Walter Benjamin

I have been thinking of Walter Benjamin a lot of late, owning to the the fact that I have been dividing my time between painting and drawing, and purely digital work.  Working with this binary set of media I have been thinking about Benjamin's "aura of the original" in terms of the work that I have been producing, and how, despite my initial rejection of his ideas, I have come around to agree, at least in part, with what he was saying.

In my own egalitarian belief system, art and knowledge should be open to everyone, and reproducibility allows for that.  Through the means of books and the internet, information is passed from the few to the many.  Although, in terms of art, the passing of pure information can be enlightening, we loose the "aura of the original."

For Benjamin however, the loss of the aura does not necessarily have negative connotations, as it is tied to art's fetishistic impulses, and to primitive, feudal or bourgeois power structures; reproduction brings art to the view and control of the masses, leading to the shattering of it's aura.

While I can agree that the creation of an original creates in it a value that leaves it susceptible to fetish and ritual, there is something to be said for an original where the hand of its creator is visible.  As not only its aura, but its connection to the artist are in intact, in a way that is not possible with digital work, original pieces create a connection with the viewer, an immediacy, that is not possible with reproduction.

In the end, I can see a duality setting in, where artists work in two modes: the first, where artist work in traditional, tightly controlled originals.  In  the second, artists give up that control over their work for reproducible work that is easily disseminated among the masses.