Walter Benjamin The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction Essay

Benjamin admits that the work of art has always been reproducible.

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Yet it is different from replicas made with hand, which are usually considered as counterfeit copies.

Firstly, technological reproduction often emphasizes aspects of works of art which might not otherwise be accessible to the human senses (such as the finer details of an architecture captured in a photograph).

As a sociological and cultural critic, Benjamin combined ideas drawn from historical materialism, German idealism, and Jewish mysticism in a body of work which was a novel contribution to western philosophy, Marxism, and aesthetic theory.

As a literary scholar, he translated the Tableaux Parisiens edition of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal as well as Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

Benjamin notes that the unique value of the authentic work of art originates in ritual practices.

But technological reproduction liberates the work of art from its subservience to ritual roots as making replicas in a secular setting now becomes one of the purposes behind the creation of art.As numerous copies of the artwork are made, the unique existence of the original piece of work is overwritten by the mass existence of its innumerable replicas.Benjamin defines the aura as “a strange tissue of space and time: the unique apparition of a distance, however near it may be” (23).The new theses of art would render fascism dysfunctional because it would diminish the importance of creativity and genius, eternal value and mystery, concepts traditionally associated with the work of art.These are the very concepts which if applied in an unrestrained manner may leave factual material susceptible to manipulation by fascism (20).Therefore, it is only inevitable that as a response to the political turmoil he experienced and suffered, he would envision the work of art in his ongoing projects as an active political instrument.He worked on the essay from 1935 to 1939 and produced three versions.The second is the process of technological reproduction itself as a work of art, such as the art of film (21).Benjamin explains that the technological modes of reproduction obliterates the mark of authenticity from the work of art.Technological reproduction often produces copies of the work of art which outlive the original work of art, thus making the physical lifespan of the actual work largely irrelevant.Benjamin perceives this as a devaluation of the “here and now” of the artwork by technological reproduction, which he terms as the decaying of the aura of the work of art.


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