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Walter Benjamin - Art in the Age.pdf

Walter Benjamin - Art in the Age.pdf

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20
THE
WORK
OF
ART
IN
THE,
AGEOF
MECHANICAL
RE,PRODUCTION
lValter
Benianrin
Onr.
liue
iu.tsweredevclopccl.
their
types
ancl
uscs
were
cstablishetl.
in
times
very
clilTerent
fiom
thepresent.
b.v
men
whose
porver
ol-aclion
r.tpot.l
thitlgs
u'as
insignilicant
ir.r
comparisctn
with
ours.
But
the
atnazing
gro'"vth
tll
tiur
lech-
,riqries.
theaclaptabitity
anct
precision
tl.re1"have
attained.thc
ideasancl
habits
the,v
are
cleatitr-g.
make
it
ir
ccrtainty
thatptofouncl
cl.ranges
are
irlpcncling
in
thc.ncieut
crafi
of-thcBear.rtifll.
In
all
the
alts
thereis a
ph1'sical
componellt
which
can
no
longer
be
considercd
ol
trcated
as
it
r.rsed
to
be.
u'hich cunllot
ret.uait.t
unaffected
b.v
ogr
tnoclet't.t
kuou'led-Ue
audpower'Forthe
lasl
twenty
ycars
r-reithef
mattel'
nor
space
tlot'tiulc
has
beerl
what
it
rvas
fl'otr
ttulc
intmcmor.ial.
We
niust
expect
gleat inno'"ations
to
translilrt'u
theerltire
tech-
nicluc
ol'the
arts.tlterebyall'ecting
artisliciuvetltionitselfarld
pet'haps
evcn
brirtgirtg
aboLlt
allanlazillg
change
ilt
our
verv
llotion
of art'r(Paul
val6rv"
Piet't,s.urr
I'urt"
'LaConquitc
cle
l'ubicluite.'
Paris)
Preface
Wite'
Marx
ulclertook
his
critiqLre
of
thecapitalistic
uodeof
prodrrctior.r.
this
rnode
rvas
in
its
infarrc,v.
Marr
dirccteclhis
efforts
itl
such
ii
wa,v
its
ttl
gilr.-
th.'tu
1'rt'ogtlosttc
'alrLe.
He
welrtback
to
the
busicconclitionsunderly'ing
capitalistic
prodtrction
a'cl
througl.r
his
pr.eseltatirtn
shoi.vecl
u'hat
coulcl
be
expectecl
of
capitalisn]
in
the
futr.rre.
The
resi-rltu,as
that
one
coulc1
expect
it
ttc.rt
rttrlV
toexploit
thcproletariat
lvrth
increasir-rgir-rtensity.
bu1
uliinratel)'
to
cfcate
conclitic'rttsn'l.rich
u'ould
nlake
it
possible
to
abolish
capitalisrn
itsclf.
TIte
tralsfcrlrration
gf
the
superstructLlrc.
rvhichtakcsplace
f
ur
more
sloit'l.v
tlian
thatol'the
substructurc.
has
takcn
n.rttre
than
half
a
centur)'to
nratlihstin
all
lrlclrsof
cglture
thechange
in
the
conclitionsofprocluction.
Onl;-
tocla,v
can
it
beirlciicated
rvhat
tbrm
this
has taken.C'ertainprognosticrequilcmertts
should
be
tllet
by'
these
state-
lutenls.
Flowevcr.
theses
abor-Lt
thc
alt
ot'the
prolctarilrt
af
terits lrssutl.tption
ol-pori'eroL
aboutthe
artof
a
cllssless
society'll'or-rlcl
liavc
less
bearing
ou
thcsedemands
than
theses
about
theclcvelopmeutal
teucleucies
ol
at't
tttlclerpreseut
conclitior.rs
clf
produc-
tion.Their
dialecticisno
less
uoticcablc
iu
the
supet'strLlctLlre
tharl
in
tl're
economlt
It
322
 
