Benjamin and Rancière

Benjamin analyzes the issue of authenticity and technological reproducibility. “Around 1900, technological reproduction not only had reached a standard that permitted it to reproduce all known works of art, profoundly modifying their effect, bit it also captured a place of its own among the artistic processes” (p. 21). What constitutes  the authenticity of a work of art, and how does its manual reproduction differ from a technological one? According to Benjamin, the full authenticity of an original work of art is stronger when compared to a manual reproduction, usually used with the purpose of forgery. Instead, “technological reproduction is more independent of the original” (p. 21). This is principally because technological reproduction can change the function of an original work of art by placing “the copy of the original in situations in which the original itself cannot attain” (p.21). Benjamin also talks about the “tension between two polarities within the artwork itself: […] the artwork’s cult value and its exhibition value” (p. 25). The birth of artistic practice lays in religious ritual, so originally art’s cult value greatly overpowered its exhibition value (think of a god’s statue inside a temple that can be accessed only by one high priest). “With the emancipation of artistic practices from the service of ritual, the opportunities for exhibiting their products increase” (p.25). In Benjamin vision, film is the artistic practice that perfectly exemplifies this shift, because the main characteristic of the medium itself is its reproducibility.

In “The Aesthetic Revolution and its Outcomes,” Rancière compares artistic practice to industrial production: “Both industrial production and artistic creation are committed to doing something else than what they do – to create not only objects but a sensorium, a new partition of the perceptible.” In the age of “infinite reduplication,” where art becomes a commodity that homogenizes the sensible world, “the avant-garde must indefinitely draw the dividing-line that separates art from commodity culture […] to denounce both the promises of revolutionary avant-gardism and the entropy of commodity aestheticization” (p. 148).


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