-the-art computer imaging equipment—is divided into four according to the CMYK technique used for color printing, and mounted between two panes of Plexiglas. 

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Nam June Paik, Internet Dream, 1994. Image © ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. Photo by Steffen Harms. © Nam June Paik Estate
Nam June Paik, Internet Dream, 1994. Image © ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. Photo by Steffen Harms. © Nam June Paik Estate

Nam June Paik

Internet Dream

1994

Fifty-two-monitor video installation

113 × 150 × 31 ½ inches (287 × 380 × 80 cm)

ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany

Paik was a pioneering artist working with technology and a proponent of broadband communications as early as 1974, when he coined the term “electronic superhighway.” Internet Dream is composed of fifty-two television monitors displaying networked, electronically processed images. This sculpture embodies the early internet’s utopian promise of democratizing culture. Paik’s “internet dream” imagines the potential of a communication network as a participatory mass medium, one that might foster genuine connectivity and understanding between diverse groups of people. 

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Olia Lialina, My Boyfriend Came Back From the War (screenshot), 1996. Courtesy the artist. © Olia Lialina
Olia Lialina, My Boyfriend Came Back From the War (screenshot), 1996. Courtesy the artist. © Olia Lialina
Olia Lialina, My Boyfriend Came Back From the War (screenshot), 1996. Courtesy the artist. © Olia Lialina

Olia Lialina

My Boyfriend Came Back From the War

1996

Website

Courtesy the artist

Lialina’s My Boyfriend Came Back From the War is a website that explores the specific capacities of early internet browser windows to tell nonlinear narratives. The website tells the story of a couple struggling to reunite and emotionally reconnect after a war. The artist’s inspiration for making the work was the language of the internet itself: hypertext markup language, or HTML. “I was inspired by HTML frames,” Lialina explains. “I made My Boyfriend [out of] a desire to tell this story on the net using HTML language.”

http://www.teleportacia.org/war/

See Lialina's "An Infinite Séance 3," an artist project commissioned for this website. 

Thomas Ruff, nudes lox22, 2000. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Thomas Ruff

nudes lox22

2000

Chromogenic print with Diasec

57 ⅛ × 39 ⅜ inches (145 × 100 cm)

Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

For his longstanding series of nudes (1999–ongoing), Ruff sources low-resolution pornographic images online and blows up the images so they become blurred and almost illegible at close range. Ruff considers pornographic images as a contemporary extension of the genre of the nude in art. “Those low quality porno images on the internet seemed more honest to me than the erotic-artistic nude,” Ruff explains. “The nudes had to do…with that new medium called the internet that converts inaccessible images into accessible images. And I think it is fascinating how the internet has helped develop exhibitionism and voyeurism at the same time.”

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Paul Pfeiffer, John 3:16, 2000. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. © Paul Pfeiffer
Paul Pfeiffer, John 3:16 (still), 2000. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. © Paul Pfeiffer
Paul Pfeiffer, John 3:16 (still), 2000. Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. © Paul Pfeiffer

Paul Pfeiffer

John 3:16

2000

Digital video (color, silent; 2:07 minutes), LCD monitor, and metal armature

7 × 7 × 36 inches (17.8 × 17.8 × 91.4 cm)

Collection of Andrew Ong and George Robertson, New York

John 3:16 comprises found footage of basketball games that are pieced together and edited to center around the ball, largely omitting the players from each shot. The title of the work alludes to the New Testament passage that pronounces a formula for eternal life. Pfeiffer contends that eternal life is the very promise of digital media: “There’s an interesting kind of resonance that I see between this idea of a formula for salvation and eternal life and the promise of digital media that never break down and literally can live forever…that can always be copied endlessly. In a way, the medium itself represents a kind of promise that almost has spiritual overtones.”

Seth Price, Still, Five Hooded Men with Seated Man, 2005. Courtesy the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York. © Seth Price

Seth Price

Still, Five Hooded Men with Seated Man

2005

Signage ink screenprint on archival polyester film and grommets

Dimensions variable

Courtesy the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York

Still, Five Hooded Men with Seated Man takes as its source an image from a video of an execution by militants. Price compresses and enlarges the low-resolution image, then screen prints it on clear polyester film, and hangs it crumpled on a wall in a way that partially obscures the already degraded image. These transformations further abstract the image from its source, a process that is analogous to becoming desensitized to such images the more they circulate. In 2002 Price authored Dispersion, an influential essay in which he theorized: “Distributed media can be defined as social information circulating in theoretically unlimited quantities in the common market, stored on or accessed via portable means such as books and magazines, records and compact discs, video tapes and DVDs, or personal computers and mobile devices.”

