Monday, February 7, 2011

I found the Walter Benjamin’s piece on Art to be a little opaque, but really interesting. Namely, I was intrigued by his argument that mass reproduction has freed art from its relationship with ritual. Benjamin explains, “for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art form its parasitical dependence on ritual” (4). I normally associate rituals with artwork, but I do not typically consider the act of viewing art as a ritual. While he does an exemplary job demystifying the impact of mechanical reproduction on the viewing and interpretation of artwork, I wish that Benjamin would have focused more on the role of mechanical reproduction in shaping public views of authorship. I recently heard a news story which reported that historians think that they finally discovered the identity of the model for Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (his male assistant and possible lover). The Mona Lisa is obviously a priceless triumph of art, but I think it is interesting how interconnected the value of art is with its creator. In many ways we are just as interested in the story behind the painting, and the author, as we are the piece itself. Thus, my question concerns the impact of mechanical reproduction (and social networks) on authorship. Do you believe that mass production enhanced the role of the author by allowing for specific works of art to receive broad appeal and following? Or, has the vast increase in dissemination made the author less relevant?

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