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\\'ALTER
BEN.I
AMIN
Around
1900
technical reproduction
had reached
a
standard that
not
only
perrnittccl
it
to
reproduce
all
transmittedworks
o1-
art
and thus
to
cause
the
most
proibund
change
in
their impact
r-rpon
thepublic:
it
alsohadcaptured
a
place
of
its
own
among
thc
artistic
processes.
Forthc
study
of
this
stanclard
nothing is
tnorercvealing
tl.ran
tl.re
nature
of
the
repercussions
that
these
two
different
rnanif'estations
the
reprodLrctior.r
of
works
o1'art and
tl.re
art of
tl-re
film
have
had on
art
in
its
traditional
tbrrr.
II
Even
the most
perf-cct
reproduction
of
a rvolk
of art
is
lacking
in
onc
clcrlcnt:
its
presence
in
tirnc and
space.
its
unique
existence
at
theplace
vu'hcrc
it
happens
to
be.
This
unique
existence
of
the
r.vork
of art
deternincd
the
history to
r'vhich
it
rvas
subject
tl.rroughout
the time
of
its
existence.
This
includcs the
char.rges
lvhicl-r
it
mav
have
sulleredin
physical
condition
over the
years
as
wcll
as
thc
valioris
chunses
in
its
orvner'-
ship.rThe
traces
of
the
first
can
be
revealed
onll,by
chcrnical
or
physical
ar.ralyses
r'n'hicl-r
it
is
impossible
to
performon
a reprocluction;
changes
o1-
ownership
are
sr-rbiect
to
a
tradition
wl.rich
rnr.rst
be
traced
from
the
situation of
the
original.Thc
preser.rce
of
the
original
is
tire
prerequisiteto
the concept
ol-authenticity.
Chem-
ical
analyses
of
the
patina
of
a bronze can
help to
cstablish
this.
as
does
the
proof
that
a
giver.r
manuscript
of
the
Middle
Ages
stems
liom
an
archive
ol-
the
lltteenth
centurl,'.
The whole
sphere
of
authenticity
is outside technical
-
and.
of
course.
not
only' tech-
nical
reproducibility.'Confronted
with
its
manual reproduction.
which
wasusually
branded
as
a
forgery. the
original
pteserved
all
i1s
authority:not
so
li.i-r)-r'r.r
tecl.rr.rical
reproduction. The
reason
is twofolcl.
First.
process
rcproductic'rnis
more
independent
of
the
original
than
manual reproduction.
For
erarnple.
in
photography.
process
reprociuction can
bling out
those
aspects
of
the
originalthat
are
unattair-rable
to
the
naked
e-ve
yet
accessible
to
tlre
lcns.
which isadjustableand
chooses
its
angle
at
will.And
photographicreprocluction.
with
the
aid of certain
processes.
such
as
enlar-eement
or
slow
motion.
can capturc
images
which
escape
natural vision.
Secon<Jly.
tecirr.rical
reproduction can
pLlt
the
copl'
o1'the
original
into
situations
which
woulcl
be
out of
reach
fbr
the
originzrl
itself. Abovc
all.
it
enables
the
original
to
rneet
the
beholder
halfhay. be
it
in
the
lbrm
ol-
a
photograpl.r
or
a
pl.ronograph
recold.
J'he
cathedral
lezrves
its
locale
to
be
received
in
tl.re
stuciio
of
a lover
of art:
the
choral
production.pcrfbrrncd
in
an
auditorinmor
in
the open
air
resounds
in
the clrawing
room.
The
situations
into
r.l'hich
theproduct
of
mechanical reproduction can
be
bror-rght
may
not
touch
the
actual
work of
art..vet
the
qualityof
its
presence
is alwal's depreci-ated.
This holds
not
only
fbr
the
artwork
but
arlso.
lor
instance.
lbr
a landscape
lvhicir
passes
in
review before the spectator
in
amovie.
ln
the
case
of
tire
art
object. a
mostsensitive
nucleus
namely.
its
authenticity
is
interferecl witi.r
whereas
no
natularl
object
is
vulnerableon
that
score.
Tire
authenticity of
a
thing
is the
essence
ol'all
that
is
transmissible
from
its
beginning. ranging
fl'on-r
its
substirntive
cluration toits
tu-stirnorrv
to
thehistory which
it
has experienced.
Since
the
historical tcstimony
rests
on
the
authenticity,
the
former, too.
is
jeopardizedby
reproc'luctior.r
whensubstantive
dr,rrationceases
to
matter.
And
what
is
realiyjeopardizedwhen
the
historical
testimony,
is
atlected
is
t.he
autlrolity of
tlre
trbject.l
One
might
subsume the
eliminated
element
in
the
term'nura'
andgo
on
to
say:
thatwhich
withels
in
the
ase
of
mechanical
reoroductionis
the
aura
of
the
llork
of
art.
Jl+

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