Line drawing in black ink on white background of a gooseneck barnacle with eyes, looking suspiciously.

Tell me who you copy and I will tell you who you want to be

Well that. I was happy to see a piece by Felix González-Torres at the Serpentine. But no. It wasn’t. Well yes, it was. It was a copy. In my bumpkinness I thought I was going to an exhibition of conceptual artists. Something like some sort of summer cocktail of the most seen. But while pullulating around the exhibition the dates didn’t quite add up. Nastily I blamed Bebushka of my liquefied brain. But little Bebushka is not guilty. I didn’t read what the exhibition was about.

The thing is it was by only one artist, Sturtevant, an artist who copies. She copies Gonzalez-Torres, Warhol, Duchamp… She makes videos with bits of other people’s videos, such as the BBC’s, for example. The discussion around who is the author of a copy or whether it is original or not is not very interesting in my opinion. Although it can have a theoretical use.

What I did find interesting was that, even though it was composed of copies and appropriated material, the personality of the artist clearly emerged from the combination. Choosing what to copy and what not to copy, apart from being a tribute, is a selection process. And it says a lot. 

Even so, copying others is boring. To get inspired, to reuse, to continue, to pay homage to imitate. Fine. We can’t constantly reinvent the wheel. But we all have to add something of our own to the process. I believe people need to create, I think it makes us happy.

We are all artist, each in our own way. To create is part of being human. It doesn’t need to be materialised in what we call art. It doesn’t even have to be materialised. But just copying is sad. It is machine like, inhuman, empty. Leaving the exhibition I felt that, a hollow sadness, bland. And a terrible yearning to see an exhibition by Gonzalez-Torres.