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The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media

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Benjamin’s famous 'Work of Art' essay sets out his boldest thoughts--on media and on culture in general--in their most realized form, while retaining an edge that gets under the skin of everyone who reads it. In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought. This essay, however, is only Benjamin’s famous 'Work of Art' essay sets out his boldest thoughts--on media and on culture in general--in their most realized form, while retaining an edge that gets under the skin of everyone who reads it. In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought. This essay, however, is only the beginning of a vast collection of writings that the editors have assembled to demonstrate what was revolutionary about Benjamin's explorations on media. Long before Marshall McLuhan, Benjamin saw that the way a bullet rips into its victim is exactly the way a movie or pop song lodges in the soul. This book contains the second, and most daring, of the four versions of the 'Work of Art' essay the one that addresses the utopian developments of the modern media. The collection tracks Benjamin's observations on the media as they are revealed in essays on the production and reception of art; on film, radio, and photography; and on the modern transformations of literature and painting. The volume contains some of Benjamin's best-known work alongside fascinating, little-known essays--some appearing for the first time in English. In the context of his passionate engagement with questions of aesthetics, the scope of Benjamin's media theory can be fully appreciated.


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Benjamin’s famous 'Work of Art' essay sets out his boldest thoughts--on media and on culture in general--in their most realized form, while retaining an edge that gets under the skin of everyone who reads it. In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought. This essay, however, is only Benjamin’s famous 'Work of Art' essay sets out his boldest thoughts--on media and on culture in general--in their most realized form, while retaining an edge that gets under the skin of everyone who reads it. In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought. This essay, however, is only the beginning of a vast collection of writings that the editors have assembled to demonstrate what was revolutionary about Benjamin's explorations on media. Long before Marshall McLuhan, Benjamin saw that the way a bullet rips into its victim is exactly the way a movie or pop song lodges in the soul. This book contains the second, and most daring, of the four versions of the 'Work of Art' essay the one that addresses the utopian developments of the modern media. The collection tracks Benjamin's observations on the media as they are revealed in essays on the production and reception of art; on film, radio, and photography; and on the modern transformations of literature and painting. The volume contains some of Benjamin's best-known work alongside fascinating, little-known essays--some appearing for the first time in English. In the context of his passionate engagement with questions of aesthetics, the scope of Benjamin's media theory can be fully appreciated.

30 review for The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    One of the most influential essays on art and aesthetics in the twentieth century, Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, written in 1935, points out how works of art are diminished by mechanical reproduction. To share a modest taste of the great German philosopher's thinking outlined in this influential essay, here are a number of quotes along with my comments: “In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Mechanical reproduction of a work of art, h One of the most influential essays on art and aesthetics in the twentieth century, Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, written in 1935, points out how works of art are diminished by mechanical reproduction. To share a modest taste of the great German philosopher's thinking outlined in this influential essay, here are a number of quotes along with my comments: “In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Mechanical reproduction of a work of art, however, represents something new.” ---------- Benjamin is speaking of film and magazines. Of course, the reproduction of works of art nowadays on the internet makes all art available to all people at all time. This can cut both ways - on the downside, the copy isn't even close to the original (we judge a ten foot canvas by a ten inch photo) but I greatly appreciate how I can view art from around the world instantly. Not to mention that I listen to hours of string quartet music and world music every single day in the comfort of my own home. If films are added to the mix, I strongly suspect nearly everybody reading this likewise benefits from the arts being reproduced mechanically and electronically. “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” ---------- We have to go to Kyoto to experience the real Zen garden; not nearly the same thing as looking at a photograph. “Process reproduction is more independent of the original than manual reproduction. For example, in photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will.” ---------- The camera highlighting unique features of the human face can make the photograph both remarkable and unforgettable, especially true if the face is the face of a celebrity. “And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape natural vision.” ---------- As per this photo capturing a moment of dynamic movement in a dance. “Technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record.” ---------- Andy Warhol grasped the power of rendering an artistic image by his own artistic enhancement. “The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated.” ---------- I viewed this stunning Winslow Homer at an exhibition in New York. The extraordinary power of the painting almost put me on my knees. The photo captures only a very small fraction of the artist's work, thus the truth of Benjamin's words: the art is depreciated. “This holds not only for the art work but also, for instance, for a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie.” ---------- What's true for art is also true for nature. For example, the desert in this film is stripped of its overwhelming presence for the moviegoer. “One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art.” ---------- According to Benjamin, each work of art contains its own "aura," an element completely lacking in reproduction. “One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence.” ---------- Oceanic tribal art displayed in a museum. Quite a difference from the tribespeople who used this art as part of their religious and communal rituals. “To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose “sense of the universal equality of things” has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction.” --------- Statues of saints on entry in medieval cathedral in Koeln, Germany via a photo that eliminates the cathedral! “The film actor lacks the opportunity of the stage actor to adjust to the audience during his performance, since he does not present his performance to the audience in person.” ---------- Every live performance is unique and different every single night, in part, based on the audience's participation and response, an element completely lacking in film. “All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war.” ----------In a Nazi rally, aspects of aesthetics were incorporated so as to bring such a great mass of people under the will of the Führer. Even visitors from other countries reported how moved they were by such a spectacle. The Nazis and their war machine were the prime example for Walter Benjamin. The great thinker, one of the most sensitive souls in all of Europe, committed suicide to avoid abduction by the Nazis.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

    I’m a mild-mannered guy, passionately mild-mannered I should say, as I’m not very demonstrative, rarely boiling, but always at a simmer. And I’m not boiling now, but I am annoyed, vaguely so, and I’m looking for some help to specify my annoyance, or refute it. This past Saturday night I was at a party and this relatively new store, or boutique, in Philadelphia kept coming up as a topic of conversation. The name of this boutique is Art in the Age, which in its fullness reveals itself as Art in the I’m a mild-mannered guy, passionately mild-mannered I should say, as I’m not very demonstrative, rarely boiling, but always at a simmer. And I’m not boiling now, but I am annoyed, vaguely so, and I’m looking for some help to specify my annoyance, or refute it. This past Saturday night I was at a party and this relatively new store, or boutique, in Philadelphia kept coming up as a topic of conversation. The name of this boutique is Art in the Age, which in its fullness reveals itself as Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Without even getting into what they sell, I have a problem right here, in this place’s very name. I have a problem with books whose titles specifically reference other, more famous, and more than likely better, books; but to find out that a store specifically references a famous essay, an essay that has considerable intellectual hipster (not to say pretentious) cachet, nearly shattered my mild-mannered façade. And this before I even knew what they sell, or the prices they charge! Though I’m not a shopper, I do appreciate nice stores and stores with well-designed signs and windows, and even attractive interiors (though to enter a store with no intention of shelling out makes me self-conscious); but when I contemplate the actual mercantile nitty-gritty of such stores I get upset. I’m someone who thinks that almost everything is over-priced, and the nature of our economy and its utter reliance on ever-growing personal debt pisses me off. So I like the superficial aspects of nice stores, but loathe their “substance”, and while at the same time acknowledging that to have these superficial aspects there must be inveterate shoppers with more than likely ever-growing debt, I sneer nearly imperceptibly at these shoppers as I’m appreciating the window dressing. I have never entered the Art in the Age store, but I have visited their website, and, like a store window I can enjoy, their website is well-designed, with just enough intellectualism and restrained hipster artiness dotted between their quiet ploys to extract cash (or credit) from our pockets. And while there are profiles of actual artists and/or artisans, and musicians, on their site, giving one the impression that the store might actually be an art gallery or a soundspace, when I looked further into what they sell what do I find? - $34 t-shirts, $120 scarves, $60 hoodies, $80 ties, $230 backpacks, etc. Now I understand that these prices are on the low-end of boutique prices, but they’re still over-priced; and this gets me to Benjamin… I realized I had actually never read this essay, as the title itself seemed self-explanatory and sufficient unto itself, so in order not to be just another Benjaminian poseur who spouts out titles without having read the body, someone who is nothing but window dressing with nothing for sale inside, I woke up Sunday and read the essay. And what, in relation to this store, stood out for me in the essay? His discussion of how taste, i.e. connoisseurship, developed when people became more distanced from the actual means of production. As a kind of compensatory action, to cover up guilt? ignorance? etc? because of their inability to make the things, individuals developed ever more refined tastes in common items. It’s clear how this led to seemingly bustling economies, as scarves went from something you or your grandmother would knit to something simply plucked off a rack at $120 a pop. The foundation of economies are over-priced items. So how does the proprietor of this store reconcile this with his store’s Benjamin references? Sure, these scarves are handmade by artisans, a good thing, but they are purchased by non-artisan connoisseur shoppers who are more than likely going deeper into debt. Strip away the Benjamin references and I can swallow it, however reluctantly, but with them it’s all a marketing house of cards. Elsewhere in the essay Benjamin comes off as maybe a bit reactionary, especially in his discussion of film, though I loved his idea that in order to compensate for films lack of “aura” the movers and shakers behind the industry created living breathing “stars” who had aura to burn (however sham) to fill in an aesthetic gap and assure the perpetual growth of film as an industry. I don’t accept that films have no aura simply because they are mechanical reproductions. Or is our age so degraded that I can sense an aura in film that isn’t there? There are plenty of plums to be picked here, juicy little tidbits to artfully display in one’s intellectual window, but also plenty of meat to fully stock the shelves within. And the best thing about it is that it’s inexpensive, ever-renewable, and intellectually nourishing, something real and something useful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    Paul Klee, Angelus Novus "This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels hi Paul Klee, Angelus Novus "This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress." Drink pairing:

