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."
Hello from artMovingProjects it's time to come out of the pedestal.
I have another post, and then I'll come out and hang with y'all.
meme'd? I'd watch that show.
in the days pre-Thatcher and Reagan I would read folks like Benjamin and also the german functioanlists and think wow what a way to think about life. After a dose of undiluted capitalism I sense we wasted a lot of time back then with complex ideas translated from complex languages when we shoujld have been refreshing our ideas base. In short too much obeisance to the past give's the anti-culture do-ers too much of a free hand so I'm now in the keep your historical references light club.
And better grammar would help - sorry it's my keyboard
Spending several paragraphs wrangling over what an essay means is a bad thing? Hopefully not everyone thinks so, and when the essay is as significant as Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (significant not in what it says but in the status it has come to enjoy in the art world) such wrangling can be pretty satisfying. Curious that a conversation would undergo a critique, too; but our dialogue somehow managed to get a bad review and evidently we're better off talking about more accessible (and let's not forget fun) things. Why bother with Greenberg at all, when those Dave Hickey books are out there? After all, "informative" can be so boring.
The over-reaching of art theory enthusiasts is well known. But, bad flashbacks notwithstanding, the cudgel shouldn't be ripped from their hands only to be used by "lesser minds" in a beat down of their own. (I don't really believe in the "lesser minds" notion, though I agree with your sentiments.) Ultimately your take on mine and Nathaniel's conversation, at least as you wrote about it, represents an approach that drives me bonkers, for among other reasons the AM talk radio tactics it employs. I'm not so sure the essay is quaint. I might be of a "more things change, the more they stay the same" mindset, because it seems a lot of the things Benjamin is examining are very much in play here in the nth generation of mechanical reproduction.
Anti-intellectual. Yahoo. Misleading. AM talk radio tactics (i.e., right wing).
Pardon, Tom, I'm not trying to be insulting. I felt the original post dealing with this conversation was dismissive of what was important to Nathaniel and I, and the trend of comments in its wake irk me. Ultimately I found it odd that the conversation garnered judgement in the first place (short of you participating in it).
Stern's work had been discussed over several posts by Paddy Johnson regarding the Creative Commons conference in Dubrovnik and art Stern created in connection with that conference. He mentioned Benjamin in support or defense of that work. You apparently aren't interested in it, or that discussion, but wanted to discuss "the essay" (Benjamin's).
I'm not slinging mud, Tom, and I've tried to apologize for my over-heated rhetoric. You're right, let's end our dust-up.