THEMATIC: Uniqueness and Mass Production

"Over Ten Thousand Individual Works," 1987/88. Enamel on cast Hydrocal, 2 inches in diameter each, with variable lengths, each unique. Photo by Fred Scruton. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Can uniqueness exist when images and objects are systematically reproduced? Allan McCollum's art uses reproduction on extreme scales. In McCollum's Art in the Twenty-First Century segment, one of his collaborators, a craftsman from Maine, mentions the idea of each person having a unique identity. Watch Allan McCollum's segment and examine how the large-scale production of slightly different works might alter the criteria for what makes something unique.

SEGMENT: Allan McCollum in "Systems"

Before Viewing
What is uniqueness? Discuss the question of whether a work of art is inherently unique. How might the consideration of prints or photographs influence this discussion?

While Viewing
McCollum talks about how his work could be considered awe-inspiring or nightmarish because of its sheer magnitude. Pick a particular work in relation to these descriptors, and choose other words you would use to describe the work and the ideas it conveys.

After Viewing
Discuss the different ways in which McCollum uses the idea of what he calls "combinatorial elements" in his work, his working process, and his collaborations.

"Plaster Surrogates," 1982/83. Enamel on cast Hydrostone, variable dimensions. Installation view of "From the Permanent Collection" at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Select a mass-produced item and collect examples of it over the course of a few days. At the end of this period, begin making slight changes to each of the items, in order to create unique objects. Create an installation of these unique objects in order to tell a story about the process or the idea behind collecting them.