Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cinema as the Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction

Benjamin, Aura and Digital Reproduction
In his ground breaking article entitled 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' Walter Benjamin (Benjamin, 1936) depicted how mechanical reproduction has changed the nature of production and consumption of art work. The most important thing is that the work of art has lost its aura. Aura is indicative of art's traditional association with primitive, feudal, or bourgeois structures of power. For the case of painting, there is always an original one, hanging in a museum or in the house of an elite person. One's claim of seeing Monalisa is not complete until he or she goes to the Louvre and sees the original work of art. But in the case of press, photography or film, one cannot differentiate between the copied one and the master. In the age of reproduction, the work of art loses the aura of originality. Benjamin (Benjamin, 1936) says the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. Even the printed copy of Monalisa can be found in front of the Louvre which contributes, to some extent, to the loss of aura. According to Robert Kolker (Kolker, 1999), Benjamin, unlike most of his Frankfurt School associates, did not look at this loss of aura with alarm. Rather, he thought about the growth of popular culture as something to be understood not as an oppressive reality, but as a potentially liberating one. The mechanical reproduction system could democratis e art. One who has a still camera can be a creator of a work of art.