So today for my art course I read Walter Benjamin's "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." While perhaps a little antiquated, I nevertheless enjoyed it and would recommend it, the full text can be found at [link]
I figured my response to it is related to what I do here on this site, and figured I would share it:
I found Benjamin's discussion of auras particularly interesting, and it definitely struck a chord with my own experiences. For instance, when I was in Paris; I had seen many photos of various pieces in the Louvre, but actually being there and seeing them in person had a profoundly different effect.
It also got me thinking about my own art, most of which is predominantly, if not entirely, digital. Benjamin argues that mechanical reproduction of a physical piece – that is, a piece that exists in a physical, tangible form – strips it of its aura. But what about a piece that's original form is non-physical, but rather digital (which in a sense is mechanical)? Does a piece's existence in a purely digital form mean that it inherently lacks an aura?
I would argue that digital pieces do retain an aura, but that these digital auras are not identical to their physical counterparts. You may search for a particular image and get thousands of seemingly identical results, but somewhere on the internet there was the first instance of that image. It may be lost or defunct, but the point is it came from somewhere. I think the aura of a digital image is more noticeable now due to social media; sites like Tumblr keep records of an image's history, giving the original poster's identity and that of every subsequent 'reblog' and share. This gives the impression that there is a source, a point at which you cannot trace the image any further back in time. I find it an interesting experience; often I will come across an image or a piece of digital art as the latest person in a string of tens of thousands of people. If I like said image, more often than not I will go in search of the 'original piece,' even if the version I have come across is of high quality; to me, there is something innately satisfying about viewing the piece in its original form and context, something that adds to the experience of the piece.