“Innovation or imitation: rarely a black-and-white issue.”
Copying is bad. Gaining wealth or fame with someone else’s creative work is morally reprehensible, and in principle forbidden by law. But are things really that clear-cut? Sometimes a copy – or something greatly resembling a copy – comes from an unexpected source. Sometimes it can even lead to surprising and liberating new insights. Is it then still substandard, a case of parroting something else, of shameless and unfair competition?
Ceci n’est pas une copie sets out in search of the nature, significance and acceptance of copying strategies in contemporary design practice. This isn’t entirely obvious, because we are touching on a sensitive topic. Designers do not always see the efforts of competitors who copy them as a form of flattery. In reality, they fear loss of income and damaged reputations.
In today’s digital age, with its unlimited possibilities for sharing and the free distribution of ideas, images and information, classic copyright protection offers less of a grip than ever before. The omnipresence of 3-D scanning and printing technology opens the doors to even more and sharper copying and reproduction. Advocates of stricter copyright regulations are facing internet activists and idealists who view copyright regulation as a threat to creative freedom.
Against the background of new mobile technology that is now within everyone’s reach, concepts such as originality and individual authorship are being increasingly questioned. Isn’t valuable innovation always based on what went before? Isn’t creativity always a form of inspired reuse, clever copy paste? Isn’t the history of design primarily a history of redesigning? Why do we so want to believe in the natural talent, the genius of the star designer? Can we learn from other cultures, where copying is perceived quite differently? Does copying take on a new meaning in an historic perspective?
This exhibition presents a selection of fascinating examples and diverse reactions to the phenomenon of copying. It covers well-known and acknowledged borrowing strategies, such as quotation, collage, homage and pastiche as well as more controversial and experimental reproduction, from copying as an accepted form of imitation to copying as base commercialism, plagiarism and piracy. With contributions and work by Jasper Morrison, Richard Hutten, Unfold, Bas van Beek, Konstantin Grcic, Maarten Baas and countless other designers who deal with this phenomenon on a daily basis and are forced to take a stand on the issue, whether they want to or not.