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Resist the urge to dismiss this essay because of the epilogue. In fact, you can skip that section. I admit, it's one of those where you're like, "Wait a tick, how'd we get here exactly?" Here's a few ideas that I rather liked: (note, this is a fairly dense 26 page PDF, so my notes will be necessarily oversimplified and oriented towards my own interests) According to Walter Benjamin, the work of art has an “aura” which is largely dependent on the historico-technological context. The earliest art, t Resist the urge to dismiss this essay because of the epilogue. In fact, you can skip that section. I admit, it's one of those where you're like, "Wait a tick, how'd we get here exactly?" Here's a few ideas that I rather liked: (note, this is a fairly dense 26 page PDF, so my notes will be necessarily oversimplified and oriented towards my own interests) According to Walter Benjamin, the work of art has an “aura” which is largely dependent on the historico-technological context. The earliest art, taking the form of cave-paintings and idols seemed to be interactions with the sacred first (B calls this cult value) and exhibitions for limited audiences second. Over time, evolving with the economic mode, we witness a shift toward exhibition value in the aesthetic experience, but there remains access to the aura in terms of a unique observer-work interface, entailing what B calls a reactionary response, which is entirely individual, conditioned by context, perspective and identity. However, in the age of mechanical reproduction, technology (e.g. photography, film) degrades the aura of the work of art by necessity in making possible a mass consumption of the art object, whose fractured (individualized) or unified (group) simultaneity engenders a progressive reaction, “characterized by the direct, intimate fusion of visual and emotional enjoyment with the orientation of the expert.” This “orientation of the expert” need not be thought of as access to the learned interpretations of professionals in the field, but rather reproducibility itself extending the potentiality of our comprehension. Take for example the close-up camera shot: “With the close-up, space expands; with slow motion, movement is extended. The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject. […] Evidently a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye–if only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a space consciously explored by man.” The pejorative here is NOT that new art forms which emerge with technology, such as photography and film are bad because they tend to be correlated with passive mindless distraction rather than immersive concentration, instead the very mode of appropriation entails a severing from the aura of the work of art due to the current viewer’s lack of access to previous modes of being (and all the unique and constitutive limitations of experience), making it that much more difficult to avoid “progressive,” mediated interfaces with all art forms. Presumably, such access to the aura of the work of art is now only approximated through the insight of this conceptual sublimation. Here's a link to the PDF [saved you a few keystrokes and clicks]: http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/benjam... Also, watch Berger's "Ways of Seeing" on YouTube [It is free and only about 30 min...only episode one is necessary, but the rest is pretty good too]. That should prime your pump if you're not generally a philo person, as his art documentary is largely a précis of Benjamin's essay.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This slim which takes less than two hours to read was enjoyable but left me feeling that I had not been properly introduced to the legendary Marxist literary critic who died tragically in 1940 fleeing from Nazi German. In all it contains a mere three essays. The most substantial is "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production". Benjamin arguesd that art produced mechanically could not adequately fill the traditional magic and subsequently religious role of art by virtue of the fact that This slim which takes less than two hours to read was enjoyable but left me feeling that I had not been properly introduced to the legendary Marxist literary critic who died tragically in 1940 fleeing from Nazi German. In all it contains a mere three essays. The most substantial is "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production". Benjamin arguesd that art produced mechanically could not adequately fill the traditional magic and subsequently religious role of art by virtue of the fact that the none of the individual copies possessed the supernatural aura of uniqueness. Film a revolutionary new art form also had the drawback of alienating the actor from the live audience. However, because film alienated it was ideally suited to Fascist propaganda or Marxist education. The second essay, "Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of his Death", is a work that represents Benjamin's spiritual Jewish side. The work is pleasant to read but says nothing that anything that anyone would disagree with. Benjamin makes the points that Kafka's work was dominated by the theme of dread in the face of God's judgement and that Kafka felt oppressed by his father neither of which come as surprises. The last essay, "Picturing Proust" is particularly dreadful even if Benjamin's enthusiasm for the great French novelist is quite infectious. Benjamin starts by saying that "Remembrance of things past" is about the process of the remembrance rather than the things past which is not true. It is indeed about the people and things that Proust loved in his life not just the surprising qualities of the human memory. Benjamin then goes off the deep-end attempting to show that Proust offers a Marxist critique of the bourgeoisie. His argument is that Proust's lampooning of snobbishness is Marxist in the Snobbishness in its essence is valuing art by its markets price rather than its spiritual quality. This is ludicrous reasoning which is typical of the overall weakness in the piece.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Not that I expect anyone to actually read a college essay I wrote five years ago, but I present here my full thoughts upon Walter Benjamin's wonderful essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility". I wrote it for one of my favorite classes (Aesthetics) and I have fond memories of trying to divine the real effects of copy machines and cameras on an art world that existed for centuries without such reproducibility. Ambivalence In the Age of Art’s Technological Reproducibil Not that I expect anyone to actually read a college essay I wrote five years ago, but I present here my full thoughts upon Walter Benjamin's wonderful essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility". I wrote it for one of my favorite classes (Aesthetics) and I have fond memories of trying to divine the real effects of copy machines and cameras on an art world that existed for centuries without such reproducibility. Ambivalence In the Age of Art’s Technological Reproducibility It might be stated as a general formula that the technology of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the sphere of tradition. By replicating the work many times over, it substitutes a mass existence for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to reach the recipient in his or her own situation, it actualizes that which is reproduced. (Benjamin 22) This quote from Walter Benjamin’s revolutionary essay “The Work of Art In the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” exposes the root of a profound ambivalence about the modern world. One can easily imagine the two opposing forces within Benjamin as he wrote, glee for the incomparable accessibility of art in the modern age, yet sorrow over the death of art’s authenticity, what he refers to as the “aura” of the original artwork. For that is the price of modern technological reproduction: the “withering” (Benjamin 22) of the sacred aura of art. This essay will explore several concepts which Benjamin formulates in his essay, including the