The Work of Art

September 18th, 2010 in Commlab by 0 Comments

“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” – Walter Benjamin


Mr. Benjamin takes a negative attitude towards the modernization of art, which includes any technology after and including the still photo camera. He seems to think that technology robs art of its aura, and make it a common thing for the masses to consume blindly. From the reason one can deduce that Mr. Benjamin wants art to be only certain elite classes, and not the masses, which would be anything below the middle class. While one cannot deny that newer technology allows art to be more ‘common’, technology has always played a role in art.

In previous times, artists where people who had the technology, skills, and benefactor to wield their craft. Since the technology in previous times was primitive compared to today’s technology, we don’t view it as technology. Painters had to buy brushes, specialized paint, canvasses, and other supplies in order to create their works. The artist was able to work because someone commissioned him/her to create works of art. Back then, anyone could go and buy the necessary technology and create ‘art’. If they had the skills, and could catch the pockets of the wealthy, they would be noticed and would be allowed to join the ranks of the artist. Same can be said about today: anyone can pick up a camera and film, but only someone with skills and a producer can make art.

Mr. Benjamin is afraid of art being tainted by the masses, but the issue is that art has always been ‘tainted’ by the masses. If the masses where not exposed to art, there would be no new artists and they would have all died a great time ago. As time changes, so does the form and presentation of art. A person doesn’t have to go to a gallery to view a piece, they could turn on their computer and go on the internet. Sure, they are not walking physically to the place of the piece itself, but the person still had to go to a computer to see it. The person still has to make a conscious effort to see the piece of art. Mr. Benjamin wants people to go to galleries to see art. In previous times, only the rich and elite had art in their private homes. In those times a gallery would be considered like a movie theater, the masses gather to see a work of art. A live performance in a theater is just the same as a movie playing in a theater. In previous times, performances where done in the houses of the elite.

If Mr. Benjamin wants to strengthen his article, he must state that art must go back to its ‘classical form’, where only the truly elite where the only ones to be graced by its presence. There has always been high and low art. A street painter is just the same as an amateur photographer, as an artist with a piece of work in a gallery is just the same as a director with a piece of work in a theater.

Notes from the reading:

  • As time passes, it gets easier to copy the visual and auditory.
  • The reproduction does not carry with it the history of the original.
  • The reproduction pushes into boundaries the original could not.
  • The original is taken down from its pedestal and brought to the masses.
  • The aura and what makes it special gets stripped off.
  • Today’s art is being created in a form that ti can easily be replicated.
  • There is are that is not meant for the masses.
  • First it was magic, then art, and it will go to another level.
  • Photography first started as cult, with head shots, then moved into the exhibition form.
  • When art started to be created by machine, there was a separation between it and the cult.
  • “Is film art?” erupted early in film’s history.
  • Film actors’s audience is the camera. Stage actors audience are the people in real time.
  • In film, the actor is no longer a prop on stage.
  • Actors can take multiple shots.
  • –> Sounds like he is not please with art changing, very negative feel of article.
  • Its not art because anyone can become an artist now.
  • Film becomes superficial because it is being recorded by the lens. We see the lens point of view.
  • While painting and other arts keep their distance, film penetrates into its surroundings.
  • The easier it is for the masses to see art, the lower its social significance.
  • Paintings didn’t allow for the masses to control themselves, like film.
  • Architecture will always be there.
  • War is used to move the masses. It also uses technology to create ‘art’.

Author: ezraezra

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