(The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media, by Walter Benjamin)
I. THE PRODUCTION, REPRODUCTION, AND RECEPTION OF THE WORK OF ART
- ” [Riegl] Man is, however, not solely a being who takes in impressions through the senses — he is not only passive — but also a desiring — that is, active — being, who will interpret the world as it reveals itself to his desire (which changes according to race, place, and time).” Works of art — or rather details within the work of art — are thus the clearest source of a very particular kind of historical information. They encode not just the character of the artistic production of the age, but the character of parallel features of the society: its religion, philosophy, ethical structure, and institutions.
1. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility
- … … whereas the authentic work retains its full authority in the face of a reproduction made by hand, which it generally brands a forgery, this is not the case with technological reproduction … … First, technological reproduction is more independent of the original than is manual reproduction … … Second, technological reproduction can place the copy of the original in situations which the original itself cannot attain. Above all, it enables the original to meet the recipient halfway … … The cathedral leaves its site to be received in the studio of an art lover; the choral work performed in an auditorium or in the open air is enjoyed in a private room.
- … … for the first time in world history, technological reproducibility emancipates the work of art from its parasitic subservience to ritual. To an ever-increasing degree, the work reproduced becomes the reproduction of a work designed for reproducibility … … as soon as the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applied to artistic production, the whole social function of art is revolutionized. Instead of being founded on ritual, it is based on a different practice: politics.
- Art history might be seen as the working out of a tension between two polarities [artwork cult value and its exhibition value] within the artwork itself … … With the emancipation of specific artistic practices from the service of ritual, the opportunities for exhibiting their products increase.
- The state of their [Greek] technology compelled the Greeks to produce eternal values in their art … … Undoubtedly, our position lies at the opposite pole from that of the Greeks. Never before have artworks been technologically reproducible to such a degree and in such quantities as today … … The film is therefore the artwork most capable of improvement. And this capacity is linked to its radical renunciation of eternal value.
- … … the intervention in a performance by a body of experts is also characteristic … … of all test performances. The entire process of film production is determined, in fact, by such intervention … … The film actor performs not in front of an audience but in front of an apparatus … … To accomplish it is to preserve one’s humanity in the face of the apparatus. Interest in this performance is widespread. For the majority of city dwellers, throughout the workday in offices and factories, have to relinquish their humanity in the face of an apparatus. In the evening these same masses fill the cinemas, to witness the film actor taking revenge on their behalf not only by asserting his humanity against the apparatus, but by placing that apparatus in the service of his triumph.
- The magician maintains the natural distance between himself and the person treated; more precisely, he reduces it slightly by laying on his hands, but increases it greatly by his authority. The surgeon does exactly the reverse … … Magician is to surgeon as painter is to cinematographer. The painter maintains in his work a natural distance from reality, whereas the cinematographer penetrates deeply into its tissues.
prognostic: 预后; lithography: 石刻; elk: 麋鹿; countenance:面容; terra cotta: 兵马俑; hieroglyph: 象形文字; inkling: 暗示; clandestinely: 秘密
2. Theory of Distraction
- Just as the art of the Greeks was geared toward lasting, so the art of the present is geared toward becoming worn out. This may happen in two different ways: through consignment of the artwork to fashion or through the work’s refunctioning in politics.
III. PAINTING AND GRAPHICS
18. Painting and the Graphic Arts
- We might say that there are two sections through the substance of the world: the longitudinal section of painting and the transverse section of certain graphic works. The longitudinal section seems representational — it somehow contains things; the transverse section seems symbolic — it contains signs.