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

Then came film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the
tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-flung ruins and debris,
we calmly and adventurously go traveling (236)

The possibility of multiple copies–an indistinguishable hoard of
duplicates–is central among concerns covered in Benjamin’s time-worn essay on
art and mechanical reproduction.  The essay reads almost episodically; it
is broken into a preface, fifteen chunks and an epilogue.  I first read
this essay ten or twelve years ago, again (if skimmingly)
sixteen months
, and most recently, today.  As explicitly concerned as Benjamin is
with shift in mass consciousness with the advent of the camera (for photography
or for film), he’s also tacitly concerned with the propaganda-subjected mass
consciousness that would foment under the conditions of so easily produced and
circulated materials.  In this sense, reproducibility qua image/art and
photo/film is but one symptom of more general massification (234), spectacle
(232), the blend and fade of author/public distinctions (232), changing "modes
of participation" (239), the degradation of human aura (presence-force) (229),
and distraction’s weakening of concentration on the art object (240). 

Continue reading →