Category: Multiplicity

Multiplicity: Emblem

My emblem for multiplicity is Photoshop.

Photoshop is known for its ability to allow users to manipulate photos and make a new photo.

In high school, I taught myself Photoshop and I haven’t stopped using it since then. I love that using Photoshop you can create unrealistic images that look realistic.

Two years ago, I made holiday cards for the employees at my work. I used Photoshop to take a picture of the managers and a picture of mountains and make it look like we were in the mountains. I even took a silhouette of Santa and his sled and placed in the distance. I also used additional layers to make the reflections on the ice.

The author of Self Portraits as Others, Talan Memmot, most likely used Photoshop to create her images, or a program like Photoshop. She took many paintings of different artists and cut them up. Some of them she even manipulated with filters in Photoshop. And then she placed the many layers together and created a single image.

I used Photoshop to create the image above. I broke apart the layers of the Photoshop logo to show how it is made up of layers.

As I have mentioned before, multiplicity uses many kinds of layers to create the many facets of a single piece of work. In todays world, we use Photoshop to create these visual images.


The obvious graphic design element for Multiplicity is layers.

As an avid Photoshop user, I work with layers a lot. Here is the definition from

Layers are simultaneous, over-lapping components of an image or sequence

Memmot clearly uses layers when composing the images of the artists. She takes different pictures, puts effects on some of them and then layers them over each other to create the images you see in her E-literature.

Here you see the picture of “Vincent Manet” she created. The top layers are from images of actual paintings done by one of the twelve artists. However, the layers in the back are obviously images that have been manipulated digitally. The background is a combination of layers of color.

Memmot also used a verbal example of layers when she combined the biographies of the artists. You can think of each body of text by an author as a layer. Memmot then cut up these layers of text and combined them to create a new biography.

For Christmas two years ago I got a Holga. A Holga is a cheap, film camera that is made in China. Within the last few years she has gotten a large cult following. And I am one of the members of that cult. One of my favorite feature about the Holga is she allows the photographer to take multiple and long exposure pictures.

A multiple exposure picture is the process of opening the lens multiple times on the same piece of film. For long exposure pictures you leave the lens open and catch movement on the film.

Multiple and long exposure pictures are visual examples of multiplicity. You visually see the multiple images, one on top of the other. Creating a story or defying the usual.

Just as Memmot juxtaposed multiple images on top of each other to create a portrait of her invented artist, I am choosing visual images to place on top of each other to tell a story with my pictures. 

As Calvino says, multiplicity is like a tangled skein of yarn. No piece of yarn can be moved without affecting another portion of that yarn. When you take a multiple exposure picture, every shot will affect the last shots taken. The two images will now be visible through each other.

Below is a long exposure picture that capture the headlights of taxis in Times Square. This pictures captures multiple details over a span of time.

Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)] is a Wikipedia entry on artists gone awry. This E-Lit work comprises together different portraits and different biographies of twelve different artists.

In the description of this E-Lit piece, Talan Memmot writes “[c]urators and art critics paint their own portraits of artists with text”. When an author writes about a real person, they are going to add their own opinions and prejudices into the story. It is inevitable. But, this is what adds interest to a story. Just one story by one author would have layers of multiplicity in it.

However, this piece created by Memmot has even more layers of multiplicity due to the many authors. Memmot has taken the writings of many different art critics and combined them to create one biography of many different people. She has done the same for their portraits.  This combination creates many layers. Many different view points and opinions are included in each biography and portrait.

It is interesting to view the the biography of one artist in juxtaposition with that of another artist. It allows the reader to compare and contrast the different artists. But, at the same time it ties them together. They work together to create one story. A story of many different layers. Above is a screen shot from the piece on “Henri Monet”. The author has combined the names of Henri Matisse and Claude Monet. In the portrait are combinations of paintings by many artists. In the text they talk about “the greatest academic painter” who is usually considered to be Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, not “Henri Monet”.

Memmot is rewriting history. Every time she attributes an artist with something another artist did, she is pulling at the yarn of multiplicity and shifting the other parts of history around.

Multiplicity is what ties everything together for Calvino.

When he uses the four other memos to write a story, he doesn’t want it to be just that; a story. He wants it to be more. And that is where multiplicity comes in. He views the “contemporary novel as an encyclopedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world.

Multiplicity is what takes an entertaining story and makes it something that changes people’s lives.

Stories with multiplicity do not include flat characters in unbelievable situations. But, instead a world is created where characters do things for a reason and have desires and expectations. “[T]he writer cannot restrain himself from following, multiplying the details so that his descriptions and digressions become infinite”.

Calvino’s emblem for multiplicity is “a tangled skein of yarn”. No piece of the yarn remains unaffected or changed when a part of the yarn is pulled. Everything is connected.

An example of multiplicity in todays world is Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows everyone to contribute information to its site.

It is an encyclopedia of information. But it is also more than that. The information comes from many different sources. Every piece of information that is submitted to the site affects the other information that is already on the site. Two pieces of conflicting information will clash with each other. On the site you might get information from people who know first hand facts, opinions of others, and even misleading information. All of these entries come together to tell a story.