Response to Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

It was interesting to me to describe film as a return of the hieroglyph, and that in the absence of “ritual”, modern art has taken on social and physical functions. This seems to relate to Foster’s portrayal of media as mere information nuggets in “The Machine Stops” rather than as traditional “art”. Also consistent with Foster’s text is the notion of consumption of reproduced art as a separate experience from witnessing the authentic work complete with “aura”. In Foster’s text, Vashanti sees no need for direct experience or for witnessing such an “aura”, having already read witness accounts and having seen two-dimensional pictures depicting places and events. Foster clearly argues that this mode of experience is inferior through his weak, desensitized characters, although such a judgment seems less clear in the Benjamin text.

I would argue that the basic premise that art in the age of reproduction must necessarily be politicized in the absence of ritualistic purpose may be untrue. Due to the fact that any reader/viewer can now be an author, it seems that the represented viewpoints and purposes for building art would be too diverse, malformed, and contradictory to be consistently politicized. It seems that Benjamin’s idea that “the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character” in literature and film supports this idea. Even though Benjamin only suggests that the proletariat can participate in film through their consequential appearance in Soviet film, we have superseded that expectation and now all viewers can become creators via YouTube and accessible video equipment. Since the production of these communicative arts such as literature and film truly do belong to everyone it seems to me that the everyday individual may lack either the intent or skill required to produce politicized work.