Here are a few post-thoughts.
Cousins begins with a dissection of Walter Benjamin’s oft cited essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,’ to cast doubt on the basic category of reproduction ‘as some sort of tidy order’. The Work of Art, for Benjamin, is a ‘substantive duration’ that exists in and through time, and whose ‘essence’ depends on its authenticity. Any reproduction will fall short of this first instance of ‘aura’.
How then can the enigmatic category of the ‘aura’ be stabilised as a fixed quantity or quality to be reproduced? Reproduction, Cousins argues - like representation, or reality itself - is a complex process. The reproduced copy depends on the ‘aura’ of the original work of art, but this ‘aura’ is always absent from the mimetic piece. The copy might possess a different formation of aura, but the patina of the first is not replicable.
In fact, Cousins cannot remember the correct term, ‘patina’, to describe the phenomenon of object-ageing. This, though, is the word that is on the tip of his tongue - a surface layer of ageing, tarnish, scuff, rust or sheen - that is constitutive of character, of ‘aura’, or ‘authenticity’.
As witnessed in fake antiques or kitsch souvenirs that are made to look old, an object’s patina, equally, cannot be recreated. Mechanically produced objects are not all works of art - though it is possible to have an imitative reproduction of a mass-produced object, when the ‘original’ is a desired design piece, for example.
An object is a time capsule that carries its own history and embedded information, from production to obsolescence. This information is unique to each object, dependent on its working life, owner treatment and movement through setting, use and possession. The object’s patina tells a singular story - and at Autopsies, this is the story we care about, as we ask when, where and how, does an object end?