The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

The author traces back the history of graphic design, this chapter talks about the methods of reproduction of artwork which was viewed initially in the form of molds and stamps, then lithography which arrived long after scripts and hand-painted scenery that recorded a specific moment in time. The mechanics of Photography finally surpassed all these methods of reproduction because “…the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw”. Thus in this passage it is introduced that technical reproduction – related to print and the art of film- involving moving images and sound- have impacted the traditional forms greatly. The author states that all the reproductions of art no matter how perfect they may still lack in the aspect of time. Time here being an interaction of an artwork throughout the ages including changes in its physical being as well as in its ownership. He also mentions the idea of ‘authenticity’ and states that technical reproduction is in its very sense- forgery. An example that supports his statement is that, “process reproduction being more independent of the original than the manual reproduction”, which he then explains with the example of the zooming capacity of a camera lens however it is physically impossible to look at an artwork as if through a lens. Another important statement that is made in this chapter is that technical reproduction interferes with the aura of an artwork. “And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced “, In this line the author explains how the aura of a painting is disturbed and dissolved because prints enable viewers to view the artwork with respect to their own situations. The essay further traces the advent and style of photography, he states that photographs transformed into tools that capture historical occurrences as simple as abandoned streets invoking certain thoughts and sentiments in the mind of the viewer. The other kind of photography he touches upon are those that are present in magazines. He states that these pictures create norms of what one should and shouldn’t do. In another chapter the author speaks about the transformation of art and the idea of beauty to the idea of thought provoking scenarios that capture unrest, turmoil and real images of the world. In the area of film, it is stated that the personality of the actor and the personality of the character he plays are separate, which in turn suggests that the character is fake. Very rarely does one come across an actor who is also the personality of the character he/ she plays.

As a whole, the essay talks about how the artist and the viewer have changed over a period of time, of how the traditional idea of quantity has transformed into the idea of quality and compares the ideas of paintings, photography and film through various aspects.


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