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Ok, folks! At first I should say that this text made me think about Fascism, technology, alienated aesthetic, and notions on authenticity.

Despite being written in 1936, the text is astonishingly modern. To contextualize the reader into the early 1930’s, Benjamin goes back to Marxism, explains the infant conditions of Capitalism as a system that would in the future turn against itself – mostly by abusing the proletariat. The upcoming results would finally be self abolishment. He finishes taking on to Fascism, aesthetic of self destruction and war generating war, as aesthetic work of art at an alienated society.

From our 2012’s point of view, we clearly identify the tear on the capital economy based on waste, rough profit and alienation. But it seams that (besides the self destruction inherent to the system itself), much of that tear comes from our technological empowerment on ways of sharing information, from people organizing information and being able to communicate across the world instantly. Do you think that we got to a point in History when politic power lost its “aura”?

Further reading led me to realize that the terms “art” and “work of art” could nowadays easily be transposed to “science”, “technology”, and that the rituals that would perpetrate the aura of art (or science, or technology) now are accessible to common people. “Login in”, “connecting”, are everyday rituals to the cult of virtual existence. Those are reachable by open source sharing as well as by capitalist products and patents. Would it be alienation or integration? What happens in a society where everyone is a writer, a film maker, a programmer? When the distinction between author and public is hard to classify/identify: it is because they are multiple, are they both in one?

Nevertheless, Benjamin arguments that there would be a shift in the understanding Arts from a Fascist mystique of only the “geniuses” made Art to common knlowledg, once people had the technical and precise means to produce Art. But, I believe that at some point the alienation and Fascism only changed in form. What do you think?

112 comments to reading THE WORK OF ART IN THE AGE OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION (by Walter Benjamin)

  • HannahMishin

    I think something besides the ability to make a video or take a photo plays a pretty big part of what makes something art. When everyone is able to produce what do people make with those tools? We have beautiful artistic creations and we have a lot of photos of cats in hats and babies dancing. These playful images and creations mask something somewhat sinister: while making a simulacra of life, of what is at the core of living by trivializing it, this human race, on the whole, makes this with all of the technology at its disposal, our race makes kittens and puppy gifs. In short; that just because everyone makes something in our age of technology, not everything that is made is art (or for that matter, good).
    The crux of the question is, perhaps: What is it that makes something art? That is something I won’t begin in this comment. So, according to Benjamin, we’ve lost our genius artists (or have we?) I don’t think we ever will lose our own fascination with those who do anything better etc… We still have the Rembrandt, but he is Kehinde Wilde.

    I am more interested in (not the fetschism of the “geniuses” of art) but more interested in the question of the state of art post machine.
    Arthur Danto (art historian) is among many of his peers who have claimed that the film camera killed painting. They claim that painting is dead because technology made it irrelevant. This to me is interesting. The question isn’t about the fact that everyone can now make art, but rather looking at art as it travels alongside humanity, changing and evolving with our culture.

  • Nancy

    Would it be alienation or integration? What happens in a society where everyone is a writer, a film maker, a programmer?
    If everyone in a society engaged in creative and imaginative endeavors? How could that not be a good thing? The question of good or bad art might be beside the point. MOre people play baseball than are professional baseball players. More people write poetry than are published…etc. etc. Think of all the people, anonymous, who carved gargoyles or made pots for cooking that they decorated…
    Better than everyone being a warrior or in prison.

    And…You should all read all the comments on Benjamin’s essay…a very interesting and multi-faceted collection of discussions.

  • Talya Stein

    Answering the previous question- “What happens in a society where everyone is a writer, a film maker, a programmer?”

    We are living in an era that it is easy to create. And it’s never been so easy to share those creations. It is up to every individual to decide what they choose to make. And what of that to share with us. To put it quit bluntly- A lot of shit flies around the web. A lot of people are talking, and a lot of people are listening.
    If it’s something interesting, for any reason, it gets a lot of exposure.
    The bar is the lowest it has ever been, and it is also highest.
    After all everything has been said and done, in order to make something different, you need to put yourself into the project. If you have an idea, you can reach information easily on how something similar has been done before. Basically we can shorten the way in parts of the journey, but it’s all meaningless in the absence of a good idea.