1160531593 - Walter Benjamin The Work of Art in the Age of...

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Walter Benjamin “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” Overview and Discussion Questions Benjamin’s essay sets out from a Marxist perspective in order to attempt to describe how changes in artistic modes of production have transformed art. That is, he asks how the development of new technologies of “mechanical reproduction”—of greatest import for the development of photography and film—have changed the nature of art and the experience of viewing art. For Benjamin, mechanical reproduction represents those technologies that enable images to be mass produced, like the printing press or the technology behind still and video photography. These technologies make it possible to perceive the world in radically different ways, and fundamentally alter aesthetic experience. The first few sections of the essay outline a history of art in the West in order to provide a sense of what exactly changes when large scale reproduction of paintings, images or movies become available for viewing by large masses of people. Mechanical reproduction, Benjamin argues, eliminates the “aura” traditionally associated with art.
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