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Control Copy: Commodification of the Digital Artwork

Digital artworks, be they photographs, videos, or online artworks, are inherently reproducible: they can be copied with little more than a mouse-click. Nonetheless, within the institutionalized art world, this potential reproduction is more often than not left unrealized.

With most digital artworks, reproduction is restricted; they have to be visited in situ in a gallery or museum. In the proposed research, I will examine how this relates to the commodity character of these digital artworks in the institutionalized art world, and the way in which they are valorized. Similarly, the commodity character, value, and reproduction of extra-institutional digital artworks – especially artworks existing exclusively online – will be studied. Contrary to what is often maintained in the discourse concerning these digital artworks, the Internet is not a place of refuge from the commodification and economic valorization of art. Much like the art world, the Internet is a media environment governed by an economic logic of its own: the logic of the attention economy. 

In this research, case studies originating both from within and from outside the art world are studied, as well as ‘hybrid’ forms; digital artworks that exist partly in the institutional art world, and partly online. The main objective of the research is to interrogate the interrelations between the commodity character, value, and reproducibility of these artworks. How do these digital artworks critique these relations, and to what extent are they simultaneously formed by them?

Funded by: NWO
Budget: EUR 200.000

Steyn Bergs, VU Amsterdam

Project supervision
Prof. Dr. Katja Kwastek

Dr. Sven Lütticken