November 18, 2012

Societies in the Moment

"In principle a work of art has always been reproducible." (Benjamin, pg.1233) Benjamin does have a point when discussing mechanical reproduction. Art is always being reproduced. Take for example an artist and his painting. An artist may paint/draw/sculpt something, and may want to make another, it may be an original copy, but it is still a copy. A copy of a piece of art can be beneficial when it comes to observing the piece of art, but unfortunately, one cannot get the same feelings, meanings, etc out of the copy that they could get from the original. "Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is licking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be." (Benjamin, pg.1234) No reproduction will ever be able to emit the essence of the original piece of work. 

Does this apply to movies and pictures? Movies and pictures capture a moment and have it on print/screen and that moment will never occur again. Are pictures reproductions of the moments we live? For me, this is just a little frightening. We as people will never attain the moments we live ever again, unless it’s caught on camera. I almost want to constantly have a camera at hand at all times now, capturing every single part of my life. Is this why people constantly take pictures today? Is it because we are unconsciously realize that this is the only time we live that experience and that it should be remembered in some way or another? What I would like to know is if an everyday picture has the same aura as the original Mona Lisa. Maybe yes maybe no. It could because it is authentic and genuine; but at the same time it could definitely be a no because it isn't as valuable as the Mona Lisa. Yet, does the value come from the critics, or from our own opinion?

I want to discuss sublimity in reproductions of art and pictures. I truly believe that Longinus would have a field day with reproductions and whether or not they can create sublimity. “Playing tricks by means of figures is a peculiarly suspect procedure. It raises the suspicion of a trap, a deep design, a fallacy. It is to be avoided in addressing a judge who has power to decide and especially in addressing tyrant…Such a person immediately becomes angry if he is led astray like a foolish child by some skillful orator’s figures.” (Longinus, pg.358) If an audience sees a reproduction of a piece of art, will they not be able to feel sublimity because they know it’s not original? Text/Art needs to be genuine; an original photograph can capture a genuine moment, but an audience might believe that the picture itself is copy of a moment so it could not be considered genuine. So it comes to this: what is real and what is a reproduction in today’s art and society?

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” The Critical Tradition: 
      Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, Third Edition. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston, MA: Bedford/St.     
      Martins, 2007. 1232-1237.

Longinus. “From On the Sublime.” The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present, 
     Second Edition. Ed. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 344-


Michelle Macchio said...

I think you example of the Mona Lisa as an instance where the reproduction diminishes the aura of the original brings up a good question: How is value defined? Is the value of a piece of work the time, effort, and creative genius that went into making it? It is the historical context in which it was created? is it the authority it has over other works of art, based on critics approval and the credibility of its creator? Is value defined by a work's potential to move an audience emotionally or change them mentally? Each of these different definitions of value change the significance of aura, of the original, of authenticity, and of tradition. Can we still recognize the historical and cultural significance of the Mona Lisa if we view a mechanically reproduced image of it in the context of our homes? What about the emotional significance? Is this recognition only part of the whole significance only realizable upon viewing the original? or does the image take on new value when observed outside its predetermined context? What is the value of personal agency over the experiencing of a work? What it really comes down to is how we define value.

Rdexheimer said...

This was an interesting posts as it hit on a number of points, each of which could have been good blog posts in their own right. Your question on knowledge of the duplication of a work is an interesting one because I think it serves as a fitting example of how much interpretation hinges on awareness. Try and consider for a moment what it would be like had you never known of a painting called the Mona Lisa and your first experience of the painting was a duplication. To an extent, this is probably what most people's first exposure to the Mona Lisa was like. And coincidentally, most people were probably introduced to the Mona Lisa at a time where they had little to no understanding of its artistic significance whatsoever. Perhaps the aura is not some tangible quality that exists within a work. But rather, the aura is something that is a matter of perception and awareness entirely. Viewing what we are led to believe is an original work changes our reaction to it by calling upon our idea of origin, which has its own unique artistic associations.

Steven Loer said...

I almost posted something very similar to Rdex with regards to the Mona Lisa. I in fact believe that the critical acclaim of productions, reproductions and basically everything designed and produced for the intent of consumer interest is somehow altered by the reactions of the people before you.

With the case of the Mona Lisa, the popularity of the painting is certainly altered by the perception of it for the last two centuries. No picture could possibly be worth $720 million dollars without having been previously worshiped for years on end. As it is spectacular, I could walk by a reproduction of the painting and it may not even catch my eye.

Steven Loer said...
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