"Dispersion"

Penelope Umbrico, 5,377,183 Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (Partial) 04/28/09 (detail), 2009, from Suns from Sunsets from Flickr, 2006–ongoing. © Penelope Umbrico

Penelope Umbrico

33,930,694 Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (Partial) 9/5/17

2006 - ongoing

Installation of chromogenic color prints

Each print 4 × 6 inches (10.2 × 15.2 cm)

Courtesy the artist

In her ongoing series Suns from Sunsets from Flickr, Umbrico downloads pictures of sunsets from Flickr, crops each image so that the suns are centered in the frame, prints them as 4 × 6 inch prints, and installs them in a monumental grid. The title of each installation reflects the number of photographs that are tagged “sunset” on Flickr at the time Umbrico prints the images. “When you think about it, it’s kind of absurd,” Umbrico says. “We only have one sun in the sky, but we make millions of images of it. And, more absurd, we then upload these pictures to photo-sharing sites. Most of the sunset pictures look the same. They followed a visual script. What does it mean for us all to take a picture of the sun? What kind of ownership is involved in that?” In her exploration of this single image, Umbrico raises critical questions about authorship, ownership, and visual culture in the age of the internet.

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Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz, Image Atlas (screenshot), 2012. "America, 6/21/13, 8:18 PM (Eastern Standard Time)." Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, New York. © Taryn Simon
Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz, Image Atlas (screenshot), 2012. "Border, 9/30/16, 12:19 PM (Eastern Standard Time)." Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, New York. © Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon and Aaron Swartz

Image Atlas

2012

Website

Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, New York

Image Atlas is a web-based project realized by artist Taryn Simon in collaboration with internet activist and programmer Aaron Swartz that allows viewers to keyword and browse image searches on different local search engines around the world. According to Simon, “Image Atlas interrogates the possibility of a universal visual language and questions the supposed innocence and neutrality of the algorithms upon which search engines rely.” In a 2013 interview, Swartz surmised the political context of the project: “One of the things that people are paying more attention to, is the way that these sort of neutral tools, like Facebook and Google and so on, claim to present an almost unmediated view of the world all through statistics and algorithms and analyses, but in fact these are programmed and programming us. We wanted to find a way to visualize that, to expose some of the value judgments that get made.” To access the website, visit http://www.imageatlas.org/.

Aleksandra Domanović, Untitled (mash-up), 2012. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin. © Aleksandra Domanović

Aleksandra Domanović

Untitled (mash-up)

2012

Inkjet prints (9,000 pages)

35 ½ × 8 ¼ × 11 ¾ inches (90 × 21 × 30 cm)

Aldala Collection of Diamond – Newman Fine Arts LLC, Sudbury, Massachusetts

Domanović’s series of sculptures made of paper stacks act as monuments for the discontinued .yu domain name of former Yugoslavia. “When I made the first paper stacks, the .yu domain just got abolished from the internet and I was thinking a lot about digital-born content and what happens to it in the long run,” Domanović explains. “The stacks exist in two manifestations, as a PDF document and a physical structure—the stack of paper with images on the sides. I wanted to have something that I could email to a gallery and they would then print out, or anyone could create from the internet.” 

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Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (still), 2013. Courtesy the artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris/London. © ADAGP Camille Henrot
Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (still), 2013. Courtesy the artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris/London. © ADAGP Camille Henrot
Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (still), 2013. Courtesy the artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris/London. © ADAGP Camille Henrot
Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (still), 2013. Courtesy the artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris/London. © ADAGP Camille Henrot
Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (still), 2013. Courtesy the artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris/London. © ADAGP Camille Henrot
Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (still), 2013. Courtesy the artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris/London. © ADAGP Camille Henrot

Camille Henrot

Grosse Fatigue

2013

Video (color, sound; 13:00 minutes)

Original music by Joakim; voice by Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh; text written in collaboration with Jacob Bromberg; producer: kamel mennour, Paris/London; with the additional support of Fonds de dotation Famille Moulin, Paris; production: Silex Films

Film first presented on the occasion of Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), 55th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, 2013

Project conducted as part of the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship Program, Washington, DC

Special thanks to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Courtesy the artist, Silex Films, and kamel mennour, Paris/London

 

Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue attempts to synthesize the origin stories of several cultures into a single narrative: The history of the world. As part of a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Henrot documented different museum collections—including natural specimens in the National Museum of Natural History. Her footage plays on a series of computer windows and folders that open and close, often one overlapping another. “To take on the whole history of humanity is already a burden,” notes the artist. “The burden of the history of the universe is absurd definition. [. . .] Fatigue is mentioned in a lot of creation myths. It’s the loss of energy, the entropy principle, which is the founding principle of the creation of the universe.” Grosse Fatigue, in both its form and its content, expresses the experience of image and information overload that is a hallmark of the internet age.

