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The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Overall, I found the author’s take on the way in which art is consumed in the modern age quite interesting.  Although this was originally written in the late 1930s, many of the author’s points can be applied to even today’s society, especially with his comparison of film and paining. I often found myself comparing technology that exists today to that of the author.  Additionally, I also couldn’t help but think of how the lives of different artists may have been different if certain technologies or even somewhat modern or democratic social practices were in place in the era in which certain pieces were originally developed.

One of many interesting points is with film. While with modern technology, it is great that we can visually document through video, photography, recordings etc, we are at the whim of whomever is documenting a particular situation.  We are stuck with the way in which a situation is framed by the individual doing the capturing; we are only able to view a situation in the way he or she would like us to perceive it. Benjamin says “As compared with painting, filmed behavior lends itself more readily to analysis because of its incomparably more precise statements of the situation.” Although the author noted that he believed film may be a truer representation of the reality, I think that a film can be just as fake or contrived as a surreal painting.  The situations created by the director, cameraman and actors may be just as contrived and force the viewers to perceive a certain reality that may not really be able to exist.   The author quotes Duhamel’s perception of film, which I agree with somewhat but saying, “I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.”  This statement can be applied to modern day news stories as they are portrayed over different media channels.  For example, political news coverage will be portrayed differently from MSNBC to Fox due to the political views of those running the stations.  Additionally, the news that American citizens are exposed to vs those in other countries may be vastly different in terms of its diversity (i.e. the amount of international news versus local news stories).

I also found it interesting how the author addresses the ritual creation of art and how this may have impacted the way in which individuals developed certain pieces.  Depending upon the social climate, it begs the question of whether individuals felt they had the freedom to develop artwork that was more a reflection of the time and situation even if it meant shining a negative light on the government or certain social figures.  If individuals had this opportunity, could it have caused social change at an earlier phase than was experienced or could it have had the impact of simply just more accurately depicting the climate or aura of that time.  Moreover, what implications could it have had on today’s society?

With regards to the author’s view that paintings were not meant to be viewed collectively, I have to disagree.  I think this view is what prevented many truly talented artists from gaining the type of notoriety that would be more similar to those filmmakers and actors of the past and present. Artists such as Picasso were unfortunately unable to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase their works through reproduction.  Had this been the case, these artists may have been able to achieve levels of success while alive similar to those in the film industry.  Additionally, today, it is much easier for talented artists of the present to gain notoriety and appreciation through use of a combination of old technology with new including photography and social media outlets.

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