In the contemporary, the idea of editions in arts seems akin to rule-making around creative expressions; a funneling of responsive and dynamic concepts, and its making, to correspond within a set of parameters to control the valuation of art.

Historically, the development of editioned prints was spurred by the practicalities of artists being able to produce multiple copies of their works with reduced costs, albeit at a lower market price. Editions, which refer to a copy or replica of an artwork from a "master", was mostly associated with printmaking; from early cited methods of woodcut print onto fabrics and textiles, oil-based lithograph ink impressions, etchings on metal plates, and the advent of screenprints, blurring the lines of art and commercial production. The "limits" placed on print editions were determined based on the degradation of print materials (and surfaces) which then put an upper limit on the number of images produced.

As the applicability of editions evolved to other artistic and mechanical processes such as photographs, video, audio, and (cast) sculptures, a recognised system of tracking and presenting resulting works of art took structure. Pre-determined editions to be produced in light of valuation; editions of 3 collectibles, or editions of 100 for "mass" consumption, the consideration of AP (artist’s proof) or PP (printer’s proof), the discussions of limited versus open editions, and the foresight of reproducing prints in the future (if need be). Or, an artist can produce a unique print, and refer to it as a "one-off".

Fast forward. Editions in a digital context. Digital creations and reproductions through digital images, graphics, digital video, animation, digital sounds, augmented reality, virtual reality, data visualisation, Instagram posts/stories, interactive media; a rapid blending of content and technology, into the instantaneity of social and cultural internet networks through mobile taps. Share, and share again; inconsequential.  

Given the dichotomies and time between, how then would today’s artists contextualise and respond to a simple, and perhaps layered invite to “create and produce artworks in editions”? Rethinking Editions presents an assemblage of artists considering the multiples of art, or the art of multiples. Artists whose practice are directly influenced by the consideration of editions, and artists who conceptualise and process through to unique works; an invitation to rethink and reimagine the possibilities of the in-between.

Gan Siong King, a fine arts major specializing in oil painting who is currently exploring the medium of video, equates the concept of “editions” to drafts of a working process. A process from which to produce painted and printed objects as “interpretations of”, rather than an end. “A way of working that is common in my video work. Where a “final” work cannot be predetermined, as it (the work) will emerge as a result of relooking, recognising, reviewing, reinterpreting, re-editing etc. As a continuous loop, an end will become a beginning, leading to an end etc. Perhaps an acknowledgement that all artworks are built upon other artworks that exist before, all part of a grand sequence of editions,” teases Gan, through his work Start, Stop, Start, Stop, and Start Again.

Haris Abadi, who hails from Kelantan and holds a Masters degree in Fine Art & Technology, has his interests in animation and motion graphics, which drew him to study elements of traditional shadow puppetry such as the Pohon Beringin (Tree of Life), and re-placing these into new media works. For Rethinking Editions Haris has expanded his thoughts to include popular culture, combining the unequivocal behemoth of editioned products, IKEA, and open sourcing. Transposing the concept of “visual art editions”, he has created a master artwork resembling the Pohon Beringin with simple IKEA products, leaving us with an IKEA-type manual on how to source the products and build the artwork. The final result is a juxtaposition of originality and identity in today’s mass hyper-consumerist state.  

For this exhibition, Yee I-Lann, known for her photomedia-based works, gave us the middle finger as a first edition, and told us to flip a finger for the second edition. In her artwork, she presents to us the indigenous tradition of mengkuang and pandanus weaving, and suggests to us a gaze that includes both the back and front of her unique work.

Stepping back into the realm of artists or creators whose works are conceptualised and developed as editions, Rethinking Editions includes the generation-now of Rico Leong, a woodcut artist, and Syahnan Anuar, a silkscreen artist, whose artworks are physically created in limited editions for visual art exhibitions, yet digitally steeped (Shared) in today’s social network culture, and highly appreciated (Liked). “If I had 2 million views on YouTube, that would be a win,” further adds in Talha KK + Tsa Meera, the creative duo who recently directed Kyoto Protocol’s latest music video Delta Wing, but who are now choosing to present a quieter personal work titled Garis وقت  within the white walls of a gallery.

Enjoy Rethinking Editions, or rethinking in general.

PS. Here’s a bonus teaser to an unrealised project (for now).

Artist: I would like to question and tangibilise editions of our relationship.

Curator: *Blink...

Gallerist: *Cough...

Artist: Of us meeting each other again. Three years back I did not manage to work with you (points to the curator), because I chose to work with her (points to the gallerist). That first encounter, the first edition of our relationship.

Curator: And this is our second edition, in different circumstances, with added experiences and knowledge, as different people. I like that. For a start, I’m already not as intimidated by you.

Gallerist: Right, I like it as well. But, practically how would we sell this?

Text by Sharmin Parameswaran