Walter Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Works of art have always been reproducible, through imitation. Mechanical reproduction characterizes a new period in reproduction, with new limits and repercussions. Each new technology employed in the production or reproduction of art increased the speed with which they could be done so. Lithography allowed for multiple images from one original, keeping up with the happenings of everyday life, and then photography allowed the artist to produce at the same speed as speech.
All reproductions of art lack the original's presence in a specific time and place, which is the basis for authenticity. The mechanical reproduction is more independent from the original in that the producer has many choices in lighting, lens, angle, scale etc. The mechanical reproduction has the advantage of being able to place the image within situations inaccessible to the original.
Once authenticity and originality are confused, the authority of the object becomes confused as well.
The technique of mechanical reproduction separates it from the traditions of the original. The multitude of copies overwhelms the uniqueness of the original, yet upon seeing the reproduction the viewer is referred automatically to the original (if they have knowledge of the original).
The contemporary decay of the aura is due to two circumstances. First, the urge to bring objects closer both spatially and humanly. Secondly, the attempt to overcome the uniqueness of reality by accepting and embracing its reproduction.
Tradition calls for the uniqueness of a work of art. With the development of photography and the rise of socialism, art saw a crisis approaching. The result was art for art's sake, 'pure' art. Where art no longer talks about social functions, it talks about itself.
Reproduction released art from its dependence upon ritual. The work of art reproduced becomes the work of art produced for...
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