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WALTER BENJAMIN : THE WORK OF ART IN THE AGE OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION. “The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.”.

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walter benjamin the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction
WALTER BENJAMIN: THE WORK OF ART IN THE AGE OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION

“The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.”

benjamin and the frankfurt school
BENJAMIN AND THE FRANKFURT SCHOOL
  • History is the history of class struggle.
  • Capitalist rhetoric offers the masses redemption through their work, capitalism withholds from the workers their own products.
  • Benjamin criticizes historicism and the narrative of historical progress.
  • He believes that history can be seen in the historical objects of the material world as they appear to us today.
important terms
IMPORTANT TERMS
  • Mechanical Reproduction
  • Aura
  • Authenticity
  • Tradition
  • Artistic Function of the Work of Art
  • Exhibition Value vs Cult Value
the work of art
THE WORK OF ART
  • “In principle a work of art has always been reproducible.”
  • Mechanical reproduction, however, is new.
  • “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.” AURA
  • “The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity.”
cult value vs exhibition value
Cult Value vs. Exhibition Value
  • Art starts out in the service of ritual.
  • To say that a work of art has cult value is to say that its meaning is associated with its unique location in time and space. It is embedded in “the fabric of tradition,” in ritual.
  • Art didn’t use to be “available” for everyone to see.
  • The reproduced and reproducible image (which might or might not have an ‘original’) lacks specificity in space and time. Thus the ‘aura’ of the work of art decays in the era of mechanical reproduction.
cult value vs exhibition value6
Cult Value vs. Exhibition Value
  • The shift to technologies of mechanical reproduction radically changes the privilege of looking and makes of these images a mass cultural activity.
  • This is not only a quantitative shift but also a qualitative shift in the way “art” is viewed and interpreted.
  • So, changes in the technological base have real effects on the superstructure of society.
rituals and politics
Rituals and Politics
  • “… mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. To an even greater degree, the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility.”
  • “…the instant the criterion for authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics”
emancipatory art
EMANCIPATORY ART?
  • More people get access to “art”.
  • Benjamin sees film not only as another art form but as a critique of all art forms and thus, as a critique of modern perception. Why?...
  • Ideal image in photography and film conceals its mode of production (Barthes’s analogon).
  • Masses have the privilege of seeing, but still only a few have the privilege of producing and structuring the images that others can see:

“So long as the movie makers capital sets the fashion, as a rule no other revolutionary merit can be accredited to today’s film than the promotion of a revolutionary criticism of traditional concepts of art.”

food for thought
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
  • What is the “original” in a photo?
  • What is authenticity for Benjamin? Is the “authentic” work of art defined by an “original,” its place in space and time and its history? What is authenticity for us?
  • What about in the Internet era, where the line between producers and consumers has become blurry?
baudrillard simulacra and simulation

BAUDRILLARD: SIMULACRA AND SIMULATION

“The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none”

The simulacrum is true.

Ecclesiastes

important terms11
IMPORTANT TERMS
  • Simulacra
  • Simulation vs dissimulation
  • Hyperreal
  • Real
  • Referentials
  • Nostalgia
  • Ideology vs Simulation
  • Illusion vs Simulation
simulacra and simulation
SIMULACRA AND SIMULATION
  • “Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal” (Baudrillard, 1).
peirce s semiotic triangle
PEIRCE’S SEMIOTIC TRIANGLE
  • The referent got introduced as a variant to Saussure’s description of the sign and allocates a place for objective reality.
  • However… “the age of simulation…begins with a liquidation of all referentials.”
simulation
SIMULATION
  • Simulation vs. Dissimulation:

“To dissimulate is to feign not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one hasn’t.”

“The transition from signs that dissimulate something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing, marks the decisive turning point.”

E.g.: religious icons (crucifixes, rosaries…)

simulation15
SIMULATION
  • Simulation vs. representation
    • “Representation starts from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent…”
    • “… simulation starts from… the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as reversion and death sentence of every reference.”
hyperreal and imaginary
HYPERREAL AND IMAGINARY
  • “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real… It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.”

-Why do we need to believe in a authentic truth or reality? What powers does this serve?

-Foucault’s will to knowledge and will to truth.

ideology and simulation
IDEOLOGY AND SIMULATION
  • Ideology, according to Louis Althusser is “the “imaginary relation of those individuals to the real relations in which they live” (Althusser, 165).
  • “Ideology only corresponds to a betrayal of reality by signs; simulation corresponds to a short-circuit of reality and to its reduplication by signs.”
  • “This is ultimately why power is so in accord with ideological discourses and discourses on ideology, for these are all discourses of truth – always good, even and especially if they are revolutionary to counter the mortal blows of simulation”
simulation true or false
SIMULATION: TRUE OR FALSE?
  • What is real and what is imaginary?
      • Erwin Goffman and Advertising
      • Models
      • Cyberspace
      • Virtual Communities
      • Second Life

What does Baudrillard mean by

the concept “precession of simulacra?”

food for thought19
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
  • Why are photography/video/film-based images given the code of "reality," some assumed direct relation to something outside the image that it represents, refers to, depicts?
    • Roland Barthes: “Thus can be seen the special status of the photographic image: it is a message without a code” (Barthes, 17).
    • However, even analogical reproductions “comprise two messages: a denoted message (the analogon itself) and a connoted message, which is the manner in which society to a certain extent communicates what it thinks of it” (Barthes, 17)
    • So...................