aura and authenticity of art, and their place within the modern age of reproducibility. But the main goal of this essay is to explore the feelings of ambivalence which Benjamin must have experienced when considering the effect of technological reproducibility upon works of art, the art world, and beyond. Nearing the end of this essay, I will give my own philosophical critique of Benjamin’s argument, concluding that while the aura of the artwork is a regrettable loss, it is a small price to pay for the reproducibility of art. I will focus more upon what is not lost – the aesthetic qualities of the artwork. It is important to clarify what this essay will not discuss. Benjamin, while making huge universal claims about the nature of art and its role in modern society, focused much of his attention not on the art world, but on the political world, for he wrote during the terribly unsettling time of the rise of fascism, Communism, and Nazism. Much of the length of his argument is devoted to the logical consequences of the abilities of the technological reproduction of artwork, in which Benjamin concludes that the state of technology has reached the point of near catastrophe. The combination of technology and aesthetics has led to “the point where [humankind] can experience its own annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure. Such is the aestheticizing of politics, as practiced by fascism” (Benjamin 42). My essay makes no attempt at such bold claims about the fate of humanity, and avoids the temptation to show how the technological reproducibility of art may lead to apocalypse. My aspirations are much less ambitious than Benjamin’s. I intend only to deal with the immediate ramifications of the mass reproduction of art, and how it may affect the authenticity of art, the auratic glow which Benjamin holds so dearly. I. Benjamin’s essay was sparked by the revelation of the feat of modern technology – the ability it has to reproduce any kind of art. This is an accomplishment that had never been reached before, as Benjamin states, around 1900 (21). There is a distinction between technological reproduction and reproduction by hand. There have always been forgers of paintings, who copy an artwork brush stroke by brush stroke (by hand), but not before the inventions of photography and film has a work been susceptible to such advanced technological reproduction. This is the revolutionary development – the new standard - which spawns Benjamin’s first big question: “In gauging this standard, we would do well to study the impact which its two different manifestations – the reproduction of artworks and the art of film – are having on art in its traditional form” (21). Benjamin is remarkably explicit about the impact which he believes technological reproduction has had on the traditional form of art: “What withers in the age of the technological reproducibility of the work of art is the latter’s aura” (22). But of course, I have not yet defined exactly what Benjamin means by his curious term “aura”. I can do no better than to quote his own picturesque account of it. What, then, is the aura? A strange tissue of space and time: the unique apparition of the distance, however near it may be. To follow with the eye – while resting on a summer afternoon – a mountain range on the horizon or a branch that casts its shadow on the beholder is to breathe the aura of those mountains, of that branch. (23) Benjamin’s aura is closely tied to two properties of the work of art: its uniqueness and its history. In fact, he writes that, “the uniqueness of the work of art is identical to its embeddedness in the context of tradition” (24). So, to be explicit, for a work of art to have the “aura” which Benjamin describes, it must satisfy two conditions: [1] it must have a unique existence, with no replicas floating around elsewhere, and [2] it must be surrounded by a clear historical context. Now we are able to imagine how an auratic work of art might look. Imagine if I were to draw a horrid stick-figure likeness of George Washington on a piece of notebook paper and hang it on a wall. This may not sound at all like Benjamin’s beautiful description of the auratic mountain range on a summer afternoon, but nevertheless it satisfies the two conditions of the aura. First, it is unique; there are no photocopies, photographs, or forgeries of it elsewhere. And second, it is embedded in an historical context; I might provide an artist’s statement alongside it, explaining the thought processes that went into it, the date it was composed, and any other situations which surrounded its creation. Now, to use a rather banal example, let us consider one of the most-reproduced works of art in history, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This painting is undoubtedly a greater work of art in every respect and certainly produces a greater sense of awe than my George Washington stick-figure, but because of the countless reproductions made of the Mona Lisa in books, magazines, art prints, t-shirts, and whatever else, my work possesses one essential quality which Leonardo’s does not: aura. Here we begin to see the ambivalence which must be associated with the withering of the aura. Without it having been reproduced millions of times, I never would have seen the Mona Lisa, because I have never been to the Louvre, nor do I have the money to travel to see it. Instead, I can simply type “Mona Lisa” into Google, and in less than a second I am able to find more than a million reproductions of it, which may be smaller than the original and made of colored pixels rather than of oil and wood, but nevertheless I am able to see a representation of it. This is drastically different from the time in which it was created. In the early sixteenth century, there was of course only one Mona Lisa, and one would have to travel across the world to see it. One would be hard-pressed to find any person in the modern world who has not seen a reproduction of the Mona Lisa, but it would have been the exact opposite situation in the sixteenth century. But what have I sacrificed by settling for a reproduction rather than demanding the original? According to Benjamin, it is the aura – the “unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be” (23). It is not only paintings and drawings which lose their aura as a result of being technologically reproduced. It is all types of art. Benjamin gives the examples of architectural photography and musical recordings to illustrate the ambivalence of reproduction. Because of the camera’s or microphone’s ability to “place the copy of the original in situations which the original itself cannot attain” (Benjamin 21), “the cathedral leaves its site to be received in the studio of an art lover; the choral work performed in an auditorium or in the open air is enjoyed in a private room” (Benjamin 22). It is a profound ability of technological reproductions to “meet the recipient halfway” (Benjamin 21), but again we must ask the question of what we are sacrificing by satisfying for the reproduction rather than the original. It is the aura which surrounds the real brick and mortar of the cathedral, which fills the music hall during a live performance, that cannot be expressed through a photograph or headphones. Let me summarize what we have learned thus far. Each work of art, before it is reproduced, has an aura, which is its unique existence in history. The aura falls victim to modern technological reproduction, which “substitutes a mass existence for a unique existence” (Benjamin 22). So within the reproducibility of the work of art lie both occasions for joy and for regret, for it simultaneously allows the work of art to “meet the recipient halfway”, but, by the same token, these changed circumstances devalue the “here and now” of the work (Benjamin 21). It is now up to us to decide whether or not the death of the aura is an acceptable casualty of the modern age, or if it would be best if technological reproduction had never been achieved. II. This section intends to show in what respects the reproduction does not affect the artwork. Most importantly, reproduction cannot affect the aesthetic qualities of the original artwork. The