Nikolaus Gansterer

Nikolaus Gansterer

Work from The Bureau of Found Appropriations.

“”The Bureau of Found Appropriations / Département des Sourires” is a work which is part of a long-term study on strategies of appropriation and forms of production (and reproduction) in Asia. My main attention is directed towards differences, misinterpretation and errors committed in the process of translating and copying cultural commodities. How can an image be read, used, interpreted, unterstood without knowing its cultural context?

In 2008 I stayed with Matthias Meinharter for three months in southern China working on the art/film project Chinese Whispers in Dafen – the copy capital of art. There, approximately up to 10,000 painters live, work and are specialized in copying work in specific styles by a wide range of masters of historical and contemporary oil-painting. Annually, more than five million paintings are produced at assembly lines, usually copies of masterpieces.

The reason why this use of imitations strikes western societies as a serious cultural difference has to do with a strong historical correlation between painting and calligraphy: in China a good copy is often considered as a reward and honour to the technical and compositional skills of the initial inventor and master. Memorization is taught as the manually repeated imitation of an original; hence gaining knowledge is based on a culture of transcription. Therefore the terms of originality and authorship are culturally coded. By regarding these gaps with their potential shifts of meaning as a source of inspiration I started compiling a growing collection of images reflecting on cultural practices, identities and authenticities.”

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