Daniel Spoerri's Multiplication d'Art Transformable
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 08-26-11
Niki de Saint Phalle, Tr-Edition MAT, 1964 (number 90 in a series of 100)
Image Source

The following was written by critic Pierre Restany in 1966 for Daniel Spoerri's Edition MAT— which, for about a decade in the late nineteen fifties through the sixties, offered mass-produced and affordable works of art to the general public:
(printed here thanks to Will Brand of Art Fag City)

A permanent manifesto of social art.

I. MAT is firstly an adventure, an episode in the capricious career of a "beat" poet-dancer who is in a perpetual state of wandering, a well regarded topographer-alchemist who goes by the name of Daniel Spoerri.

Upon arriving in Paris in 1959, Spoerri set up the first chapter of MAT (Multiplication d'Art Transformable). It consisted of an edition of 100 original multiples, all signed and individually priced. To sum up, the artists were: Agam, Bury, Marcel Duchamp, Munari, Dieter Roth, Soto, Tinguely, Vasarely. Subsequent editions were something approximating a mix of avant-gardist Pop and Op tendencies: Arman, Christo, Spoerri, Villagie, Baj and Lichtenstein; Mack, Le Parc, Morrelet, Talman, etc. Marcel Duchamp would later be joined by Arp and Man Ray.

II. But the Spoerrian dialectic leads to a general idea: art as a social phenomenon. MAT is above all a manifesto/response to this problem, an affirmation of contemporary art's social calling.

The idea of original multiples is nothing new. Born out of the ambiguous visuals of a simultaneous diffusion of individual aesthetic pleasure, it was unviable. Fautrier proved it brilliantly in 1950. Ten years later the situation was different. Spoerri was the catalyst. The choice of the first line-up of artists is significant: whether it was through the intervention of the viewer-consumer, through mechanical animation, or through pure optical effect, the works chosen for the 1959 edition are organically and fundamentally multiples, theoretically infinite in their potential transformations.

Thus the full scope of the challenge that MAT presents becomes apparent. The multiplication of an artwork is a specific quality of the dissemination of its message, grasped in its inherent diversity: the creative urge facilitated by mass communication—art speaking to as many people as possible.

MAT clearly signifies the death of the unique artwork and a move beyond artisanal aesthetics. At the most profound level of contemporary expressiveness, the excellence of a piece of work has made way for the richness of information. As Yves Klein proclaimed, there are no technical difficulties, just answers. From the beginning, MAT was an act of faith, a creed for artworks that can be disseminated thanks to machines and by machines. Today, poets have joined artists in responding to this matter—Robert Filliou, Maurice Henry, Andre Thompkins—making ideas concrete, visualizing words, rendering syntax into the will of the reader-manipulator. The perspectives are clear: MAT, reedited in 1966 and enriched with MAT-MOT, is today's response to the anachronistic elements of the past that have survived; it's a further step toward the decommercialization of art—the logical corollary of its integration into society.

Pierre Restany

Paris, November 26, 1966.

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