Friday, April 29, 2011

Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." From Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken Books, 1986.

Originally Publshed: 1936

Art has changed in the age of mechanical reproduction. The reproduced piece of art loses its "aura," as he dubs it. Comparing painting to film, Benjamin sees the painting as a complete picture whereas the film can be cobbled together using the filming and editing processes. Ultimately, he begins to muse on fascism, and the aesthetics of war - the valuing of military technology in the futurist sense.

Most importantly, Benjamin sees the key change as being from an age where art was tied to ritual to an age where art was tied to politics.

He references Arnheim's comment that actors are often made to be like props. Benjamin notes that with film the actor could be caught be surprise on film, and their pure reaction spliced in for a genuine look of shock. To Benjamin, this is undermining the artistic value. He is, thus, an Arnheimian...he wants film to be a creative medium.

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