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laocoÖn's hyperrealities


Copies are portals opening toward alternative ways of seeing the original. Not only do they operate as historical documents of a survived or disappeared work of art and its possible changes through time. Every translation of the original into another medium – whether in drawing, printing, casting, photography, or 3D reproduction – extends its history in time and space. The expanded biography of the original absorbs its filiations’ own networks of meanings, historicity, uses and values. While carrying with them the idea of the original, copies reflect their own cultural and social context of production and acquire new significance. Archaeologists today acknowledge the authenticity of copies, if not their originality. Copies, indeed, are autonomous systems when it comes to their commission, creation, dissemination, and usage.

But copies may also challenge our propensity to trust the very originality of the original, unlocking ambiguous zones where our thoughts can philosophically deambulate. From these ambiguous zones, out of the comfort of familiar narratives, new ways of seeing the original artwork emerge. Reproductions allow navigation throughout the layers of cultural interpretations that outdistance us from the historical, cultural, and socio-political context of the artwork's creation. New digitisation technologies also undermine the perception of the work from a human scale. The weightless object released from the constraint of the material world discloses alien perspectives. Such interrogations shape Laocoön’s biography – its reproductions defying our trusting gaze as we gather in front of the sculpture in the Vatican museums and freeze our beliefs in the click of the camera, ignorant that what we see may not be real, but rather, hyper-real.


Plaster casts collection of the University of Geneva

28 February - 15 May 2024

As part of the research project 'The Grey Zone of the Original', lead by Pierre Leguillon and the HEAD - Haute Ecole d'Art et Design, Geneva
Full programme (fr)


Images Pierre Leguillon & Gérard Audran

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