very term “aura” implies that its referent is something that lies not within the artwork, but around it. And since the aesthetic qualities of an artwork lie only within the work of art itself, the aura cannot possibly affect the artwork’s aesthetic value. This is the position which Alfred Lessing takes up in his investigation of the aesthetic value of forgeries. According to Lessing, “the fact of forgery is important historically, biographically, perhaps legally, or… financially; but not, strictly speaking, aesthetically” (100). Lessing cites as an important example of his argument the famous forgery The Disciples at Emmaus, which the true painter Han van Meegeren sold as a lost painting of Vermeer. The painting was received with great praise by all sorts of art critics as “one of Vermeer’s finest achievements” (Lessing 90). It was not until years later, when van Meegeren outed the painting as one of his own creations that critics doubted the greatness of its aesthetic qualities. But if Lessing is correct in asserting that the fact that a painting is a forgery cannot affect its inherent aesthetic value (and I believe he is correct), then those critics have no valid reason to change their opinions of its aesthetic qualities. Of course, the fact that The Disciples at Emmaus is a forgery greatly affects its monetary value, because a true work by Vermeer is worth much more than a mere Vermeer imitator’s. It affects the historical value of the work, because it was first believed to be a newly discovered work by a famous Baroque painter, but then it was revealed to be a modern forgery. But because this revelation did not change the appearance of the artwork, it cannot have changed its aesthetic values. Granted, the instance of The Disciples at Emmaus is far removed from the issue which Benjamin wished to address – the technological reproduction of artworks. But the effects of forgeries and reproductions upon the original work of art seem to be the same: the destruction of the aura. A perfect forgery of the Mona Lisa would look exactly the same as a perfect reproduction of the Mona Lisa, and their effects upon the artwork are the same, to devalue the “here and now of the work of art” (Benjamin 21) – its aura. So the situations of reproductions and forgeries in fact turn out to be quite similar. Thus, if we conclude that forgeries affect the aura of an artwork, but do not affect its aesthetic qualities, then we may just as well conclude the same about reproductions. III. Gleaning what I can from Benjamin’s essay, I cannot imagine that he would disagree with anything that I have argued thus far. I have only attempted to stretch his argument, to find the logical extensions of it. Benjamin provided the idea that technological reproducibility destroys the aura of the artwork, and I have used it to see what technological reproducibility has not destroyed – the aesthetic value of the artwork. But now the question remains: Are we to rejoice for the onset of the age of art’s technological reproducibility or are we to lament it? This question must, then, take the form of another question: How important is art’s aura? According to Benjamin, “the authenticity of a thing is the quintessence of all that is transmissible from its origin on, ranging from its physical duration to the historical testimony relating to it” (22). Taking “authenticity” as a major component of the aura of an artwork, we must then conclude that any original artwork which preserves its physical duration and historical testimony from the time of its creation – the history including “changes to the physical structure of the work over time, together with any changes in ownership” (Benjamin 21) – is more valuable in the auratic sense than any artwork which has been divorced from its historical context. An illustration will suffice to expose the point where Benjamin and I disagree. Let us imagine the Parthenon. According to Benjamin, the original Parthenon on the acropolis in Athens is the only Parthenon which preserves its aura, because it is the only one which authentically can claim a history of pagan, Christian, and Islamic worship; it is the only Parthenon which can truthfully claim to have been destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in the seventeenth century. But now imagine a replica of the Parthenon built not as it stands today, crumbling and ancient, but as it would have looked on the day it was completed, illustrious and magnificent. It would be unfair at this point to ask which Parthenon was the greater, so I will ask two questions. Which of the two is more authentic? The original, of course. But which of the two is more aesthetically pleasing? Unless one has a tendency to romanticize the decrepit and dilapidated, one would immediately respond that the replica is more aesthetically pleasing. Now I ask the question, isn’t the replica Parthenon the greater one? I do not mean “greater” in the sense which an art collector might use the term, to establish its monetary or historical value, but in the sense which an art critic should use the term, to establish the aesthetic value of the structure. The answer, if I have provided a convincing illustration, should be a resounding “yes!” This is not to diminish the value of the aura of a work of art. It is a regrettable loss to say the least. But from the aesthetic perspective, it would be unacceptable to sacrifice aesthetic value on behalf of the aura. The aesthetic quality inherent within an artwork is far more important, and should be defended with much more rigor, than anything that lies outside of the art object – including its aura. Some lament over the aura is appropriate, but it can be dangerous to obsess over it. What Benjamin is in danger of by giving so much attention to the destruction of the aura is of becoming an aesthetician devoted not to aesthetics but to sentiment. Benjamin’s fascination with historical authenticity, his absorption in the “here and now” of the work of art, is analogous to the collector of celebrity memorabilia who cares not about the beauty or aesthetics of his collection, but about the history of it – whether or not Madonna or George Clooney has touched it. As an aesthetician, Benjamin’s main concern is to be with the aesthetic qualities inherent within an artwork. If he wishes to take up the mantle of the historian, then would be the time to discuss the quite important issue of the withering of the aura in the age of mechanical reproducibility. IV. I have attempted to show that Benjamin and I are in agreement in the bulk of our arguments. All of his premises I have retained within my essay, endeavoring not to dismiss any of them out of hand, but to investigate them with the utmost respect and seriousness, and also to stretch them to their breaking points. Benjamin’s main claim, which the first section of this essay sought to clarify, is that the aura of a work of art – its authenticity, its “here and now”, its “embeddedness within a tradition” – is destroyed when one seeks to replicate the work of art by technological means. In this essay I have undertaken the task of showing the consequences, both positive and negative, of art reproduction, concluding that the aura of an artwork is a regrettable but acceptable loss for the benefits which modern reproducibility has afforded us. To support this conclusion, I have demonstrated through a philosophical exposition of the effects of forgeries and replicas upon the original work of art that the issues of aura and authenticity hold no sway over the domain of aesthetic value. I do not claim to have done anything in this essay but skim the surface of Benjamin’s profound work, but as for our present concern – the question of aura and authenticity – I have endeavored to provide a sufficient illumination of the consequences of his philosophy. Works Cited 1. Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility: Second Version.” In The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2008. 9-55. 2. Lessing, Alfred. “What Is Wrong With a Forgery?” In Arguing About Art. Ed. Alex Neill and Aaron Ridley. New York: Routledge, 2008. 89-101.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vikas Lather

