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Sur la Plage - Page 52

itself uncritically in the theory) that everything new is old and that, at bottom, reality itself is just a flimsy patchwork of recycled images. Plagiarism is an attack on art, but less on either its form or content than on its political economy, on the medium in which it circulates. Plagiarism challenges the reduction of art to exchange: since only differences can be exchanged--since, as Marx indicated, one cannot maintain an economy by exchanges of linen for linen ("A is not an expression of value") --plagiarism proposes to undermine economic and "hence" cultural value as such. And in any case, only wimps use quotation marks (Richard Hell).

  1. On the cover of one of her books, Kathy Acker's picture is accompanied by the following advertisement: "This writing is all fake (copied from other writing) so you should go away and not read any of it": a transparent dare, a patent lure, one designed precisely to entice the stupid reader; and yet she also insists, inside the book, that nothing is simply copied, simply stolen, everything is changed, reprocessed, creatively "detourned" (Lecter). The plagiarist as Robin Hood: one cannot just steal and redistribute cultural wealth anonymously, in some sense one's own cultural and political "agency" must be reasserted as Thief, or at least as critic, even as one tries by this theft to expose the very notion of the creative subject, even as one incriminates the originals as thefts. So Sherrie Levine's reproductions of Edward Weston nudes famously undermine Weston's own purported originality: his photographs are seen to have quoted, without quotation marks--no wimp, he--a range of classical sculptural forms; and at the same time Levine establishes her own reputation as what functions in the contemporary art market as an original, commanding, critical presence. Perhaps then we must be careful in attributing too subversive a role to the plagiarist: perhaps authorship now begins to extend its privileges through the very critique of its operations; perhaps the familiar nimbus of individual agency now enshrouds the various bricoleurs who claim prominence in the name of subverting all forms of individual creative identity. But even so, even if plagiarism cannot free itself from the economic apparatus it claims to attack, even if it is only an alibi for the stupid resurgence of an even shallower notion of authorship, neither can it be altogether reduced to a position and an identity. Rather,

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