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Ryan McNamara, MEEM: A Story Ballet About the Internet, 2013–ongoing. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Ryan McNamara. © Ryan McNamara
Ryan McNamara, MEEM: A Story Ballet About the Internet, 2013–ongoing. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Ryan McNamara. © Ryan McNamara
Ryan McNamara, MEEM: A Story Ballet About the Internet, 2013–ongoing. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Ryan McNamara. © Ryan McNamara
Ryan McNamara, MEEM: A Story Ballet About the Internet, 2013–ongoing. Courtesy the artist. Photo by Ryan McNamara. © Ryan McNamara

Ryan McNamara

MEEM 4 Boston: A Story Ballet About the Internet

2013 - ongoing

Performance

Courtesy the artist

In MEƎM 4 Boston: A Story Ballet About the Internet, McNamara choreographs an immersive experience meant to recreate the feeling of surfing the Web. “What would it be to make a narrative that uses the architecture of the internet as its structure?” McNamara asks. Working with a cast of thirteen dancers, McNamara samples and remixes music and movement—from classical ballet to contemporary dance—in an inventively staged physical realization of our virtual experience. Dancers disperse into small teams to perform in different styles, the movements often sourced from video clips found online. They interact directly with audience members, moving them from one spot to the next, in a series of intimate performances in different spaces around the theater. Much like the experience of surfing the internet, this work choreographs an experience that is shared by many, but identical for none.

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Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc. (still), 2014. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Hito Steyerl
Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc. (still), 2014. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Hito Steyerl
Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc. (still), 2014. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Hito Steyerl
Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc. (still), 2014. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Hito Steyerl
Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc. (still), 2014. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Hito Steyerl
Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc. (still), 2014. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York. © Hito Steyerl

Hito Steyerl

Liquidity Inc.

2014

Video (color, sound; 30:00 minutes), wood, plastic, and lounge seating

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Purchased through the generosity of the Acquisitions Circle

Liquidity Inc. takes as a point of departure the story of Jacob Wood, a Vietnamese refugee brought to the United States through President Gerald Ford’s Operation Babylift program, who went on to work as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers. After he lost his job during the 2008 financial crisis, Wood decided to pursue turning his hobby in mixed martial arts into a career, and he acts as a commentator on the sport in the video. Throughout the video, Steyerl follows the dictum of actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, to “be formless, shapeless, like water.” Steyerl employs the morphing concept “liquidity” to describe the circulation of digital images, data, and information, financial assets, and water as resource and component of our bodies, the weather, and the shifting roles and definitions of labor in our economy.

David Maljkovic, New Reproductions, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. © David Maljkovic

David Maljkovic

New Reproductions

2014

Inkjet prints collaged and mounted on Alubond

59 × 39 ⅜ inches (149.9 × 100 cm)

Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

In this large-scale photo collage, Maljkovic prints photographs of his previous projects, tears them, and layers the torn pieces into new reproductions. Invested in exploring the nature of memory, often in relation to the history of his native Croatia, Maljkovic contests the distinction between original and copy. A meditation on the infinite possibility of the circulation of technologically produced and reproducible images online and off, New Reproductions and New Reproductions (Wall Mural) insist on the unfixed nature of an artwork’s form, image, and meaning over time. 

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HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?, thewayblackmachine.net, 2014–ongoing. Installation view, Perpetual Revolution, International Center of Photography, New York, 2017. Courtesy the International Center of Photography, New York. Photo by Saul Metnick. © HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?
HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?, thewayblackmachine.net, 2014–ongoing. Installation view, Perpetual Revolution, International Center of Photography, New York, 2017. Courtesy the International Center of Photography, New York. Photo by Saul Metnick. © HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?
HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?, thewayblackmachine (still), 2014–ongoing. Courtesy the artists. © HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?
HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?, thewayblackmachine (still), 2014–ongoing. Courtesy the artists. © HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?

HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?

thewayblackmachine

2014 - ongoing

Thirty-monitor video installation

Approximately 80 × 30 × 10 inches (203.2 × 76.2 × 25.4 cm)

Courtesy the artists

Created by the collective of artists, writers, musicians, historians, and activists HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?, thewayblackmachine is composed of algorithmically-generated, electronically processed images and materials collected from social media platforms, combining hashtag trends (such as #Ferguson), press and amateur footage, and statistical data on police brutality as white supremacist violence against African Americans. thewayblackmachine is a riff off the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine—a selective digital archive of the World Wide Web—and a digital nod to “The Red Record,” the 1895 pamphlet made by activist Ida B. Wells documenting American lynchings in the 19th century. thewayblackmachine takes as its point of departure, in the words of the collective, “the cultural force that is black engagement with social media (discussed most often as “black twitter”) and the ways that black people have created much of the usage infrastructure upon which social media has been built.” The 2014 shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson led the collective to turn its attention toward “documenting and archiving the way black folks use social media to record and share the centuries-old reality of state-sanctioned, ritualistic violence (via police brutality) with a willfully blind white majority overclass through the (arguably) more democratic and creative structures of media like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.”