    An important reading on film theory to understand the nature of transformation in modern art due to the introduction of capitalism

  8. 5 out of 5

    Markus

    You get a theory of culture industry, of new media and old media and one of fascism all in 77 pages, stunning

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Perfect size for the airplane trip. One of the Penguin Great Ideas series, this beautifully designed little edition of a new translation of Benjamin's classic essay on the nature of reproduction of images/art/film and what it mean aesthetically as well as culture changes in how we look at an object or work of art. Also included are essays on Kafka and Proust. Both are excellent.

  10. 4 out of 5

    'Izzat Radzi

    Beberapa tahun dahulu, semasa melawat Fairy Pools di Isle of Skye setelah mendaki gunung di Black Cullin, saya terkesima dengan apa yang saya lihat lalu secara langsung berkongsi dengan seorang kawan yang juga guru, Hafidzi akan pemerhatian saya. Bukan pencemaran sampah, bukan kemusnahan alam, jauh lagilah air teh tarik seperti sungai-sungai di Gua Musang akibat pembalakan yang saya maksudkan. “Kenapa gambar-gambar yang kita tengok lain benar rupanya? Nah, depan mata kita, airnya biru setara ini Beberapa tahun dahulu, semasa melawat Fairy Pools di Isle of Skye setelah mendaki gunung di Black Cullin, saya terkesima dengan apa yang saya lihat lalu secara langsung berkongsi dengan seorang kawan yang juga guru, Hafidzi akan pemerhatian saya. Bukan pencemaran sampah, bukan kemusnahan alam, jauh lagilah air teh tarik seperti sungai-sungai di Gua Musang akibat pembalakan yang saya maksudkan. “Kenapa gambar-gambar yang kita tengok lain benar rupanya? Nah, depan mata kita, airnya biru setara ini sahaja, tetapi kalau gambar di internet, teruk sekali (distorted), tidak sama langsung. Mata kita ni boleh tengok sekadar ini sahaja, apa yang teruk sangat sampai lain benar rupa gambarannya?” Saya suarakan keresahan saya. Mengapa gambaran alam perlu, sama ada sengaja, diubah suai (dengan perisian suntingan gambar seperti yang selalu terjadi), ataupun kerana tabii (nature) teknologi itu -dan disini saya maksudkan fotografi dengan filter-nya, kamera ber'definisi tinggi' (seolah direndahkan martabat penglihatan mata manusia kurniaan Tuhan ini tidak mampu melihat alam seadanya) - sememangnya sebegitu? Beliau hanya mengiyakan. (Saya tidak pasti jika Siddiq sebahagian dari perbualan ini.) Nah, rupanya, telahan tentang fotografi ini sememangnya wujud, hanya jika kita memerhati. Tulis Michael Jennings dalam pendahuluan Bahagian 1 : The reason is twofold . First, technological reproduction is more independent of the original than is manual reproduction. For example, in photography it can bring out aspects of the original that are accessible only to the lens (which is adjustable and can easily change viewpoint) but not to the human eye; or it can use certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, to record images which escape natural optics altogether. This is the first reason. -Page 21, Part I, Chap 1: The Work of Art Sambung Jennings lagi di Bahagian 4: First, and most generally, Benjamin links the emergence of a photograph's image-world to the way in which photographs-like film and other photo based media-make possible for us the experience of the "optical unconscious." With this term, Benjamin points toward the capacity of the camera to fix within the photographic emulsion an image of a nature-the material world before the lens, and especially the spatial and temporal relationships among its elements which is different from the one that "speaks . . . to the eye." -Page 264, Intro to Part IV : Photography Dalam topik ini (fotografi), Benjamin menukilkan dalam katanya sendiri, perbahasan bentuk (forms) dengan imej, dalam kes ini, pembesaran imej bunga. Originary Forms of Art-certainly. What can this mean, though, but originary forms of nature? Forms, that is, which were never a mere model for art but which were, from the beginning, at work as originary forms in all that was created. Moreover, it must be food for thought in even the most sober observer that the enlargement of what is large-the plant, or its buds, or the leaf, for example-leads us into a wholly different realm of forms than does the enlargement of what is small-the plant cell under the microscope, say. -Page 272, Part IV, Chap 27: News about Flowers Sebagai asas mulanya, buku ini membicarakan secara ruwet sekali aspek-aspek dalam teori astetik, dari karya seni (termasuk didalamnya esei mengenai pengumpul arca dan karya seni, muzium) ke lukisan dan graphics (atau Jermannya Graphik), Fotografi, Filem serta Industri Penerbitan dan Radio. Malah ia -seperti dalam bahagian pendahuluan editor-kompleks kerana secara kasarnya, hasil kerjanya ini adalah berdasarkan pemerhatian dan penaakulan Walter Benjamin sendiri, disamping pengalaman bekerja dalam bidang media meskipun merujuk beberapa karya seni lain. Ada beberapa ketika, beliau melakukan kritik sosial terhadap karya orang lain, seperti dalam bab 11 (Review of Sternberger’s Panorama); atau bab 32 (Reply to Oscar A. H. Schmitz), yang sangat sinis, malah kelakar untuk dibaca! Dan menarik untuk lebih diteroka! Sebelum pergi lebih jauh, telah dinyatakan -dalam pendahuluan bahagian 5 (Part V)- paksi dimana Benjamin berdiri bila berbicara mengenai estetika (aesthetic). For Walter Benjamin the category of the aesthetic, the focus of much of his work, must be understood not in the simple sense of a theory of the ( beautiful) arts but rather in terms of the original of the Greek root aisthetikos ( "of sense perception" ) which comes from aisthanesthai ( “to perceive”). -Page 315, Part V: Film Dan disebabkan wacana ini masih sangat asing, saya dapati sangat sukar untuk beberapa ketika menangkap maksud ucapan yang disampaikan Benjamin, terutamanya bab 40 (Karl Kraus) yang panjang . Malah, saya pasti sekiranya dibaca dalam bahasa tulisan asal -sama ada dalam Jerman atau Perancis- akan lebih tepat dengan maksud Benjamin. Apapun, tanpa perlu bersugul panjang, saya kira setelah mencemati beberapa buku mengenai perkara yang diutarakannya -misalnya mengenai sejarah German ketika penubuhan Republik Weimar-, atau karya-karya mengenai estetika selepas ini, saya kira boleh bacaan-semula karya ini akan lebih cerah jelas. Saya kira bacaan pendek sebelum ini, Introducing Walter Benjamin: A Graphic Guide, yang menyentuh sedikit persahabatannya dengan Bertolt Brecht yang mengarah Teater Epik, sedikit membiasakan tentang hal pengaruh pemikiran Brecht ke atas Benjamin; malah secara kasar wacana apa (dan asal-usulnya) yang dibicarakan Benjamin. Misalnya disana, disebut lawatan sebentar Benjamin ke Russia, dan saya kira diterjemahkan ia ke dalam satu bab (bab 31: On the Present Situation of Russian Film) dalam buku ini. The greatest achievements of the Russian film industry can be seen more readily in Berlin than in Moscow. What one sees in Berlin has been pre-selected, while in Moscow this selection still has to be made. Nor is obtaining advice a simple matter. The Russians are fairly uncritical about their own films. ..At a more serious, general level, internal Russian conditions have a depressing effect on the average film. It is not easy to obtain suitable scenarios, because the choice of subject matter is governed by strict controls. Of all the arts in Russia, literature enjoys the greatest freedom from censorship. The theater is scrutinized much more closely, and control of the film industry is even stricter. This scale is proportional to the size of the audiences. -Page 323, Part V, Chap 31: On the Present Situation of Russian Film Namun, saya kira, untuk lebih mendalam perbincangan ini, akan saya rujuk pula Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht: The Story of a Friendship. Malah, masih ramai lagi yang persahabatannya dengan Benjamin yang mempengaruhi corak pemikirannya seperti Adorno, Gershom Scholem (boleh dicemati Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship) dan Siegfried Kracauer. Dibawah ini, Benjamin nukilkan apa yang diusahakan Brecht untuk membangkit kesadaran berfikir rakyat Jerman (melalui pengarahan teater epik), sedang di bab yang lain, beliau pula mengusahakannya melalui medium radio. It is concerned with filling the public with feelings, even seditious ones, than with alienating it in an enduring way, through thinking, from the conditions in which it lives . It may be noted, incidentally, that there is no better trigger for thinking than laughter. In particular, convulsion of the diaphragm usually provides better opportunities for thought than convulsion of the soul. Epic Theater is lavish only in occasions for laughter. -Page 91, Part I, Chap 8: The Author as Producer Sebelum usahanya dalam membangkit pemikiran melalui radio (lihat lebih mendalam dalam Radio Benjamin atau syarahnya Walter Benjamin for Children: An Essay on his Radio Years), beliau menulis pemerhatian beliau mengenai situasi semasa rakyat Jerman. Oleh sebab itu, beliau dapat merangka kerja yang lebih berkesan berbanding hanya mengulang-kerja lama