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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mapping of the essay by Sneha Roy

MEL 132
JULY 15, 2010
Map of the Essay “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin.
Paragraph 1:
How has art changed over the years?
Marx undertook the critique of capitalism - power not to be restricted to bourgeois – proletariat to be given power – seize power through social revolution.
Transformation of superstructure - slower than that of substructure.
Theses about the art of proletariat after gaining power-or art of class society – less bearing when compared to developmental tendencies of art under present production conditions - Dialectic of theses noticeable in the superstructure and economy-theses push aside outmoded concepts-creativity, genius, mystery-concepts.

Paragraph 2:

What are the different forms of art that have evolved through ages?
Art has been reproducible – man made artifacts imitated by men - replicas were made by third parties for material gain - mechanical production of art - advanced intermittently and leaps inn long intervals - Greeks knew two procedures – founding, stamping - made only bronzes, terracotta and coins - others being unique could not be mechanically reproduced - introduction of woodcut - art became mechanically reproducible - script had not become reproducible by print - engraving and etching added during middle ages - lithography introduced in the nineteenth century.
New stage in reproduction with lithography - direct process - tracing the design on stone - no incision on a block of wood required - production possible on large scale - market friendly - everyday life portrayed - able to keep pace with printing.
Photography takes over lithography - freed the hands - depended on the eye and the lens - process was accelerated - eye could perceive faster than the hands – could keep pace with speech-lithography virtually implied newspaper – photography foreshadowed film.
1900 - technical production attains a standard-all transmitted work s of art reproducible - bring change in the impact on people’s mind-made a place among the artistic processes.
It is important to study the repercussions of the two different manifestations - the reproduction of works of art and the art of the film to have an idea of the influence they have had on art in its traditional form.
Paragraph 3:

Does reproduction make a work of art timeless?
Most perfect work of art in present time lacks its presence in time and space - work of art determines the history to which it belonged-and its survival through ages - includes changes in physical condition - changes in ownership and so on - traces of its time can be revealed by chemical or physical analysis - impossible on a work of reproduction - original work is required to test its authenticity - chemical production of patina of bronze could help establish its authenticity - likewise manuscripts from the fifteenth century would give the authentication of it being from the Middle ages.
Manual reproduction - branded as forgery - original maintained authority - but not so in technical reproduction-example photography - a technical reproduction-brings out those aspects of the original which are unattainable to the naked eye-accessible only through lens-adjustable - can be taken from different angles - can capture images which escape natural vision – technical reproduction - important form – can substitute the copy of the originals in situations where original is out of reach-enables original to meet the beholder halfway. In a given situation, the mechanical production may not touch upon the actual work of art - the quality depreciates - instance - a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie. Talking about an object of art - the authenticity is interrupted by reproduction - but natural landscape is free from interruption in this context - reproduction of art object jeopardizes the authority of the object.
It is said, that which withers in the age of mechanical production is the aura of the work of art - indicative process. It can be said that technique of reproduction detaches the object reproduced from the domain of tradition-unique existence substituted by a plurality of copies - in permitting so, it reactivates the objects in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder in his own unique perception - these processes lead to two things - shattering of tradition - obverse of contemporary crisis - renewal of mankind - both process closely related to contemporary mass movement - most powerful agent being film - social significance in positive form can be brought to light only through its cathartic aspect which leads to liquidification of traditional value-phenomenon can be traced in historical films.
Paragraph 4:

What is Aura?
Aura of natural ones - unique phenomenon of a distance-instance, on a summer afternoon when our eyes follow a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow - we experience the aura of the mountains and of the branch - these make it easy for us to comprehend the social bases of decay of aura-rests on two circumstances - both related to increasing significance of masses in contemporary life - the desire of the mass to bring things closer - spatially and humanly - similar to their inclination towards overcoming the uniqueness of every object by accepting its reproduction - the urge to get hold of a reproduction of any object or truth keeps growing. Reproduction offered through various mediums differs from that seen through unarmed eye. Uniqueness and permanence related to the reality of objects – transitoriness and reproducibility related to the mechanical production of the replica of real objects.
Inquisitiveness about an object - destruction of its aura - sense of the universal equality of things - increased to a degree to such an extent that even the unique objects lose their aura through reproduction.

Paragraph 5:

Art and Tradition
Uniqueness of work of art - inseparable from tradition - tradition alive and mutable - Ancient statue of Venus - for Greeks, object of veneration - for clerics - ominous idol - carries different connotations in different ages - both confronted with uniqueness - the aura. Integration of art in tradition - found expression in cult - earliest art works in service of ritual - magical - religious. Aura of work of art-never separated from ritual function.
Ritualistic basis - despite being remote - recognizable as secularized ritual - even in profane forms of cult of beauty. Secular cult of beauty - emerged during renaissance - continued for three centuries - shows decline in ritualistic basis. Advent of revolutionary means - reproduction - photography - rise of socialism - art sensed the crisis. Art came up with a doctrine - gave rise to negative theology - in the context of the idea of pure-denied social function of art - denied any categorization based on subject matter - Mallarme - the first to take this position. Analysis of art in age of mechanical reproduction - gives us an insight into the world history - frees work of art from dependence on ritual. Work of art reproduced becomes work of art designed for reproducibility - number of prints made by one photographic negative - demanding authentic print - baseless. Paradoxically - authenticity of an artistic production is important - function of art may get reversed - lead to another practice - Politics.

