Monday, September 20, 2010

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

In Walter Benjamin's article The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction {1936}, Benjamin begins with a brief overview of the evolution of reproduction in the media, starting with the Greek woodcuts and reaching into the era of photography and film. From there, he starts to examine how human perception has started to change as visual arts began to expand its horizons in a time where mass reproduction was being realized. He starts to discuss how the introduction and assimilation of film lacks the aura of traditional art and the 'originals'. He describes how different it was to stand within the presence of art rather than confronting it through the lens. Before a lens you are at the mercy of the camera, whereas with your own body and mind in the presence of your query can cast its aura on you properly, leaving it to your mercy instead.

At the time this article was written, film with sound was starting to gain popularity. He mentioned one critic of silent film and sound even still claimed that an actor acting for a camera rather than a physical audience experiences discomfort and isolation, making every natural act more difficult to perform. The aura of the audience is just as lost to him as he might be to the audience. Later it's criticized that film promotes distraction whereas painting promotes concentration. The author then clears that up by mentioning that concentration might help to realize details, but the 'distracted' can get a grasp of the big picture. In either case, it's still safe to assume that the distracted may miss out on the point of a painting where one who concentrates would become frustrated with the dynamics of film.

1. How far have we come in this day and age of the computer? Where are we now in the respect of our connection to the cult of art {any kind-writing, image, video, music, etc}?

Now we can pull up images, video, articles, and more at the push of a button. Those who have gained this savvy can often tackle several tasks at a time, which for many reduces concentration as film was thought to do for those in the 30s. There are even virtual galleries being set up online so people can see work from their computers at home, but wouldn't this destroy the opportunity to bask in the aura of the work itself?

2. Also, what of the old reproduction processes? Have they gained more authenticity because of the quick evolution of film and technology? Are woodcuts, etchings, and lithos being met with greater appreciation because easier means of reproduction have been introduced?

And finally...

3. What about the latest technology of 3-D film? Can a film that brings you into the action in such a manner have an aura to it?

Because technically, a 3-D film tends to have a greater sense of inclusion than your average pictures. It was what lent Avatar so much of that special attention it received. Is attending that showing under the 3-D circumstance an experience we can relate to aura?

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