Walter Benjamin – The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction : Critical Response

Walter BenjaminArt has always been reproducible – after all one of the main purposes of art is to make money. Throughout the years we have invented new technologies and techniques which advanced and improved the ways in which we reproduce artworks. Walter Benjamin explains how this decreases the value of art as well as creates other issues such as ownership and originality.

One of the means mentioned in the Mechanical Reproduction by which reproduction was carried out is Photography. When it was first discovered, it presented a more accurate way of duplicating works of art compared to previous methods used. It succeeded in capturing images which go beyond the human vision and produced detailed images which the human eye could have missed if he were to paint it. Thanks to photography, people were also capable of capturing a moment in time allowing them to keep a particular memory alive by means of a photograph. Family portraits became very famous and even pictures of dead people used to be kept for keepsake! The camera’s ability of capturing detailed photographs also changed the artists’ focus to creating interesting works rather than meticulous and precise ones which the camera could so easily produce.

However, as society continued to explore new ways and means of reproducing work, the value of art slowly began to decrease. One of the main point Walter Benjamin makes is that by reproducing an original artwork, you are devaluating it. It also makes the concept of ownership much more complicated. For example, by reproducing of the Mona Lisa and selling it in forms of posters, key-chains, ornaments etc. means that various people now  have some sort of ‘ownership’ of the Mona Lisa. This eliminates the uniqueness of the original artwork and also makes people question whether the the artwork is genuine and whether it is in fact the original.


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