Walter benjamin essay on art

He owned a number of investments in Berlin, including ice skating rinks. Through his mother, his great-uncle was the classical archaeologist Gustav Hirschfeld.

Walter benjamin essay on art

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The essay is credited with developing an insightful interpretation of the role technological reproduction plays in shaping aesthetic experience; more specifically, Benjamin catalogues the significant effects of film and photography on the decline of autonomous aesthetic experience.

This publication appeared in French translation under the direction of Raymond Aron in volume 5, no. Benjamin subsequently rewrote the essay and after editorial work by Theodore and Margarethe Adorno it was posthumously published in its commonly recognized form in his Schriften of Wolin In order to catalogue and ultimately subvert classical and Romantic aesthetic ideals, Benjamin describes the process by which modern technological reproduction strips these institutions and their iconic artworks of their aesthetic authority.

Benjamin claims that in times past the role of art has been to provide a magical foundation for the cult. A statue or idol conveyed a sense of detached authority, or frightening magical power, which inhered in and only in that particular historical artifact.

The reproduction in mass of such an item would have been unthinkable because it was its unique singularity that produced the sacrality of the ritual. It also includes the legitimacy accorded to the object by a lengthy historical existence.

In order to clarify the idea he compares it to the experience of natural phenomenon: The statue is not like any other object produced or used within a society; it appears free from the taint of ideological control or human interference, as though its power, like that of the mountain, issues independently from within.


The coming of modernity and the disappearance of the cult only partially signal the end of auratic art. Much of nineteenth-century art and aesthetics thus represent a conscious attempt to defend the special status of the artwork from the banality of bourgeois capitalism.

Benjamin acknowledges the reality of artistic reproduction throughout history, although he suggests that mechanical reproduction introduced an entirely new and revolutionary change in the experience of the artwork This process both affects and is the effect of changing social conditions in which all previously unique and sacred institutions have become equal The general willingness to accept a reproduction in place of the original also signifies an unwillingness to participate in the ritualistic aesthetics and politics of earlier times.

For example, a photograph or film of a Catholic cathedral denudes its unique aura, transforming the role of participant into that of a spectator or possibly a detached commentator.

Film Although Benjamin discusses photography briefly, his argument focuses primarily on the revolutionary potential of film as a mode of mechanical reproduction. The film actor, unlike stage performers, does not face or respond to an audience.

Walter benjamin essay on art

The net effect of these innovations is to place the viewer in the impersonal position of critic—something prior cultic experiences of art would never have allowed The prevalence of film, as well as other mechanical reproductions, also creates a culture of minor experts ready to judge art rather than loose themselves in participatory ritual Benjamin also notes that film relies on a series of cut and spliced images that must be assembled to form an aesthetic whole.

As a form of extreme capitalism, fascism ultimately does not alter the structure of property relationships. Instead it substitutes aesthetic expression into the world of politics, thus supposedly allowing the masses the right to self-expression.

The result is a reinstatement of the aura and cultic values into political life, a process which inevitably ends in war In a chilling final paragraph Benjamin suggests that self-alienation within fascism has become so extreme that the destruction of humanity becomes an aesthetic experience.

Adorno similarly criticized the essay by pointing to the manner in which modern modes of reproduction produce less rather than more critical citizens. He also suggested that in certain instances the autonomous work of art excludes the aura and produces greater self-rationalization Wolin Generally speaking, the essay continues to play a significant role in understanding how technology contributes to a de-aestheticization of the artwork in modernity.

Works Cited Benjamin, Walter. Green and Ingrida Ligers. An Aesthetic of Redemption.translated by Harry Zohn, from the essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction WALTER BENJAMIN “Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was.

This post could also be called: Walter Benjamin in the Age of Me Noodling Around with Small Data. On Monday I participated in a roundtable discussing Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility”/“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”.

Walter Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical ReproductionSummaryWorks of art have always been reproducible, through imitation. Mechanical reproduction characterizes a new period in reproduction, with new limits and repercussions. Each new /5(4). This is my first attempt at Academic writing.

I have written a short summary on Walter Benjamin’s Essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Its . The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Walter Benjamin. I. In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man-made artifacts could always be imitated by men.

Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing their works, and, finally, by third parties in the. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page and endnotes come at the end of the document.

Walter benjamin essay on art

A number or symbol on the footnote or endnote matches up with a reference mark in the document.

Walter Benjamin: Art, Aura and Authenticity | Ceasefire Magazine