Sunday, May 5, 2013

Walter Benjamin's concept of "Aura" and Authenticity in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

 "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" wasn't the first place in which Walter Benjamin introduced his famous concept of "Aure" and his related discussion on authenticity in art, but it was however in which Benjamin fully developed his discussion of the aura.

"Aura" is a name offered by Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and elsewhere to designate the one-time experience of a certain object.  Benjamin discusses the different terms for the appearance of the unique and authentic aura. In essence, the aura is the "one-timeness" of the experience, the situation in which the subject meets the object that cannot be reproduced. A similar expression to that of Benjamin's aura is that of "aesthetic experience" albeit Benjamin stresses the unique one-time experience. For Benjamin, an aura can be possessed only the original work of art. The aura distinguished the viewer from the work and creates the necessary detachment for a true aesthetic experience.
This detachment is what allows, according to Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", the authenticity of the artwork. The work of art according to Benjamin bears its terms and times of creation which make up its originality and authenticity. These contexts of creation that are born by the original work of art maintain the distance between it and the viewer and maintain the disposition required for a true appreciation of art. Replicas, according to Benjamin, lack the authentic aura of the original. In a sense, Benjamin is fetishistic in attributing the original work of art traits that duplications lack.

Benjamin's ideas about the aura and its relations to authenticity can account, for example, for why original works of art are valued in millions of dollars while anyone can purchase a reproduction for just a few dollars. The reproduction of works of art in modern times causes, according to Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", the loss of the aura and the loss of authenticity in the aesthetic experience.

see also:

Reproduction and the loss of the Aura
aesthetic and the political


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