After Benjamin…

Below is a Jstore link to the essay “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered,” by Susan Buck-Morss. In the essay, she is responding to the last two paragraphs in Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproduction.” Buck-Morss’s essay has been transformative to my thinking surrounding photography, its contemporary role and the larger implications of a reproducible and ubiquitous medium. As Benjamin writes (n the face of fascism in a pre-WWII Europe),  I see parallels in the contemporary political and cultural climate in the Unites States with respect to media and images.

“The increasing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two sides of the same process…The masses has a right to change property relations; fascism seeks to give them expression in keeping these relations unchanged. The logical outcome of fascism is an aestheticizing of political life.”  (in the section XIX)

How true is this statement today when we think about political propaganda (the presidential debate being one example)! Think of the ways in which we engage in this reproducible medium in everyday life. How many times a day do you check your Instagram feed, watch television, see an advertisement? With an almost continuous engagement of images, have we become anesthetized to the image? What are the limits and repercussions of a completely reproducible medium?


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