stesen radio yang tidak mempunyai kesan! ..What this absurdity has led to after long years of practice is that the public has become quite helpless, quite inexpert in its critical reactions, and has seen itself more or less reduced to sabotage (switching off). ...But it was left to the present age, with its unrestrained development of a consumer mentality in the opera-goer, the novel reader, the tourist, and other similar types to convert them into dull, inarticulate masses-and create a "public" (in the narrower sense of the word) that has neither yardsticks for its judgments nor a language for its feelings. ...No reader has ever closed a just-opened book with the finality with which the listener switches off the radio after hearing perhaps a minute and a half of a talk. The problem is not the remoteness of the subject matter; in many cases, this might be a reason to keep listening for a while before making up one's mind. It is the voice, the diction, and the language-in a word, the formal and technical side of the broadcast-that so frequently make the most desirable programs unbearable for the listener. -Page 391-392, Part VI, Chap 41: Reflections on Radio Hal ini dirumus lebih baik oleh Thomas Levin dan Michael Jennings dalam pendahuluan Bahagian 6. Disamping usaha provokasi pemikiran yang dilakukannya, beliau tidak lupa untuk menghargai pendengar radio, kerana dalam pemerhatiannya yang lain, penerbitan akhbar merudum kerana sama ada tidak langsung mengambil kira pandangan pembaca, atau penulis akhbar tidak mempunyai agenda tersusun yang ingin dibawa. Malah, sebenarnya, dalam isu pendidikan rakyat khususnya, Benjamin menyentuh dari pendidikan kanak-kanak (dalam bab A Glimpse into the World of Children’s Books) hingga ke kewartawanan dan etika (dalam bab Journalism) serta seni rakyat/tradisi (folk art and kitsch dalam bab 25 : Some Remarks on Folk Art). Benjamin's interventions were focused on making more attainable changes at the level of programming. The listening models attempted to do just that, provoking the listeners in their refusal to develop character psychology, providing them with practical models with which to confront the very real problems of their current situation, and, on at least one occasion, giving them the opportunity to come to the studio and talk about the program ( and then broadcasting that discussion). When the radio station would forward piles of (mostly furious) listener mail, Benjamin's responses would invariably thank the letter writers for their interest and would agree with their objections , since, for Benjamin, as his collaborator Zucker recalled, in the business of the listening model the customer was always right. -Page 349, Intro to Part VI: The Publishing Industry and Radio Nah, dibawah adalah teks panjang Benjamin berkait dengan atas, yang saya kira sangat wajar diletakkan secara penuh. Perhatikan secara mendalam maksud ayat-ayat akhirnya, saling tak tumpah seperti nasihat seorang guru bagaimana ingin mendidik anak murid! According to an older conception of the term, a popular presentation-however valuable it may be-is a derivative one. This can be explained easily enough, since prior to radio there were hardly any modes of publication that really served the purposes of popular culture or popular education. ...What was essential to this form of popularization was omission: its layout always to some extent remained that of the textbook, with its main sections in large type and elaborations in small print. The much broader but also much more intensive popularity [Volkstümlichkeit], which radio has set as its task, cannot remain satisfied with this procedure . It requires a thorough refashioning and reconstellation of the material from the perspective of popularity [Popularität]. It is thus not enough to use some con temporary occasion to effectively stimulate interest, in order to offer to the now expectantly attentive listener nothing more than what he can hear in the first year of school. Rather, everything depends on conveying to him the certainty that his own interest has a substantive value for the material itself-that his inquiries, even if not spoken into the microphone, require new scientific findings. In the process, the prevailing superficial relationship between science and the popular [Volkstümlichkeit] is replaced by a procedure which science itself can hardly avoid. For what is at stake here is a popularity that not only orients knowledge toward the public sphere, but also simultaneously orients the public sphere toward knowledge. In a word : the truly popular interest is always active. -Page 403-404, Part VI, Chap 44: Two Types of Popularity Catatan peribadi : Dalam ulang-lawat ke Scottish National Gallery mahupun National Museum of Scotland sebelum ini, saya akui sememangnya saya sukar dan belum boleh menghargai karya seni klasik, khususnya lukisan klasik. Namun, ini tidaklah bermakna jika saya misalnya, mula menghargai karya seni moden/kontemporari, saya perlu bersiap-siaga menghasilkannya! Maka, atas sebab itu, walaupun saya menghargai karya seni seorang abang senior yang juga pelukis cat air (water-painting), Iman -yang juga seorang penyerang bolasepak yang saya seronok bermain bersama- saya tidak bersetuju apabila ada rakan yang ingin turut sama mula melukis cat air. Nah, ini merupakan kritik saya sahaja, barangkali ada yang tidak bersetuju (atas sebab pendedahan kepada minat atau potensi tersembunyi). His art (the 'artist' on Paris Street) is addressed to middle-class families out for a walk. They might well be struck more by his presence and imposing attire than by the paintings on display. But one would probably be overestimating the business acumen of the painters if one supposed that their personal appearance is designed to attract customers. Such painters were certainly far from the minds of the participants in the major debates which have been waged recently concerning the situation of painting. The only connection between their work and painting as art is that the products of both are intended more and more for the market in the most general sense. But the more distinguished painters do not need to market themselves in person. They can use art dealers and salons. All the same, what their itinerant colleagues put on show is something more than painting in its most debased state. These painters demonstrate that the ability to wield palette and brush with moderate skill is widespread . And to this extent they have a place in the debates just mentioned. This is conceded by Andre Lhote, who writes: "Anyone who takes an interest in painting today sooner or later starts painting too .... Yet from the day an amateur takes up his brush, painting ceases to attract him with the quasi-religious fascination it has for the layman" (Entretiens, p. 39). To find an epoch when a person could be interested in painting without getting the idea that he himself should paint, we would have to go back to the time of the guilds. -Page 299-300, Part IV, Chap 29: Letter from Paris(2) Masih dalam nada yang sama, beliau turut mengkritik pameran seni yang diadakan yang nihil makna, dan menjadi hanya tempat pasaran jual beli. World exhibitions glorify the exchange value of the commodity. They create a framework in which its use value recedes into the background. They open a phantasmagoria which a person enters in order to be distracted. The entertainment industry makes this easier by elevating the person to the level of the commodity. He surrenders to its manipulations while enjoying his alienation from himself and others. -Page 101, Part I, (III Grandville, or the World Exhibition); of Chap 9: Paris, The Capital of the Nineteenth Century Dalam teori kritik seni, Benjamin mengetengahkan seperti berikut, yang padanya, dengan lambakan mahupun kemajuan teknologi, penaakulan dan telahan (presumptions) yang tidak merdeka. Criticism is a matter of correct distancing. It was at home in a world where perspectives and prospects counted and where it was still possible to adopt a standpoint. Now things press too urgently on human society. The " unclouded', "innocent" eye has become a lie, perhaps the whole naive mode of expression sheer incompetence . Today the most real, mercantile gaze into the heart of things is the advertisement. It tears down the stage upon which contemplation moved, and all but hits us between the eyes with things as a car, growing to gigantic proportions, careens at us out of a film screen. -Page 173, Part II, Chap 13: These Surfaces for Rent Dan semua diatas hanya kepingan-kepingan dari pemikiran Walter Benjamin yang saya pilih, dan saya fikir tidak adil untuk hanya mendasarkan buku ini berdasarkan reviu ini. Sewajarnya, ia sekurang-kurangnya dibaca secara menyeluruh untuk mendapatkan idea besar, kemudian difokus satu demi satu logika hujah penulis. Ulang jujurnya, masih banyak yang perlu ditelaah untuk melihat pemikiran tokoh yang seorang ini, malah lebih penting adalah ‘faham dengan benar’ yakni tidak tersalah faham apa yang diutarakannya. Rumusnya, 8/10.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Blumenkrantz

