Summary Of Walter Benjamin's Illusions By Walter Benjamin

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Allison Wessels February 7, 2018 Illuminations by Walter Benjamin Walter Benjamin, a German Jewish philosopher, wrote the book Illusions, in which contains a chapter called The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, that was one of his best essays. In it he explains the shift in perception of humanities entire mode of existence due to the effects of film and photography of the twentieth century. He starts the book off with a quote from Paul Valery and some thoughts about Karl Marx and capitalism to slowly introduce the reader to the idea of mass production of artwork. Focusing on primarily the first seven sections of his book he writes about how different works of art are reproduce in two different ways, mechanical and technical,…show more content…
Benjamin writes, “The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity.” He then goes on to explain two other ways that artwork can be reproduced such as process reproduction and manual reproduction. In process reproduction in photography it has the ability to bring out aspects of the original object that were otherwise unattainable by the naked eye. This process reproduction is much more independent of the original which can interfere with an images authenticity. “The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible form its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced.” This authenticity is also tied into the term “aura” that also withers with mechanical reproduction of art. The aura is, “the symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art.” Mechanical reproduction detaches a piece of art from its tradition in its way to bring it to the masses. Benjamin ends section two with a quote from Abel Gance from 1927 that says, “Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Beethoven will make films… all legends, all mythologies and all myths, all founder of religion, and the very religions … await their exposed resurrection, and the heroes crowd each other a t the…show more content…
The argument was whether or not photography was art. Soon this argument was asked about film and whether it was art because it seemed to transform the entire nature of art. Walter also inserted quotes from Abel Gance, Severin Mars and Alexandre Arnoux about their thought as to what actually constitutes for art. Wlater Benjamin then wrote,”It is instructive to note how their desire to class the film among the “arts” forces these theoreticians to read ritual elements into it – with a striking lack of discretion. Even today authors give film a similar contextual significance if not outright sacred one, then at least a supernatural one. Benjamin then ends section seven with a statement that comments on Max Reinhardt’s film A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “The film has not yet realized its true meaning, its real possibilities … these consist in its unique faculty to express by natural means and with incomparable persuasiveness all that is fairylike, marvelous, supernatural.” It seems that Max does value film as a new style of art and would support it in the dispute of whether or not photography and film is an

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