Multiples – Serial Originals

The democratic art genre

“The multiple manufactures originals in series. This means that the objects are not reproductions of an original but are themselves originals. They are not simply multiplied but manifold within themselves.” According to this key statement, formulated by Daniel Spoerri and Karl Gerstner at the foundation of their Edition MAT (Multiplication d’Art Transformable) in 1959, the multiple is to be regarded as an art form in its own right.

Multiples are an expression of the endeavour to democratise the plastic arts by means of objects. A line starting with Marcel Duchamp (readymade “Bottledryer” 1914) received a name (“Multiples”) and impetus from the Edition MAT, was given shape by the Fluxus artists, popularised by pop art , expanded by Joseph Beuys for his “vehicle for the circulation of ideas” and used for the forming of “social sculptures”.

Post-Beuys, multiples continue to be appreciated and used as “means of transport for artists’ ideas” (Beuys’ disciple Felix Droese). They replace the production of the unique original by the production of many similar or identical originals – thereby in their own way keeping Walter Benjamin’s word by “overcoming (of) the unique”. With the manufacturing of multiples it is not the artist’s hand that counts but the idea or the concept. In the beginning stands a description, a design or a prototype. Sometimes – in the spirit of the readymade – a multiple is defined by choosing and reinterpreting a product of the consumer goods industry.