Sadaf and Sarah Cafe Discussion 1- The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Sadaf Delawar and Sarah Phillips

Benjamin’s article, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” discusses the way in which art is produced and reproduced. In analysing Benjamin’s article, question 8, specifically is one that my group focused upon. “What does the internet, specifically blogs and Youtube, do to Benjamin’s argument. Upon analysing the document, it is important to note the background of the author in relation to the argument. Benjamin was someone who studied at the Frankfurt School with a background that involved the incorporation of marxism and freudian psychoanalysis. The first encounter of this reading would make believe that Benjamin is critical of all forms of technology and reproduced art, primarily film. However, the criticism is not in the mode of production but the accessibility of that production to the masses. As a marxist thinker and observer, Benjamin’s argument, as discussed in class and in our group, is one that focuses on the “Bringing of things closer both spatially and humanly.” As a result, Benjamin during his time criticizes the inaccessibility of film because it was a source of production only available to those that could afford such luxuries. However, in this current climate, Benjamin would be supportive of social media and the internet including blogs and Youtube because it’s widely available to the masses (the proletariat). Therefore, Benjamin’s argument is strengthened because he talks about bringing these forms of media closer and incorporating technology to allow people to exhibit their aura’s more so through audio, visual effects, and optics. The ability for people to present their truest selves and create such productions and reproductions with such ease is the main point of support for Benjamin’s analysis of film reproduction.

Most of  Benjamin ideas in this article are related to previous readings that we have covered in class. For instance, Appadurai mentions different “scapes”, which belong to a framework that explores the relationship between the global economy, culture, and politics. In my group, we discussed how two of these scapes, technoscapes and mediascapes, can be tied into Benjamin’s article. Technoscapes describe the transmission of technology at high speeds across cultural and geographical borders, mediascapes refer to the ability of the media to produce and spread information and to the images created by the media. At the time Benjamin wrote his article, film was just gaining popularity, and photographs were starting to be used for advertisements. He wrote about the transformation of art over time and how it plays a role in the superstructure of society. As mentioned previously, film and photography were originally for the rich and were not accessible to the average person. As we see from technoscapes, technology evolved over time to create ways for film and photography to have better image quality, have stronger effects, and accessible to all. Film was originally an evolution of photography and was seen as a high class event, but now people can film with their phones and watch videos on the internet, and is seen as commonplace. Film started out as just movies and news, now film is for advertising, cartoons, documentaries, porn, and much more. The way film, photography, and the media has evolved has shaped the way society is today. The media sends subtle messages on how we should look, behave and live our lives. Film often idealizes and romanticizes life, which gives people false expectations. Media is definitely part of a superstructure that plays a role in the ideologies of societies.

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