The Aura of Art in a Technological Age/Jillian Cross

I am choosing to discuss the reading, “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction,” for several reasons. The first of which is that I believe this article shows an argument that I would not expect from an artist’s point of view. A main point in this article is that “there is no longer a clear conceptual distinction between original and reproduction in virtually any medium.” My instinctual reaction to reading this line in the heading was that the article would be written by some artist who is mourning the loss of “true art.” I was pleasantly surprised to find an entirely different approach. Part of the argument shows that by recreating or reproducing a work of art, one is not eliminating the original artwork, but rather one is adding their own individual mark upon that art.

            This is fascinating to me. I have always loved and appreciated the original, the classics, and the best. I never imagined that the recreations of these things were, in fact, art in their own ways. One who alters a classic painting is merely adding his or her subjective point of view into a classical piece. It seems almost euphemistic to think that these people have been adding to the art as opposed to taking away the sacredness of the original. Davis states that he can recreate meaning “within a subjective context that is inevitably unique, no matter how ordered or predestined.” The idea that each recreation or deconstruction and reproduction of a work is unique astounds me. I never would have thought of this in such a light.

            Another fascinating point in this article is the idea that “any video, audio or photographic work of art can be endlessly reproduced without degradation, always the same, always perfect.” When I first think of the ability to mass produce things with perfection, I think of the advantages we see in the technological world. We can perfectly reproduce any number of parts to a machine, any number of items that are present in our daily lives, any number of instruction manuals. Without mass production of technology, things in our everyday lives like computers and cars would be very rare and very expensive. If perfect mass production were not possible, our quality of life would decrease.

At the same time the ability to perfectly mass produce art can also be seen as a blessing. Think of people who would never know what Mona Lisa’s smile looked liked had it not been for a reproduced post card sent to them from the Louvre. Think of the places where even a copy of a masterpiece brings smiles to the citizens’ faces because they can see something too beautiful for their own world. Through technology, people are able to experience so many forms of art all across the globe. These experiences would not have been possible without mass production, or online communication, or the ability to scan and send things in a perfect light. An American video may never be viewed in Egypt without the use of a streaming program. With the many types of communication available worldwide, artists are able to share their work with so many different people.

A slightly frightening side to the technological advances is captured when Douglas Davis states that “we can walk, think, and feel the manmade world in virtually the same way we can experience the “real” world.” This is apparent in our everyday lives as we see children turning to video game instead of playing outside, we see teenagers courting via the Internet as opposed to in person, we see family members corresponding in a chat room when they used to get together for tea. I believe much of the interpersonal communication is being lost to the technological world (Commercial emphasizing this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAGoqhXtrX4).

We are losing the art of language as everything becomes abbreviated on IM (instant messages). We are losing the appreciation of the feel of a museum when we choose to take a virtual tour online instead of visiting the actual location. So while we are able to share the simple works of art through the digital age, in another sense we are losing the more complicated and more important arts of interaction and communication in the process.

For some, reproduction technology is diminishing the aura of artwork. But for others, the “aura resides-not in the thing itself but in the originality of the moment when we see, hear, read, repeat, revise.” I think that Davis’ ending statement best sums up my view of art. Art is not definitive, there is not always reasoning behind it. The true art is found in the way you react to a piece or work, the way that work makes you feel and the way that work shapes you as an individual.

More info on Douglas Davis: http://www.afsnitp.dk/udefra/1/dd/whoisdd.html

Original Reading: http://classes.dma.ucla.edu/Winter09/9-1/_pdf/3-Davis_Work_of_Art.pdf

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