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Research Report by Jayne Goldsmith

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 11 months ago


Research Report: Film and the Reproduction of Art  


By Jayne Goldsmith, Borges: An Exploration in Modeling Team


 http://filer.case.edu/~ngb2/Graphics/benjamin-p.GIF  http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/images/tachihara_4495.jpg


1. Abstract:


        Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” examines the creation of mechanical reproduction and its effects on art.  He argues that it was the invention of photography that truly revolutionized reproduction. Later on, he notes, that film allowed for both visual and audio reproduction, which rids the art form of its aura and, in turn, changing the concept of art in its entirety.


2. Description:


       Walter Benjamin was a German-Jewish Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, and philosopher born in 1982. His work is heavily cited, especially his essays The Task of the Translator and the essay that this research project focuses on: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

In this well-known essay written in 1936, Walter Benjamin grapples with the new status and functions of art in the age of technology. He argues that there has always been the possibility and opportunity for a piece of art to be reproduced because it could be imitated, but with the creation of mechanical reproduction, everything changed.

    He notes that photography, an art form in itself, was able to revolutionize reproduction. It also, in fact, changed the meaning of what art is.  Benjamin believes that photography not only changed art because it was a new art form, but it allowed for the reproduction of old art forms. Paintings that could once only be seen from one location, could be viewed from anywhere in the world due to photographic reproduction of images. Also, places that could only be seen when visited, could be viewed in pictures.

    Another revolutionary art medium is film. It allowed for visual and eventually audio reproduction. A point that Benjamin made was that art has an aura that cannot be captured in reproductions. All film is a reproduction and therefore has no aura. Actors in film, for example, do not have the aura of stage actors. Film actors do scenes separately and even sometimes out of order. They only act for a camera, so they have no audience to connect with. Also, the editing of a film allows for an actor’s scene to be edited from many different views, with a focus on different things. The aura is gone and the audience is seeing what the whole production team wants them to see, not just the actor.

    Benjamin’s work focuses on images as it straddles the line between reality and art.


3. Commentary:


    This essay pertains to art, reality, and the reproduction of art—all of which apply to our team project on Borges’ “Of Exactitude of Science.” The two stories complement each other well.

    In “Of Exactitude of Science,” the world is covered by a life-size map and everyone is living in a type of hyper-reality. As time passes, the map slowly starts to get destroyed and the real world, having been covered for so long, is itself destroyed.

    In “The Work of Art in the Age of Reproduction,” Benjamin addresses the issue of art and reality. His ideas on photography and its ability to change reality and take people to a reproduction of a specific place coincides perfectly with the reproduction of reality in the Borges work.

    “…In photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will. And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images, which escape natural vision. Secondly, technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations, which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record. The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a lover of art; the choral production, performed in an auditorium or in the open air, resounds in the drawing room.” (Benjamin)

    Even further still, both of these works coincide with our actual project because it is a reproduction of art. We are going to make a film that is in a way a model, or a reproduction, of the Borges story—and will utilize these themes through story, setting, and shots. The use of “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” as a source gives the group the opportunity to better understand reproduction in relation to the fact that we are going to be using a video camera and creating a film, as well as in relation to the fact that our actual story has to do with reproduction (the map and the hyper reality).

    This work, however, has limitations as a source being that it was only written in 1936 and our course is an attempt to grapple with the new technology of today, especially the internet and computer programs. While our project itself does not directly rely on the internet, but does rely on film which related heavily to Benjamin’s essay, the basis of our project is based on the ideas presented to us in class, especially those utilized in various computer programs. Inspired by the programs we have seen in class, our group is going to have the camera shots complement the diction of the Borges’ story. While our project addresses new ideas that did not exist at the time that the Benjamin essay was written, I would like to think that the ideas from our project and the essay work together and that Walter Benjamin’s ideas will be reflected in our film.


4. Resources for Further Study


Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” from Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. New York: Schocken Books. 1968



Leslie, Esther. Walter Benjamin. London: Reaktion Books. 2008.





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