Monday, January 21, 2013

Walter Benjamin section 2

Reproduction of work seems to be a hot topic recently in the art world, both the positive and negative affects. With the technological society we live in today, it is hard not to have art work reproduced. Museums may have no photo rules, but there is always someone hijacking the system. Also, museums will photograph popular works to place on their ads for the show. Although a photograph may not be a true "reproduction" it is a copy of the object in a sense. Section 2 mainly talks about the "reproduction" in a photography sense. Benjamin talks about how a reproduction can take away the authenticity of the art work, but he also talks about how a reproduction can "reactivate the object reproduced". I think it all depends on the artwork as well as the artist.

Benjamin says that "Even the most perfect reproduction of a work is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be." I agree with this completely. A reproduction in photo form of the Sol Lewitt chapel in Italy can be perceived as something completely different then the true thing. The images online of this chapel look like this: 
where as in reality when I saw it, this is how it looked: 
The photos I see when I search it are brighter and more saturated. The chapel looks fairly large and in an area with houses close. In reality the Chapel is so small that my whole class could probably fit in there but no more. It was in the middle of no where on the top of a mountain next to an abandoned warehouse. The pain was very faded and chipping. The point of the matter is that reproductions can be misleading and not give you the whole affect. Being in the moment and in the location gives the chapel a whole new meaning and emotion. It is the prime example of being unique due to its existence in place.
Benjamin in section 2 also talks about how photography specifically will show things the eye cannot see. Things that are accessible to the lens and not to the naked eye. After reading this I immediately thought of the last Supper by Davinci. I learned in Intro to Art History that Davinci used a technique to paint the last supper that has made the painting not last at all. It is so absolutely faded that it takes photographs and a lot of Photoshop enhancement to create the image we are used to seeing. Above is what we are used to. Below is the closest to real life that I could even find on the internet.

Lastly, Benjamin was touching on some benefits of the reproduction of artwork.  He stated that the reproduction, "it reactivates the object reproduced". I thought of Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q when he said reactivation of an old art work. The Mona Lisa is thought to be one of the most famous painting in the history of man kind. When people think of high art and famous paintings they think of The Mona Lisa. Maybe the Mona Lisa was never dieing in popularity and maybe she never needed to be "reactivated" but by the postcard reproduction and Duchamp's smart ass remarks on the post card, the artwork was re-invented and reactivated.

I can ramble on as long as anyone else can about how a reproduction and a photograph of artwork, does no justice for the original. That going and seeing the original within its location and seeing the texture and size of it, is so different then a reproduction is. But... in the end all the images I just shows you were reproductions, and without these reproductions no one would see the points I was trying to make. Also, without the photographs and reproductions of the originals, how would we learn about art? How would we know how amazing something is without seeing a version of it? How would the general public (those who cannot afford to fly to paris to the louvre or to the MOMA) see the great artworks of the world?

Overall I believe Benjamin's article was very dense and wordy. I would have been a more relaxed writer and made the reading more pleasurable but he did get some good points across. I also enjoyed the  quote before the prelude by PAul Valery. My favorite line of that quote was "and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art." This is so unbelievably true in todays society. With technology changing every second, we have to reconsider what is art and how to view artwork. There is an explosion of free to the public artworks as well as highly valued works that are reproduced over and over again. Artists are still to this day challenging the notion of what is art, as they should be. Back in the day when photography became widely used and introduced to the art world, people were skeptical and unwilling to call it "art" yet now it is possibly the most prevalent art in our society. "New media" is no longer new, it is just digital media and with all the technology surrounding us, we are unable to tell what is next. Benjamin does a good job touching on different aspects of our world and how art is looked at and analyzed and the theories and worries about reproduction, values, the public eyes, and progressive views. 

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