Walter Benjamin The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

1450 Words6 Pages
‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’: how has the reproduction of images changed the development of art? Identify three works of your choice to support your argument.

This essay will start from Walter Benjamin’s consideration about the impact of mechanical reproduction of art as revolutionizing its social function and will describe the noticeable validity of his theory in the contemporary world. By introducing three artworks that belong to different historical periods, namely, the ‘Mechanical Head’ by Raoul Hausmann, ‘Furhead’ by John McHale and ‘Thirty Are Better Than One’ by Andy Warhol, the impact of photography and of the new technologies in contributing to the development of these works will be analysed.
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Raoul Hausmann, ‘Mechanical Head’:
Benjamin defines the Dada movement as a clear example of the attempt to “create by pictorial – and literary – means the effects which public today seeks in the film” (Benjamin, 1968: 13). The reproducibility of art eliminates its uniqueness – its “aura” – in favour of an adaptation to the tools of modernity, transforming the role of the artist in the one of the engineer and his work in a construction. Haussman’s work moves between political criticisms, as he tries to exemplify in this head the example of the modern man, and scientific approaches, as he uses new technological techniques such as montage and photomontage as a tool for his art.
John McHale, ‘Furhead’:
This work is a representation of how mechanical reproduction of art leads to artworks that take the form of communicative gestures such as newspaper and demonstrates how art and non-art are interchangeable and how the role of the artist is not anymore defined by the art object itself. The shape of a face created through different fragments of magazines and postcards is a symbolic image of man that, as McHale sustains “matches up the requirements of constant change, fleeting impression and a high rate of obsolence” (McHale, 2011: 33).
Andy Warhol, ‘Thirty Are Better Than One’:
The last artwork is another example of how the modern world of repetition leads to the
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