By looking at Dennis Adams’s 1998 film Outtake—a film that consists of Adams distributing photographic copies of 416 separate frames of Ulrike Meinhof’s 1969 film Bambule—I will discuss how the copying and redistributing of the seventeen-second sequence of Meinhof’s film asks us to think about a rather complex set of relations from difference to repetition, copy to cinema, cinema to the remake, the remake to history, and history to the recognition and repetition of images. What makes Outtake technically interesting in terms of copying is that it is a parody of the remake. Adams re-recorded the film as a site-specific art piece by attaching a camera to his arm as he distributed each still frame shot (one by one) to any passer-by who would take one.
Outtake literally copies the seventeen seconds of Bamuble. Nevertheless, the pace and the performance of this film on the Kurfurstendamm in Berlin comments on the fact that the film is both recognisable as a film and not recognisable as a copy of Meinhof’s film (even though it enacts the copying and distribution of her film). The films ask us to reconsider the relation of modern art to the culture of appropriation. But, more importantly, it asks us to consider the propriety of the image: How can one own an image if an image is only recognisable as an image once it has been repeated?
Outtake asks us to think about the semantics of what constitutes an image, presenting the image as volatile—vibrating, modulating, touching the mind with the power to unthink (disassociate) relations, images, and events. This talk will use Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (1994) to think about how repetition, appropriation, and the practice of unthinking challenges our understanding of copyright and, with it, the ability to own images or tether them to dogmatic thinking. Due to increasingly more restrictive copyright legislation, the artistic practice of appropriation has recently resulted in contentious copyright issues, which makes this art practice difficult if not illegal. A number of law cases have emerged that investigate the division between what constitutes a transformative work from a derivative one (as for example the copyright infringement cases against Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons).
Deleuze describes the work of repetition as “a work of inventing vibrations, rotations, whirlings, gravitations, dances or leaps which directly touch the mind.” It is this repetition of images, sounds, and sequences that allows us to recognise the work of art as a unique work (what is a unique work is always derivative, it must be recognised as such). But, according to Deleuze, with repetition also comes transgression—that is, repetition questions the unique work by treating it ironically, thus troubling any authorial claims to copyright. Repetition’s double articulation challenges how we determine copyright in the case of a work of art.
Nobody recognises Meinhof’s handiwork in the image that is handed out. It is only in the reassemblage of images that any resemblance to the “original” film takes place. Yet, what takes place is an assemblage of distribution or a dispersal of an abandoned work.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.