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Eve and Benjamin

October 22, 2009

Benjamin’s concept of aura as shattered by mechanical reproduction is antithetical to all contemporary cultural creations, given the conditions of mass public consumption and commodification. One could even say his conception is contrary to any artistic production in the past, present , and future because an art work is never totally original–it’s inevitably influenced by its social environment and artistic canon. Pop artists, specifically, make an excellent commentary on this dilemma of originality by appropriating works of past artists, newspaper articles, celebrity images, and known cultural iconography, in often mocking, satirical fashions, and sometimes even in homage.

Yasumasa Morimura  is a contemporary Japanese photographer who plays with this idea through his manipulation of Manet’s Olympia–substituting his own face for the three characters in the image. He undermines the seemingly factual nature of photographs, by making his work highly fictional and staged. He pays homage to past art forms–prior the the age of mechanical reproduction–by conflating his photography with the aura-filled art of painting. Moreover, his identity as a Japanese man contemplating a once very controversial European painting is at once challenging for the viewer and surprisingly appropriate.

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