Can Mechanical Reproduction Destroy Arts Aura?

Our planet has experienced thousands of sensational paintings that stand the test of time. These paintings consistently make us ponder over what they really mean; we question their authenticity and become stunned by their glory. However, due to mechanical reproduction we are now all aware of the Mona Lisa and Picasso’s great paintings. The question is does having all these great pictures at the edge of our finger tips destroy their aura?

Benjamin Walter’s defines aura as if it is a special unique essence and a magical glow, now we all can see these pictures whenever we want has it destroyed what is really magical about the painting. Inevitably it potentially can because seeing the Mona Lisa across the internet thousands of times across the internet, you are all very familiar to what it looks like and you will not be as stunned as you would be seeing it in person. This means that mechanical reproduction of the painting has destroyed its aura.

Years ago, there use to be only one Mona Lisa an original, with an unmatched aura. Now there are thousands of replicated pictures all spread across the whole internet and hundreds of paintings in museums. This means when you do see the original you will feel nothing or less, you will just see the Mona Lisa, the picture you have seen thousands of times.

This proves that photography of something so magical and magnificent can be tarnished by consistent replication and wide spread media.

Take this image for example:

Edvard Munch’s The Scream

This is Edvard Munch’s famous scream, as you all know. You would have seen this thousands of time and probably now not even give it a second glance. Looking at this picture through a monitor, from a picture taking by a camera of a picture that is not even the authentic painting, this shows that pictures and wide spread media can destroy the paintings aura, now it is just another picture.  This has destroyed the beauty of the piece of art because we have become accustom to such an art phenomena.

Walter’s argues that aura is not just apparent in art but all things and media and photography have damaged the original beauty. However, the argument is does art really have an aura? Some believe we should not preserve such paintings and keep to the original in order to maintain its true essence. It is now part of our modern day era to replicate, reproduce and over use every bit of beauty we have on our planet, until it is no longer beautiful.

Walters goes on to argue that the aura in art can be destroyed purely by a camera lens. He believed that the aura in acting is destroyed as it is pre- prepared acting with no originality or atmosphere; he believed that the aura can only be created through a connection with a crowd. Meaning theatres made this special aura, because of the crowd forming a connection and the chance that if the actor made the mistake it the play could be ruined.  He argued that this was true aura, and aura could not be transmitted through a lens.

He takes this and applies it to all matters, whether it is tragic or beautiful the true aura is never captured because it is mechanically reproduced time and time again. To conclude, mechanical reproduction can and has destroyed aura. Aura cannot be captured, it cannot replicate that true essence, art is there to enjoy in all its glory as it is in its original form.  We should try our best to preserve this beauty. Try reading Benjamin Walter’s (1936) article – “The Art of Work in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.

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