This course will comprise both a reading group and a publishing office for the investigation of multiple senses of the *copy* in design and art practices, and in the cultural economy more generally. We will focus on

+ technologies of duplication from carbon paper to Xerography to BitTorrents;
+ aesthetic strategies of counterfeiting, appropriation, re-enactment, cut-up, sampling, etc.;
+ the legal frameworks and social arrangements in which copying occurs, in and outside the law;
+ philosophical conceptions of originality, authorship, mimesis, and reproduction which inform the valuations of copies in relation to their original.

A central concern of the course is how the *value* of a copy is determined in its relation to an original. Typically, the further the copy travels from its original, the less value it possesses, but there are many cases which complicate this economy. By looking carefully at these economic and aesthetic complications, we will attempt to open larger political questions about the contemporary production of value.

Copying is a “rich” concept, with many instances, spanning fields of art, design, literature, labor, and life itself. Following Marcus Boon’s formulation, we might list a preliminary ontology of the world of copies: texts, symbols, images, objects, and products.



At some point during the semester, you will present a lecture to the class on a particular object that has been copied, or on a particular technology of copying. This presentation should reflect serious and sustained research. It should address the aesthetic form, mode of technological reproduction, and legal and social framework of your object of research, and how these three things are entangled. This should be a slide based lecture of approximately 15 minutes length. Aim to compile a bibliography of approximately 5–10 texts as you complete your research. (Wikipedia does not count!)


This is your main project for the semester. You will reproduce a counterfeit version of a thing or set of things in an extended way and in a material form. 

What you copy, and the form it takes, is up to you. You could choose to focus on the reproduction and multiplication of a particular work — a book or an object. Or you could focus on a particular apparatus of copying: xerox, 3D printing, cassette duplication, etc.

You could copy an *idea*. You could reproduce a library digitally. You could restage an exhibition. You could reproduce a building as a book. You could reproduce a single thing in multiple formats or media, exploring the transformative effects of different technologies of reproduction.

In your project, there should be discernible originals which are indexed in your reproductions, but every element, including the formal elements of what you produce, must be borrowed or pirated. Grids, typefaces, paper sizes, etc. Whatever you produce, it must be wholly “unoriginal”! See how deeply you can explore this unoriginality.

Project proposals are due by one third of the way through class, and you will present your work in progress at least once during the semester.


As we go, we will collectively assemble and print a copy book. The content of this book will be both the weekly experiments you make in the course of your final project and the writing you do in relation to our course readings.