Monday, September 20, 2010

"The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" by Walter Benjamin; 1936

The essay written by Walter Benjamin in 1936 titled, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, discusses how mechanical reproduction, specifically in the forms of photography and film, have affected the way art is seen and how it affects an audience. Benjamin argues that mechanical reproduction diminishes the "aura" of an art object, jeopardizes it's authority, while allowing it to transform in location. Benjamin proposes that reproduction adjusts "the masses to reality and reality to the masses," and suggests that art is set free from ritual through the disintegration of autonomy and therefor bases itself in politics.

I recently have made a device that measures the resistance of the body and transforms the electrical signal obtained into a filtered sound. Machines are mediating all aspects of the final output. Then, I can record that output and play it back infinitely. I could play in live for an audience, or I could play it back two years later in my bedroom. It's hard for me to even think of a time when art was not influence by mechanical reproduction, which is why reading this is interesting, but also hard for me to grasp what it would have been like before mechanical reproduction existed.

What happens when a man-made reproduction is created based on a mechanical reproduction?
Can we really understand what it would be like without mechanical reproduction?
Can something that is mechanically reproduced really not have an "aura" of its own?

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