    With the benefit of much hindsight, the essay still seems prophetic. Mechanical reproduction "changes the reaction of the masses toward art," and "emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual." Benjamin's essay outlines the social, political, and psychological implications of this "emancipation." The lost aura is replaced with a social significance, which Benjamin argues is "inconceivable without its destructive, cathartic aspect that is the liquidation of the traditiona With the benefit of much hindsight, the essay still seems prophetic. Mechanical reproduction "changes the reaction of the masses toward art," and "emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual." Benjamin's essay outlines the social, political, and psychological implications of this "emancipation." The lost aura is replaced with a social significance, which Benjamin argues is "inconceivable without its destructive, cathartic aspect that is the liquidation of the traditional value of the cultural heritage." My visual communication students (those not locked into their gadgetry) tend to nod knowingly when I paraphrase Benjamin's thoughts that humanity's alienation from itself has reached a point where it now "allows its own destruction to be savoured as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order . . . "

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    Walter Benjamin lived in the Wiemar era saw the rise of the Nazis and died in the Blitzkrieg trying to escape from fallen France into neutral Spain committing suicide rather than face fascist tormentors. Weimar was the canary in the coal mine of Liberal Capitalist Democracy. A weak state that was thrown up in the wake of world war I, its institutions too weak to deal with mass movements like fascism who made use of burgeoning new media of radio and cinema that could use stirring imagery and spa Walter Benjamin lived in the Wiemar era saw the rise of the Nazis and died in the Blitzkrieg trying to escape from fallen France into neutral Spain committing suicide rather than face fascist tormentors. Weimar was the canary in the coal mine of Liberal Capitalist Democracy. A weak state that was thrown up in the wake of world war I, its institutions too weak to deal with mass movements like fascism who made use of burgeoning new media of radio and cinema that could use stirring imagery and spark mass illusions to forge a fascist movement based on a shared imaginary notion of the volk to at once harness mass anger and discontent while keeping hierarchies intact and direct people's animus to war and militarism. Benjamin understood deeply the beast that would cause his early death. Weimar is what happens with weak institutions under stress with a desperate and angry populace and new media to channel its direction of a charismatic movement. Benjamin was a socialist and as such wanted something better than capitalist democracy but he saw first hand that economic anger could make something far worse than a liberal capitalist democracy. I think my Grandfathers generation understood this intuitively and younger people are learning. My generation that assumed democracy was a given are still under misleading illusions of better times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    John D

    Art is either for the cult, or for exhibition. One implies a religious aura, the other suggests a political intention. Before the "age of mechanical reproduction," art was more or less for the "cult" surrounding it, ie. it had some sort of sacrosanct essence. But when the work of art becomes merely another commodity, eyed by the masses, and ceasing to have a physical history, you lose that precious uniqueness and aura surrounding it. This is specifically the case with paintings and books. Film, Art is either for the cult, or for exhibition. One implies a religious aura, the other suggests a political intention. Before the "age of mechanical reproduction," art was more or less for the "cult" surrounding it, ie. it had some sort of sacrosanct essence. But when the work of art becomes merely another commodity, eyed by the masses, and ceasing to have a physical history, you lose that precious uniqueness and aura surrounding it. This is specifically the case with paintings and books. Film, a main topic in the essay, is another matter altogether. The artificial and standardized voyeurism; the carefully hidden productive and mechanical apparatuses of the movie set; the quickly moving scenes suppressing contemplation: all these are essential elements of the movie experience. It's obviously not a good thing to Benjamin, but it is what it is. Commodify everything, appeal to the broadest consumer base. The Capitalist Manifesto. Benjamin is illuminating, but in the end futile. Despite his many intellectual children, none of them have at all put a dent in this phenomenon, and it's only been exacerbated. Glad I read this the day after going to LA's Getty and MOCA art musems, it put the works in a much different context. Nothing inherently seems sacred nor political about modern art. Instead, perhaps the cult and the exhibition have fused into the cult of exhibition? That would describe something like Instagram, at least. Anyways, I digress.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Woodward

    “The painting invites the spectator to contemplation; before it the spectator can abandon himself to his associations. Before the movie frame he cannot do so. No sooner has his eye grasped a scene than it is already changed ( . . . ) My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” This book/essay, originally written in 1935 is a short analysis of the effect modern technology and society (e.g. photography, film, mass production, capitalism) have on the work of art. Walter Benjamin applies some M “The painting invites the spectator to contemplation; before it the spectator can abandon himself to his associations. Before the movie frame he cannot do so. No sooner has his eye grasped a scene than it is already changed ( . . . ) My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” This book/essay, originally written in 1935 is a short analysis of the effect modern technology and society (e.g. photography, film, mass production, capitalism) have on the work of art. Walter Benjamin applies some Marxist ideas to show how by devaluing the work of art as a unique object in time and space we end up alienating both the art, the artist, and the viewer as a result. A lot of really unique ideas are presented, but he is so incredibly brief that I’m constantly left wanting more. His discussion of film in particular felt really on point, but the book ends abruptly and I’m not sure I fully understood his intent. My takeaway is to make meaningful/political art, and as a consumer, fully engage with the art I consume. Be wary of partaking in mindlessly distracting “apolitical” films that serve only capital. 3.5/5 I became aware of this book after watching Ways of Seeing, a short BBC series from the 70’s covering a similar topic. I would very highly recommend watching that if you are interested in art (the full series is available on YouTube).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lysergius

    Reading Benjamin is like trying to catch a Catherine Wheel... Ideas spin off in all directions and it is hard to keep up. His basic premise - and a fundamental question - was not answered for me. Clearly it is hard to describe mechanically reproduced artefacts as art... but surely this makes art, real, or true art more significant somehow? The two other essays in this little volume, one on Kafka and the other on Proust are also packed with pyrotechnics, insights and squibs. Well worth a read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    This maybe the best introduction to Walter Benjamin's work. His essay on "Reproducibility" is the classic text that every media or art student has to read - and rightfully so. He's was (or is on the page) a remarkable thinker and writer. Essential figure in the art of the essay. This is a very handsome edition of some of his greatest works. Do read and study hard!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danforth Spitzer

    A wonderful collection of articles and essays by Walter Benjamin. I really enjoy reading Benjamin's essays and imagine what it would be like to live in a time where art and media change drastically in a short period of time. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in art, creation of media, and design.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Howard Dinin

    Irreplaceable as a fundamental text in an understanding of the transformation of the role of art, and the current understanding of the nature of the work of art, if not of how we stumble toward a sense of what is art and what is not.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bjørk Rúnadóttir

    This book wasn’t what I expected but it still was an interesting read

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bryce Galloway

    Written in 1935, Benjamin seems enamoured with the potential of mass-produced cinema for mass gatherings and mass participation. He sees mechanical reproduction offering authorship to an increasing number of participants and is keen to counter the rhetoric of those who see this as opening the floodgates to a plebeian dumbing down and compromise to quality. One wonders what he’d make of the way digital technology and online publishing have opened things up even further. Benjamin recognises the ab Written in 1935, Benjamin seems enamoured with the potential of mass-produced cinema for mass gatherings and mass participation. He sees mechanical reproduction offering authorship to an increasing number of participants and is keen to counter the rhetoric of those who see this as opening the floodgates to a plebeian dumbing down and compromise to quality. One wonders what he’d make of the way digital technology and online publishing have opened things up even further. Benjamin recognises the absent-minded escapism of cinema but suggests that this is not mutually exclusive to notions of contemplation, pointing to architecture as a parallel habitation, equally ignored and/or examined. Benjamin suggests that politics replaces ritual as art moves away from the exclusive object, and he’s scathing of traditional media’s defensive ‘art for art’s sake’ attempts to hold power. 85 years later, with cinema much less new, Benjamin’s championing of cinema over painting can seem a little unnecessary. I found myself thinking leave each to its own, but Benjamin wants for a dynamic political art, so I appreciate his bias.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hiran Venugopalan

    Took because of the cover. Loved because of the content.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    This melted my brain

  23. 5 out of 5

    HAYE MUPPY

    Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854 Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Dr Larry who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl, We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was talking about how the great and powerful Dr Larry helped her and she left his email address i took it and contacted him i told him my problem he only smiled and told me to relax everything will be OK i did everything he asked me to do and he assured me that after 24hrs he will be back,To my greatest surprise the next morning it was my boyfriend he came back knelling and begging for me to accept him back now we are so happy together he can also help you contact him [email protected] com   Website http://assurancesolutionhome.website2...   http://assurancesolutionhome.wordpres...   WhatsApp +2348102316854

