Benjamin (1936) »Digital Reproduction (2019)

I’ve previously journeyed from Angelo to Berger to Benjamin back in time to 1936 to the origin of an idea in a different world.

By Then&Now [YouTube]

But the ideas in Benjamin’s landmark essay and Berger’s much later work in the 1970s endure. I’m interest to understand how they have been recontextualised for the digital age and with the passing of history. References are noted below.

Douglas Davis notes that Benjamin’s logic on the devaluing of the ‘aura’ of originality was correct, but hasn’t been realised (as the world is not necessarily logical). He points to the thriving auction houses all plying their trade based on selling original and authentic items.

What has become less certain is the connection between seeing and knowing; James Brindle observes that as we are faced with seas of images and vast information resources in our lives, the world has paradoxically become more confusing – infinite meanings as we move further from the source. ‘The more we see the less we know’.

Perhaps most importantly, Jia Fei and Douglas Davis both suggest that the aura doesn’t reside in the thing itself but in the moment we ‘see, hear, repeat, revise’. Jia Fei argues that art will become social objects defined by conversations. She refers to the way social media (Instagram specifically) is used to share reproductions of art and interactions with art.

To borrow from Berger, one might say, ‘The relation between what we see and what we know is unsettled and fluid’. The only certainty is ambiguity. This reminds me of my disenchantment when I realised the canal was not what I expected; what I thought I knew was not what I saw. I think there may be something in overlaying this unsettled relationship with the ideas of understanding places through cultural geography.


Art in the Age of Instagram [TEDx] (s.d.) Directed by Jia Fei At: (Accessed 13/12/2019).
Davis, D. (1935) ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction’ In: Leonardo 28 (5) p.381.
New Ways of Seeing, Machine Visions [BBC Radio 4] (s.d.) Directed by James Brindle At: (Accessed 13/12/2019).