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mon Denny, Modded Server-Rack Display with Some Interpretations of David Darchicourt Designs for NSA Defense Intelligence, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York. © Simon Denny
mon Denny, Modded Server-Rack Display with Some Interpretations of David Darchicourt Designs for NSA Defense Intelligence (detail), 2015. Courtesy the artist and Petzel Gallery, New York. © Simon Denny

Simon Denny

Modded Server-Rack Display with Some Interpretations of David Darchicourt Designs for NSA Defense Intelligence

2015

UV prints on Revostage platforms, powdercoated 19-inch server racks, Cisco Systems WSC2948G switches, LAN cables, Bachmann power strips, HP ProLiant 380DL G5 servers, steel trays, Plexiglas and aluminum model, Maisto Humvee 1:18 model car, vinyl and Plexiglas letters on Plexiglas, prints on cardboard puzzle and laminated cardboard box, Picard steel toolbox, screwdrivers, hammer, paint brush, wrench, socket wrench, bits, saw, UV prints on Plexiglas, Tamiya 1:48 U.S. Modern 4x4 Utility Vehicle w/Grenade Launcher model cars and figures, CNC/routed MDF, VisiJet PXL Color Bond 3-D print, UV print on Alu- Dibond, Fisso stainless steel spacers, anodized aluminum panel, embossed gilded brass medallion, lasercut Plexiglas letters, powdercoated steel and aluminum components, UV print on sandblasted laminate safety glass, and LED strips

100 ⅛ × 118 ⅛ × 39 ⅜ inches (254.5 × 300 × 100 cm)

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of the Committee on Painting and Sculpture and The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art

This sculpture centers on images made by David Darchicourt which were intended to circulate in secret. Darchicourt worked as a graphic designer and art director for the National Security Agency (NSA), whose work became well-known after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked internal documents conveying the scope of the agency’s global surveillance program. In this work, Denny combines graphics, charts, training posters, and language from the NSA’s internal communications with presentation tactics of government and trade shows. Denny considers Darchicourt to be implicated in “contemporary national-image production.” Modded Server-Rack Display brings the designs into public consciousness again, offering a pointed critique of surveillance culture. 

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Oliver Laric, The Hunter and His Dog, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin. © Oliver Laric
Oliver Laric, The Hunter and His Dog (detail), 2015. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin. © Oliver Laric

Oliver Laric

The Hunter and His Dog

2015

Polyurethane, pigment, and steel

Three parts, each 35 ½ × 26 × 2 ½ inches (90 × 66 × 6 cm)

Private collection, London

The Hunter and His Dog addresses the nature of authorship and the status of the work of art in the age of the internet. The sculpture is modeled after an 1838 work of the same name by British sculptor John Gibson, in the collection of the Usher Gallery in the United Kingdom. Laric made three-dimensional scans of Gibson’s sculpture, posted them online for free download, and produced three identical, brightly colored reliefs, further blurring ideas of copy and original in light of state-of-the-art printing technologies. The faux marble exterior of Laric’s sculpture references sculpture’s classic materials, while the perfect repetition of three forms calls into question Western ideals of skill, genius, and originality. 

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2016. © Laura Owens

Laura Owens

Untitled

2016

Flashe and screen printing ink on dyed linen

108 × 84 inches (274.3 × 213.4 cm)

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Promised gift of Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté

Owens has significantly expanded painting’s traditional parameters by incorporating digital mark making, networks, and virtual worlds within the space of her canvases. Untitled integrates screen-based operations such as Photoshop and screen printing with different modes of art making (gestural, mechanical, and digital) into a singular, unified composition. In Untitled, the artist layers several images culled from high art and pop culture, including Juan Gris’s celebrated 1914 cubist painting The Man at the Café, with a background pattern from a poster for the Garfield comic. In Owens’s painting, the celebrated cubist artwork is heavily pixelated and unrecognizable, while the Garfield poster motif is rendered sharply, flattening the traditional hierarchy of high and low images, a condition that is characteristic of the internet age. 

David Maljkovic, New Reproductions, 2014. Installation view, David Maljkovic, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland, 2014. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. Photo by Stefan Rohner. © David Maljkovic

David Maljkovic

New Reproductions (Wall Mural)

2017

Wallpaper made from torn inkjet prints

Dimensions variable

Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

In this large-scale wall mural, Maljkovic prints photographs of his previous projects, tears them, and layers the torn pieces into new reproductions. Invested in exploring the nature of memory, often in relation to the history of his native Croatia, Maljkovic contests the distinction between original and copy. A meditation on the infinite possibility of the circulation of technologically produced and reproducible images online and off, New Reproduction and New Reproductions (Wall Mural) insist on the unfixed nature of an artwork’s form, image, and meaning over time.