Thoughts about aura
October 26, 2010, 11:03 am
Filed under: Art, Theories | Tags: ,

In 1935, cultural critic Walter Benjamin wrote his famous essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit; originally published in Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung). Back in the days, it did not find too much attention, but in the 1960’s and 70’s, it has been rediscovered and since the 80’s, it is one of the documents modern theory of culture and media is founded on.

The essay speaks about the aura of an artwork; art in itself, has, according to Benjamin, been a tool to record history. Its uniqueness is bound to time and place. With the invention of different tools of reproduction, such as copperplate engraving, the printing press, photography, and many others, works could be reproduced and distributed widely. At the same time, the work of art would deprive its aura, its originality, the certain distant unseizable feeling that comes with an original art piece.

When it comes to photography, the digital age has overruled most analogic picture taking. Admittedly, I also mostly take pictures in digital form, due to easier handling and costs. The ‘aura’, that Benjamin is talking about, is lost though. The only camera that takes true originals is maybe the Polaroid camera, a technology, that has been lost, but it being revived by nostalgic fans, after Polaroid ceased the production of films in 2008. (The impossible project) The same thing occurs in nature, nothing that grows and is alive is alike (unless humans fiddle with it). This diversity is beautiful and should be kept alive at all times.

Why is it that people long to go backwards to old technologies and production methods? Why is it that people start to do things themselves again? I hate to call it a trend, because I don’t believe people do so because they think it is fashionable (for that, it is way to time-consuming and would demand a change of lifestyle), but most certainly, it is a growing movement present in most Western countries.


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