  24. 4 out of 5

    Feliks

    An extremely succinct book of only 49 pps. Some interesting insights but certainly not the deep dissection of mass-market printing I was hoping for. The writing is clear and lucid and several of the ideas are superb--but there's just not enough of it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zhifei Ge

    Notes of the book: 1. Process reproduction is more independent of the original than manual reproduction.      2. Technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself.      3. (This is very debatable:)The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which is is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well.      4. (another assumption worth debating) The uniquenes Notes of the book: 1. Process reproduction is more independent of the original than manual reproduction.      2. Technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself.      3. (This is very debatable:)The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which is is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well.      4. (another assumption worth debating) The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being embedded in the fabric of tradition...... The unique value of the "authentic" work of art has its basis in ritual, the location of its original use value.      5. For the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual.      6. By the absolute emphasis on its exhibition value of work of art becomes a creation with entirely new functions, among which the one we are conscious of, the artistic function, later may be recognized as incidental. This much is certain: today photography and the film are the most serviceable exemplification of this new function.      7. But as man withdraws from the photographic image, the exhibition value for the first time shows its superiority to the ritual value.      8. The simultaneous contemplation of paintings by a large public, such as developed in the nineteenth century, is an early symptom of the crisis of painting, a crisis which was by no means occasioned exclusively by photography by rather in a relatively independent manner by the appeal of art works to the masses.      9. Clearly, this is at bottom the same ancient lament that the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator.      10. Distraction and concentration form polar opposites which may be stated as follows: a man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it...... In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    This volume features three of Benjamin’s essays, packed with insightful critical writing that reminds me of Kaufmann (Shakespeare to Existentialism) or careful Sontag (On Photography) or my sister’s writing. Here is Benjamin in the title essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which oddly ends up discussing fascism: Fascism seeks to organize the newly emergent proletarianized masses without touching the property relations that those masses are so urgently trying to abolish. This volume features three of Benjamin’s essays, packed with insightful critical writing that reminds me of Kaufmann (Shakespeare to Existentialism) or careful Sontag (On Photography) or my sister’s writing. Here is Benjamin in the title essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, which oddly ends up discussing fascism: Fascism seeks to organize the newly emergent proletarianized masses without touching the property relations that those masses are so urgently trying to abolish. Fascism sees its salvation in allowing the masses to find their voice (not of course, to receive their due). The masses have a right to see the ownership structure changed: Fascism seeks to give them a voice in retaining that structure unaltered. Is anyone reminded of the recent Tea Party? How about DJT? In the second essay Benjamin discusses Kafka, in a survey of concepts through what seems to be all Kafka’s novels and stories, with insights plucked from them like feathers from a headless chicken. In the third and final essay, this time on Proust, Benjamin coins more catchy phrases than a Scalia dissent: Proust “does not hold the world up to ridicule, he hurls it down to ridicule”, he has “boundless malice”; he dutifully reports the “over loud and inconceivably vacuous tittle-tattle that comes booming in our direction”; his prose is “methodical in the sense that the lines in the hand are methodical”. Overall, a very entertaining subway read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Russell Mark Olson

    I bought this book for the titular essay, but stayed for the Kafka. I've come across references to Walter Benjamin in myriad sources, but mainly for The Arcade Project. But in the last half of 2011 I kept coming across the titular essay contained in this collection. As a cartoonist, the concept of reproduction is nearly always at the forefront of cartooning thought and theory (that and alternatives to banana peels) so I snapped this little volume up. I found the essay on mechanical reproduction I bought this book for the titular essay, but stayed for the Kafka. I've come across references to Walter Benjamin in myriad sources, but mainly for The Arcade Project. But in the last half of 2011 I kept coming across the titular essay contained in this collection. As a cartoonist, the concept of reproduction is nearly always at the forefront of cartooning thought and theory (that and alternatives to banana peels) so I snapped this little volume up. I found the essay on mechanical reproduction evocative and compelling and thought it remarkably potent if applied to contemporary post-Benjamin technology such as the Internet. That said, the second essay, on Kafka is really the jewel in the crown of this collection. Benjamin so expertly and economically sums up the experience of reading Kafka and gives opinion on why Kafka's work (much like Proust's (who is covered in the last essay of the volume)) is unlike any other writer to come before or after. Admirers of Kafaka will find this essay a treat.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The title essay has had such a landmark effect on media studies-- it's too bad how false it has largely turned out to be. Much in the same way that the high culture of Benjamin's day preserved the ethos of industrial capitalism, so does the era of technological reproducibility. Maybe Marx was right, and maybe "culture" is largely a superstructure that is dependent on the economic conditions. Either way, Google Image Search sure as shit ain't liberating us. Oh well! Benjamin remains an immensely w The title essay has had such a landmark effect on media studies-- it's too bad how false it has largely turned out to be. Much in the same way that the high culture of Benjamin's day preserved the ethos of industrial capitalism, so does the era of technological reproducibility. Maybe Marx was right, and maybe "culture" is largely a superstructure that is dependent on the economic conditions. Either way, Google Image Search sure as shit ain't liberating us. Oh well! Benjamin remains an immensely witty, charming, prescient commentator on the world he was part of. Furthermore, unlike a great many of his giggly followers, he could freakin' write. In each of these essays, he tackles a specific issue as well as anyone could. Even when they seem like they could have been written by a stoned sophomore philosophy major (Mickey Mouse in terms of ownership of the means of production, anyone?) he's at least ahead of his time, and that's something.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    I won't say much that can contribute to the mass of reviews of these short book. Just to justify my rating. Benjamin's a smart chap, maybe a bit too smart sometimes, and this essay is equally as apt now as it was when it was written. However, there's something I find, personally, about his writing style that just sends me to sleep. He waffles around the point, and by the time he's actually made it I've lost all interest, and going back to re-read passages seems to get me no closer to achieving a I won't say much that can contribute to the mass of reviews of these short book. Just to justify my rating. Benjamin's a smart chap, maybe a bit too smart sometimes, and this essay is equally as apt now as it was when it was written. However, there's something I find, personally, about his writing style that just sends me to sleep. He waffles around the point, and by the time he's actually made it I've lost all interest, and going back to re-read passages seems to get me no closer to achieving a successful interpretation of his thoughts. It's not you Walt, it's me! I was dozing halfway through the Kafka essay. Having recently read a far more engaging and insightful non-fiction account of Kafka's life and works, this struck me as disappointing. Too academic for its own good in places. But all the while, a very short read to I don't mean to deter anyone from giving it a go. At least you won't be wasting much time if it doesn't float your boat, owing to the overall compactness.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    In "The World of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," second version, Walter Benjamin argues that in this "new stage in the technology of reproduction," (20) that the "unique existence in a particular place" is lacking in reproduction — authenticity eludes technological reproduction (21). Reproduction detaches an object from tradition and from its aura, or its "strange tissue of space and time: the unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be" (23). Technological repr In "The World of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," second version, Walter Benjamin argues that in this "new stage in the technology of reproduction," (20) that the "unique existence in a particular place" is lacking in reproduction — authenticity eludes technological reproduction (21). Reproduction detaches an object from tradition and from its aura, or its "strange tissue of space and time: the unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be" (23). Technological reproduction thus moves us from an age of ritual to an age of politics (24-25). However, mass reproduction allows for "a different kind of participation" (39). He is concerned about the "aestheticizing of political life" (41), but also sees hope in moves like Dadaism, which seek to immerse people in contemplation of art (39).

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