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The Aura of the Work of Art in Benjamin's Philosophy

Zovko, Jure; Zovko, Marie-Élise
The Aura of the Work of Art in Benjamin's Philosophy // Identität? Hermeneutische Erkundungen / Zovko, Jure (ur.).
Berlin: Parerga, 2008. str. 145-156

The Aura of the Work of Art in Benjamin's Philosophy

Zovko, Jure ; Zovko, Marie-Élise

Vrsta, podvrsta i kategorija rada
Poglavlja u knjigama, znanstveni

Identität? Hermeneutische Erkundungen

Zovko, Jure




Raspon stranica


Ključne riječi
Aesthetics, work of art, sacral character, aura, reproduction, photography, film, Benjamin, Hegel

Art today has by and large lost its cultic or religious significance. Cut off from its originally sacral character, art becomes the object of a purely aesthetic judgement, an object of study to philosophy of art and the science of culture. Walter Benjamin maintains that radical changes were witnessed by the visual arts in the 20th century. In the gradual process of its secularisation in the Renaissance, the work of art initially preserved its sacral character, which Benjamin calls its “ aura” , primarily by reason of the emphasis placed on the question of its authenticity. Once the cultic dimension of the work of art was lost, artistic production, created a new form of aura, which consisted in the exhibition value of the work of art, based not on its sacredness but on its absolute individuality, as the unique production of a single artist created in a singularly unique spatio-temporal context.The signum of authenticity was thus raised to the level of holiness, relegating copies or reproductions to the status of forgeries. Until the the invention of photography and the advent of mass production and reproduction, the aura of the work of art succeeded in resisting the encroachment of all forms of imitative representation. Mechanical reproduction, however, went on to strip artistic creation of this last remnant of its original aura. As Benjamin sees it, with the advent of photography and film, the work of art lost even this singularity: the aura of its irreplicable authenticity, “ its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” "The Aura of the Work of Art", traces Hegel's and Benjamin's discussion of the transformation of the work of art and its relevance for our experience of art today, reflecting on central questions such as whether the “ tremendous shattering of tradition” caused by the daily mechanical reproduction of artwork in film and photography in fact signifies the full emancipation of the work of art, or whether the advance of film as an art form intended for the wider masses resulted, as Benjamin hoped, in the democratisation of art, contributing thus to a corresponding change in human consciousness ; or whether, as Adorno believed, the technical reproduction of the work of art has led to its devaluation, reducing it to the equivalent of merchandise and subjugating it to the laws which govern the market economy ; and whether consumption has become the sole criterion for establishing the reputation of the artist, producing instead of artists, media stars, possessed of an illusory and transient aura of their own. The paper considers the crisis in the value and significance of the work of art caused by the mass reproduceability and multiplicability of original works of art and the attempt of artists to preserve the aura of artistic creation. Benjamin’ s concept of socially committed art is referred to its origins in German Romantic philosophy, especially to Fr. Schlegel's idea of a "progressive universal poetry", with its goal of "poeticising" life and society and making poetry and art “ alive and social” ; as well as to Novalis' attempt to "romanticise" the world by revealing the relationship of the mysterious to the ordinary, the dignity of the unknown with respect what is known, lending therewith "an infinite glow to that which is finite."

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Projekt / tema
191-0000000-2733 - Platonizam i oblici inteligencije (Marie-Elise Zovko, )

Institut za filozofiju, Zagreb