chapter  6
19 Pages

MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION IN THE AGE OF ART

The enormous impact on cultural theory of Walter Benjamin’s famous essay on “The work of art in the age of its mechanical reproducibility” is largely due to his claim that photography has “transformed the entire nature of art,” destroying its semblance of autonomy in relation to social and political processes, and liquidating “the traditional value of the cultural heritage.”1 Photographs (and especially moving pictures) cannot, he believed, be invested with the “aura” of timelessness and sanctity which Benjamin saw as essential to the classical artwork; they give themselves not to aesthetic contemplation by a chosen few but to absorption by the masses, who in this way acquire a mode of experience adequate to the social changes called for by technological development.