The Head of State in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

The Head of State in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

During the draft of the blueprint for the Ley Mordaza Act (officially known as the 4/2015 act of the 30th of March for the protection of citizen security / mordaza referring to censorship), the government of Spain tried incorporating administrative sanctions deriving from grave violation and with penalties of up to 30,000 euros for “grave violations of offense or insult to Spain, its institutions, and its symbols”, naturally including the Crown. The Consejo General del Poder Judicial (The General Council of the Judiciary Branch in English) chose to ignore this sanction, outlining the fact that offense or insult against the Crown is already a crime according to the Penal Code, making it redundant to introduce the sanction yet again.

Using an official portrait of the new Spanish King Phillipe VI obtained from the National Heritage Organization, I developed a series of photocopies, each one made from the previous until the image lost all recognition. Twenty-two steps from the automatic process are absent in the final presentation of the work which renders the portrait completely illegible. Inspired by Walter Benjamin’s Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit of 1936, this project raises a series of unanswered questions: Where does one draw the line between the portrait images of Phillipe VI and the illegible photocopies that can be destroyed, manipulated, burned, intervened, etc, without the fear of legal persecution. At what moment does an image cease to be an image? Can subjective representation, such as a drawing or a cartoon, be the object of legal incrimination in the same way as the official portrait? Can the illegible image of the Head of State be vandalized? Is there any legal responsibility involving the automatic deformation produced in succesion by a machine?