Paragraph 6:

Art and Exhibition
Works of art valued on two planes - importance given to the cult value - exhibition of the work. Artistic production - ceremonial objects - destined to serve cult. Assumed - existence mattered - not the work of art being on view. Emancipation of art practices from ritual - exhibition opportunities increased - easier to exhibit a movable portrait when compared to that which has a static place in the temple - holds true for painting – mosaic fresco - static. Different methods of reproduction - exhibition possibilities increased - quantitative shift turned into qualitative transformation of its nature. Compared to art of prehistoric times - absolute importance on cult value - initially an instrument of magic - later recognized as work of art.
Today emphasis on exhibition values - acquires new dimension through different functions - photography - films - add an extra bit to the original.
Paragraph 7:

Influence of different forms of Art
Mechanical production - changes reaction of masses towards art - reactionary attitude towards Picasso’s paintings - changes to progressive reaction in a Chaplin movie - influenced by - direct, intimate fusion of visual and emotional enjoyment - social significance - sharper distinction between criticism and enjoyment. Conventional - uncritically enjoyed - new form - criticised with aversion. In films - critical and receptive attitude coincide - reason - individual reaction - predetermined by mass audience - most pronounced in films - once the response gets manifested they control each other. Comparison with painting - painting - viewed by one or few - contemplation by large public - nineteenth century - early symptom of crisis of painting - not due to photography - depended on the appeal of art to the masses.
Painting - unable to produce simultaneous collective experience - architecture, epic, poems, movies could do that - this should not lead to a conclusion about social role of painting - though constitutes a threat - when confronted directly by masses - Middle ages - no collective reception of painting-graduated and hierarchies mediation. Though, public exhibition of paintings - reception of masses not organized and controlled. Same public - progressive response to grotesque film - reactionary attitude to surrealism.
Paragraph 8:

Characteristics of a film-manner of presentation of a man to the equipment - representation of his environment - occupational psychology illustrates testing capacity of equipment - psychoanalysis - different perspective. Film - enriched perception - methods by Freudian theory. Earlier slip of tongue - unnoticed - now - reveals the depths of conversation. Film behavior - lends readily to analysis - precise statements and situation - can be isolated more easily - juxtaposition of arts and science in cinema
Paragraph 9:

Foremost task of art - creation of a demand - fully satisfied later.
History of art form shows - art forms aspiring to have effects - attainable with changed technical standard - new art form. Crudities of art - evolve from decadent epochs-arise from nucleus of richest historical energies. Abundance of barbarism - found in Dadaism - impulse distinguishable - attempt to create effects - pictorial - literary - public seeks in films today.
Dadaism - sacrificed market value - characteristic feature of a film not an intentional effort - attached less importance to sales value. Poems – obscenities - waste product of language - true for paintings - achieved relentless destruction of aura of creations -already branded reproduction with production. Decline of middle class - contemplation -asocial behavior - countered by distraction. Dadaists - assured vehement distraction - made works of art - centre for scandal - public outrage.
Alluring appearance - instrument of ballistics - hit spectators like bullets - promoted demand for film - the distracting element - changes of place and focus - assail the spectator. Comparison - screen - film - unfolds - canvas of a painting. Painting -spectator’s contemplation - spectator can abandon associations before watching it - image on screen keeps shifting - scenes cannot be arrested - process of association with images - interrupted due to constant and sudden change - shock effect of the film - cushioned by the presence of mind.
Paragraph 10:

Transformation in Art
Mass is a matrix - traditional bahaviour towards art has new form - quantity transmuted into quality - increased mass participation - changed mode of participation. New mode of participation - initially disreputable - should not confuse spectator - yet spirited attacks against superficiality - Duhamel objects the kind of participation movie evokes - calls movies - pastime for helots - ancient lament - mass seeks distraction - art demands concentration - question remains - provision of platform for analysis of the film - distraction - concentration - polar opposites - man who concentrates before an art - absorbed by it - distracted person - ability to master tasks in distractions - solution becomes habit. Individuals avoid controlling tasks - art takes up important and difficult ones - mobilise the masses. Film - reception in distraction - cult value recedes in background - public as critic - though absent minded.
Paragraph 11:

Growing proleterianization - increasing formation of masses - aspects of the same process. Fascism - organizes newly created proletarian masses - no affect on property structure - introduction of aesthetics into political life. Efforts to render political aesthetics - leads to war - can set goal for mass movement - mobilizes all of technical resources. Futurists - war is beautiful - establishes man’s dominion over subjugated machinery - enriches flowering meadow with machine guns - creates new architecture -big tanks - geometrical formations.
Aesthetics of today’s war-naturalization of productive forces - increase in technical devices. Destructiveness of war shows - society not mature - not sufficiently developed.
Mankind - in Homer’s time - object of contemplation for Olympian gods - now - one for self - self alienation - reached to a destructive degree.

Work Cited:
Benjamin, Walter. “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Art in Modern Culture: An
Anthology of Critical Texts. Eds. Francis Franscina, and Jonathan Harris. London/New York:
Phaidon, 1992. Print.

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