The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin discusses the affinity between photography and art in particular, and in the economics of images typical of the modern era in general. And the mass is made up of an introduction, fifteen sections and an ending.
Benjamin's essay examines the changes brought about by certain transcription techniques, particularly photography and cinema , in the field of art and the political sphere, and the new status of art in the capitalist era in the industrialized mass society of the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries .
summary by Chapters
Introduction: Benjamin presents the starting point of his essay on art within the Marxist conceptual framework and in a position of opposition to fascist uses of art. Benjamin argues that the time has come to examine how change has affected the materialist base - the advent of technology that changed the conditions of production in the last century - the superstructure - we were on the field of art.
Chapeter 1. Benjamin reviews a history of art reproduction techniques (such as print , engraving , woodcut ), and argues that technical reproduction (culminating in the appearance of photography) is a new stage in quantitative and qualitative terms, until it is not just duplication but becomes art itself.
Chapeter 2. In the age of technical reproduction, Benjamin argues, the aura of the work of art is lost (the aura is a product of the organization of relation to the work of art, it is its "here-and-now" sense, "its one-time presence where it is," and is the hallmark of autonomous artwork). The loss of the aura is a symptom of a deep shock that is going through humanity in the age of mass society, a shock whose effects go far and go beyond the discussion of art; It is about changing the perception of time and space and the way we experience reality, destroying the privileged status of "source" versus "copy", challenging concepts such as "tradition" and "authenticity".
Chapeter 3. The activation of the human senses changes not only naturally but also historically-socially. Nowadays the loss of the aura changes the way of human perception, and it stems from a social struggle for class privileges and the desire of the masses today to appropriate for themselves the "one-time" work, and to "bring" the distant with the help of reproduction.
Chapeter 4. Photography, as a revolutionary means of reproduction, created a rift in the ritual status of the authentic work of art. Therefore, nowadays, "from the time when the standard of authenticity can no longer be used with regard to the product of art, the whole function of art changes from its essence. It has passed its foundation on worship has [...] its foundation on politics."
Chapeter 5. The ritual (magical and religious) value of the work of art has in the past overshadowed its exhibit (aesthetic) value, but for some time now the former has been weakening while the latter, the exhibit and aesthetic, is taking its place. The development of reproduction techniques has exacerbated this situation to the limit, and changed the essence and functions of the work of art from their essence; Her role as an art became marginal.
Chapeter 6 In the field of photography, the display value completely outweighs the ritual value, and through it one can begin to understand the political role of the work of art.
Chapeter 7. The prevailing discussions of the question "Is photography an art?", Do not grasp the above-mentioned historical change that technology has brought about in the field of art, a change that requires us to examine "What is art from the time photography was invented?"
Chapeter 8. The instrumentation, which enters between the actor's work and the viewer in the cinema, brings about a change in the actor's work on the one hand, and on the other hand, changes the audience response, which now becomes a critical audience that adopts the instrumentation position.
Chapeter 9. Photography and film have led to the actor, the instrumentation taking the audience's position, so that for the first time the person acts detached from his aura (resulting from the one-time encounter with the live audience and the continuous portrayal of his role, which does not take place when filming). Man's growing alienation from his work leads to art increasingly deviating from the realm of the "illusion of the beautiful."
Chapeter 10. Mass viewing of cinema is unique in that an audience is in the status of a semi-professional viewer, and as such is invited to be an active partner - in principle in cultural production, and not just in its consumption. As a result, old divisions between creator / author / actor / artist and the audience are undermined. However, the capitalist film industry in the West prevents this revolutionary application by cultivating the cult of personality, which re-establishes the aura as a commodity.
Chapeter 11. The illusory nature of the film is a second-rate nature: it is the fruit of cutting and reassembling (the montage). Compared to the painter, whose action on reality is distant and magical, the camera operator penetrates into reality and cuts sections out of it.
Chapeter 12. The possibility that the technical copy of the work of art changes the attitude of the masses towards art, merging the hedonistic reaction of the masses with the critical reaction of the expert. This is because the experience of watching a film is a collective experience (as opposed to the individual contemplative viewing), and the response of individuals is conditioned, regulated and controlled by the response of the whole.
Chapeter 13. Photography technology unites the fields of science and art; Through procedures of cutting, freezing, enlarging and the like, the camera opens to the viewer a nature that is completely different from that familiar to the human eye. These revolutionary images reveal "visual unconsciousness" just as psychoanalysis has revealed the unconscious of the mind.
Chapeter 14. Autonomous art, with its aura, requires contemplative concentration and deepening, but in the course of the bourgeoisie's abomination, this observation became bourgeois and anti-social. Avant-garde art, led by photography and cinema, tries, through its technical structure (montage), to eliminate the aura, entertain, distract, and use the magic of art as a bullet.
Chapeter 15. Due to the deterioration of the aura, two poles that were previously opposing come closer together: the contemplative and critical immersion in the creation of art on the one hand, and the masses with the new perceptual needs on the other. In the mediums of technical reproduction, these polar trends meet, so that the entertaining and distracting masses immerse themselves in the work of art; At the cost of losing the autonomy of art, new conditions are created for a political-revolutionary system of intelligence and the masses.
Conclusion: The loss of the aura bases the new work of art not on the aesthetic realm, but on the socio-political, and hence two paths unfold - revolutionary use of art, or fascist-reactive use [clarification] is needed . The danger facing society is that art may become mobilized and serve fascism, in terms of "aestheticization of the political" (the aesthetic is used to beautify and hide the existing oppressive / fascist mechanism). Benjamin's solution is to " politicize [the communist] of the aesthetic," that is, to use art to stimulate the senses, to serve as a bullet and make the viewer a thinking person.
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