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Charis Loke – Response to Walter Benjamin

October 21, 2009

That reading was probably the best embodiment of the reason why I’ve always kept a large distance from formal art classes. I would be very happy to go the rest of my life without talking about life and art in highly academic language, and I couldn’t care if that somehow makes me a lesser artist, a lesser person even, than people who do.

A feeble attempt to respond to the essay

A feeble attempt to respond to the essay that will somehow be utilized before the end of this post

Still, I shall soldier on in penning a response. I feel that he leaves out the rather crucial matter of the implications of creating a reproduction on the creator, and that the currently extremely expedited processes of reproduction still warrant attention to the effort of reproduction itself and are not to be taken for granted.  There is so much that goes into the production of a single negative of film – the discovery of the materials, research to produce better film and developing techniques, for example – and a production of a print from that negative. What more for other more time-consuming methods of mechanical and manual reproduction? Surely the act and experience of creating a reproduction deserves attention in itself. This is a more artist or creator-centric view than the viewer-centric view Benjamin adopts.

Benjamin also makes the point that the ‘aura’ of a work of art is derived from its tradition and historical experiences, but I feel that the aesthetic properties of the work itself should be part of the ‘aura’. After all, there must have been something about the original work that warranted its reproduction for viewing and surely a viewer can be affected personally by a print of a work of art as he/she is by the original work, at least in terms of the image portrayed, if not physical properties like texture and location. And a copy of the image reproduces most, if not all, of the aesthetic properties of the original work.

Hence the following hypothetical situation: suppose we had the most perfect reproduction of a work of art possible that to the naked eye it was indistinguishable from the original piece, and the situation illustrated in the comic above occurred. Identifying a piece as a ‘copy’ and tying it so strongly to the original artwork limits how we look at it and prevents the appreciation of the piece as a work of art in itself.

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