Response to “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Walter Benjamin

September 25, 2007

“The desire of the contemporary masses to bring things closer spatially” – theme from the essay

This quote from Benjamin is particularly interesting to me because I feel that same desire within myself. There are how-many billion people in the world now? It is so big. Everyone feels it. We spend so much of our lives moving around and trying to get the space around us organized in particular manner. The space around us determines the way we feel and has a primary influence on our psyches. We have been talking about “virtual space” a lot since I started ITP. Virtual Space being the illusion of space created within the screen. Informationally, virtual space is coming closer and closer to comparing in complexity and richness with real physical space.

While original and singular pieces of artwork can only be seen in real physical space, in our current Age of Mechanical Reproduction, any piece of art can be replicated within a virtual space, as well as in physical space.

One thing that comes to mind as I talk about virtual space and the desire for closeness, is the historical search in the arts to create new space, primarily 2-dimensional technique like painting and drawing. I wonder whether I should have spent so much time drawing overlapping shapes and planes of text, trying to create the illusion of depth. Isn’t a screen on a computer a much simpler and more robust tool for doing the same thing? Why is it not as satisfying to me?

I have a beef against screens. I want to move, bump into things, feel their texture on my hands and get dirty. Screens bore into my head and my stomach gets upset because I don’t digest my food properly when I sit for hours in front of the computer.

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