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tom moody

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Since at least the '60s philosopher Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" has been a favorite for conceptualist artists working with imagery to cite in support of their work whether it actually supports it or not. Benjamin's style is murky and delphic compared to say, Clement Greenberg's, making it easier for people to pick and choose suitable phrases from it, even though much of "WAAMR"'s content was aimed at a very specific set of political circumstances (the rise of fascism in the '30s--the print era) that would seem to make it inapplicable to someone making present day art. To the extent it is used as the basis for a discussion of multiples vs originals in the art market it is a blueprint for boredom, and not good boredom. That kind of talk is dull because it's mostly about money--the context here was Creative Commons licenses and how much freedom they give the artist to also sell work.

The "here" in the last sentence is a discussion over at Paddy Johnson's blog between artist Nathaniel Stern and commenter David McBride. McBride attempts to correct Stern's reading of the Benjamin essay and then they spend several paragraphs wrangling over what the essay means, both back in the day and now. It doesn't help that the two aren't speaking the same language: Stern uses "meme" as an adjective ("meme'd") and McBride thinks he means "copied"; Stern thinks "aura" as Benjamin uses it is a form of "value" (it was really more like "residue of religious power"). Then there's the question of whether "to exploit" is good or bad. These appear to be generational misunderstandings. In any case the back and forth is interesting, if only to convince you to stay out of Benjamin country and stick to something informative and fun like "Avant Garde & Kitsch."

- tom moody 6-24-2007 10:47 pm [link] [12 comments]