*We will use the batch system. Your exam will be divided into three parts: objective/enumeration, matching,and true or false.
Human experiences of art have been significantly, changed in this postmodern age of the Internet, videos, CDs, advertising, postcards, and posters. But for good or ill?
Benjamin and tarnished auras
Perhaps the power of the painter’s images or the musician’s sounds is eroded in reproductions so that we miss out something that emanates from the original. Philosopher and social critic Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) called this missing quality the aura in his 1936 essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. Benjamin celebrated the newer, more democratic forms of art that photography facilities. He believed that mass reproduction contributed to human emancipation by promoting new modes of critical perception.
The aura of older of artworks stemmed from their special power in religious cults and their unique situation in time and space. Special and unique objects were somehow decorated, used, and treasured as part of these ceremonies and acquired a precious, sacred aura. But art evolved in over many centuries as humans created modes of mechanical reproduction to share and disseminate art. And in particular the invention of photography made the original less relevant.
The Canadian Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) also believed that new technologies promote democracy and enhance human perception. In claiming ‘the medium is the message’, McLuhan meant that content matters less than structures of media; they shape human consciousness in profound ways. New media offer an aid or prosthesis that changes our senses and even brains to promote non-linear, mosaic thinking, as viewers fill in the blanks in continuously updated inputs.
Baudrillard in Disneyland
The third and final theorist is French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard. Key terms in Baudrillard’s postmodern lexicon include simulation, the hyperreal, implosion of the masses, self-seduction, and the transparency of evil.
The hyperreal is something more real than real: something fake and artificial that comes to be more definitive of the real than reality itself. A simulation is a copy or imitation that substitutes reality. Baudrillard’s phrase ‘the transparency of evil’ suggests that old-fashioned evil, like the evil in the Bible, Greek tragedies, or even horror movies, has been flattened out and copied into millions of indifferent images.
Re-spinning the Web
What would our theorists make of the World Wide Web? Benjamin would be impressed that the Web is a fairly democratic space for art. McLuhan would be ambivalent about the Web. It fosters mosaic thinking, since hypertext is non-linear: links tempt one to mouse-clicks and lead to further paths of exploration. Finally, Baudrillard has long predicted the disappearance of reality and our absorption into screens in the era of cyberspace and the Web.
Freeland, Cynthia. Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction.Oxford U Press: New York, 2001.