But it’s not the original, it’s just a facsimile!”. How often have we heard such a retort when confronted with an otherwise perfect reproduction of a painting? No question about it, the obsession of the age is for the original version. Only the original possesses an aura, this mysterious and mystical quality that no second hand version will ever get. But paradoxically, this obsession for pinpointing originality increases proportionally with the availability and accessibility of more and more copies of better and better quality.
In discussing “The Migration of the Aura – Exploring the Original through Its Facsimiles” (2008) Latour explores an area that is patently contentious.
Bruno Latour says unequivocally the existence of something precedes its essence; the question is, does it? While I disagree with Kvond who appears to argue against this proposition with reference to art, yet his argument to my mind demonstrates exactly what Latour says. The minutae of detail, the pressure of the paint on the page, the texture of brushstrokes and the variability in paint pigmentation...are all 'things' preceding essence. Essence came in the aggrargation of such things in a time and place and viewed in a context, or so I understand Latour. But what then of other 'things'?
I find myself comparing these arguments of authentic art to the stories I have heard when talking of the shift of phone counselling to text. And am also reminded of the historic stories captured on moving conversation to phones. But to stay with counselling for the moment, is its 'essence' lost when the medium changes? The logic from Latours argument, is that it cant be as essence is always preceded by existence.
And now i get tangled up in knots, for what of the photo vs the painting? The reproduction has no pressure on the page, the pigmentation and colour 'enhancement' alters the rendition, the size becomes immaterial, the context within which it is shifts...how many have commented on the smallness and darkness of the Mona Lisa. The original compared with a multiple hord of facsimilies is altere and sometimes rendered a dissapointment. Klimt's mother and child becomes more known than its original source, the three ages of women C.1905. Edited enhancement for popular release? If essence is in the existence, what is loved by the masses becomes a projection.
Latour takes the argument further from photography to plastic surgery. I would anticipate the argument to be its not better or worse but different, that translation creates a new entity.
Hidden behind the commonsense distinction between original and mere copies, lies a totally different process that has to do with the technical equipment, the amount of care, the intensity of the search for the originality that goes from one version to the next. Before being able to defend itself for re-enacting the original well or badly, a facsimile is discredited beforehand because it is associated with a gap in techniques of reproduction. A gap based on a misunderstanding of photography as an index for reality.
Instead of arguing a better or worse, there is space for arguing not the either or, but the "and,and". The photo is different. "Photographs of paintings are not respected as aura entrenched primarily because the change in recording surface and technique is understood to present a change in marked causal histories" responds Kvond. The photograph brings with it, its own aggragations, one of which is multiplicity for popular demand, which is noted by Latour as contributing to the originals own value.
In counselling then, is there an essence? Is being there in the moment an essence? One that cannot be replicated in the absence of synchronised connectivity? Is texting a poor facsimilie? The line of argument explored would suggest the answer is no. Instead it is different. The essence is in it's existence, not an antecedent event, but in it's being performed. Does the reproduction in another form lessen its value? Perhaps. The processes of translation from one medium to another may fail to capture the 'things' of importance , what then can be added or removed? Is it essential to counselling that it be 'in the moment' that it be synchronised not asynchronised? Far from becoming “sterile” counselling so reconstructed becomes more accessible. So where does the crime lie? I suggest it lies in the gap where the index for reality is misunderstood. Text counselling far from being barren or sterile is serving a purpose attested to by those who continue to make use of it.
It provides an option, the value of which is evident in its being used and in its ongoing development and ongoing translations.