Benjamin's onwards

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Walter Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)

"In principle a work of art has always been reproducible."

In the first part of the text, Benjamin presents a brief history and development of different art reproduction techniques. Until 1900, when "technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public." Benjamin's follows with an analysis on how different reproduction techniques affect culture, how we perceive it and interpret the world within it.

In the second part the the concept of "existence", the "presence in time and space", is presented as the unique element that is impossible to achieve by any means of 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". The act of creating a reproduction brings along a new context, opens up a new moment in history, at a certain time and place, when and where it happens to be. A new uniqueness and singularity is created. It is here and now. The concept of "aura" is introduced as to explain the missing element in any reproduced artifact. The moment of reproduction creates a detachment from the "domain of tradition". It is integrated further on in the timeline of art history. This may also contribute to enhance the original work of art, "by making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence."

In the third part of the text, the concept of "aura" is again further explained. "The mode of human sense perception changes with humanity's entire mode of existence", again a reference to the "historical circumstances" and the inability to reproduced them. Benjamin defines "the aura of the latter as the unique phenomenon of a distance", a sensible and supersensible enclosed contact with historical tradition (distance) creates its unique meaning. In contrast, "the desire of contemporary masses to bring things "closer" spatially and humanly (...) overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction." A liberation process occurred. In one hand , there is an "adjustment of reality to the masses and of the masses to reality". Integrating this works of art as a part of the socio-economical system - provided by means of reproduction. On the other hand, works of art seem to loose mystery and poetry, destroying its "aura", what makes something what it is; not exactly the essence but something closer to it, maybe an illusion.

In the last part, Benjamin's melancholic undertones around the concept of "aura" , and its relation/ dependance to "ritual" , brings in a religious quotation, a cult value. "This give rise to what might be called a negative theology in the form of the idea of "pure" art". "Aura" as a myst around each object, now vanishing, "the total function of art is reversed" to be "based on another practice-politics".


Bill Nichols - The Work of Culture in the Age of Cybernetic Systems (1988)

"The computer is more than an object: it is also an icon and a metaphor that suggests new ways of thinking about ourselves and our environment, new ways of constructing images of what it means to be human and to live in a humanoid world." Bill Nichols brings in subject of the computational power, provided by cybernetic systems, as to process information and execute actions, the "automated but intelligent" behavior. The realm of self regulated mechanisms/predefined limits.

In addition, Nichols aims "to carry Benjamin's inquiry forward and to ask how cybernetic systems, symbolized by the computer, represent a set of transformations in our conception of and relation to self and reality". Following the cartesian philosophy: self and nature separation; me and the world out there, Nichols seems to be making a clear distinction between human and non human. Man and machine / machine and machine / man and man. - communication between them all. Dialogue extends in both directions - previous work to the future one - both ways - inseparable responses.

"How the preoccupations of a cybernetic imagination" became real world issues. How metaphors become real; how they become means.

Reality and real. Difference, reality as something constructed and agreed upon. Culture a space for ideology, focusing "on the work of culture ‐ its processes, operations, and procedures" Notion of real; phenomenon that you apprehend and the nomena = real , in Kant is something that is there and you can perceive it / interpertate. Cannot be represented, has to be processed. Real (processed by the symbolic and has impact on the imaginary) - Imaginary - Symbolic (software - systems of organizing info). "Self" is constituted by this three.

A focus on literacy: "Language, discourse, and messages are central. Their style and rhetoric are basic. Around each "fact" and every "datum," all realities and evidence, everything "out there," a persuasive, affective tissue of discourse accrues. It is in and through this signifying tissue, arranged in discursive formations and institutional arenas, that struggle takes place and semiosis occurs." Informational. Use and transmission of data. Everything is about information. But also, information within various contexts. World as working the language that belongs to many others: responsibility of tracing of the other in the self- translating.

Tis large scale proportions, thanks to the evolution of technology, present the ambivalence of the dominance of control and vividly collectiveness. "Double hermeneutic of suspicion and revelation …", on one hand, "we must acknowledge the negative, currently dominant, tendency toward control", on the other, "the positive, more latent potential toward collectivity". Following the double side paradigm in Benjamin's earlier essay in regards to the emancipation of mechanical reproduction and its "sense of the universal equality of things", versus the "parasitical dependance on ritual". economic and physic laws makes reproduction grow increasingly. "Benjamin argues for correspondences among three types of changes: in the economic mode of production, in the nature of art, and in categories of perception. At the base of industrial society lies the assembly line and mass production. Technological innovation allows these processes to extend into the domain of art, separating off from its traditional ritual (or "cult") value a new and distinct market (or "exhibition") value." As for Benjamin, an innate preference from the real one, for authenticity. As for Nichols, a shift from a fetishization of the object to fetishization of the process of interaction, of simulation. A joint relationship between object and device. Interaction offers a great freedom within the boundaries of a larger system. A negotiation of meaning and representation, hybridize .

Jos de Mul -The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Recombination (2008)

"Media are interfaces that mediate not only between us and our world (designation), but also between us and our fellow man (communication), and between us and ourselves (self-understanding). Aesthetic experience is no exception: artistic media are interfaces that not only structure the imagination of the artist, but the work of art and the aesthetic reception as well." Jos de Mul focus o the aesthetic experience, departing from departure will be Walter Benjamin‘s thesis, and observing its mutation until the present moment. The spectrum of networks in digital communication changed the perception of cultural value and the relations established within cultural production. The boundaries between social relations and cultural forms are blurred.

"Firstly, that in the age of digital recombination, the database constitutes the ontological model of the work of art and, secondly, that in this transformation the exhibition value is being replaced by what we might call manipulation value." Multiple realities coexist - variations, outcomes without interfering with each other. Supervision divergent, non communicating quantum worlds. Equally real worlds. Every life creates a parallel worlds, a world in which is true.

By following Benjamin’s analysis," the age of the digital recombination is broader than art or aesthetics. It deals with the digital manipulation of nature and culture that characterizes the present ‘age of informatization‘" Interpreting interpretations. Infinitely many.

"The definition of the aura as a ‘unique phenomenon of a distance however close it may be’ represents nothing but the formulation of the cult value of the work of art in categories of space and time perception. Distance is the opposite of closeness. The essentially distant object is the unapproachable one. Unapproachability is indeed a major quality of the cult image. True to its nature, it remains ‘distant, however close it may be.’ The closeness which one may gain from its subject matter does not impair the distance which it retains in its appearance." Accessibility, democratization of the arts. A liberating potential? Cross media platforms follow cross people/ audience engagement.

Art encountered "unlimited scope" around reproductions.