"To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the 'authentic' print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice - politics."
"Question: Benjamin's argument still has a force, it still has a power to it?
I think in a deep way, yes. I don't mean that I would go to Benjamin now for the details, for detailed description of what it is like at the end of the twentieth century. But I think it was a really profound historical statement. I think that the shift that he is trying to pin-point which comes, which arises with the development of the modern means of visual production is really a very profound one and we are living after the break, so to speak, and Benjamin is the person who locates the break. And what he says about that, the disappearance of the uniqueness of the work of art, the disappearance of that sense of value and originality and even our image of what creativity is like which hovered around the unique picture. That is an entire epoch which will never come back in human history. And I think he put his finger on that and that is the real turning point. A number of important movements has happened since then. That first break was located in some areas of art, some areas of cultural representation and very much associated with an avant-garde. I think now at the end of the 20th century we see those processes really penetrating mass discourse, we now really live them. It's not the revolution in the museum, the revolution on everybody's walls, the revolution on everybody's television sets, in that sense we are a long way on, but in the same trough of revolutionary change that Benjamin identified for us."
(Stuart Hall, The Work of Art in the Electronic Age, p.14)
"...one can question indefinitely the degree, the rate of reality of which continues to be shown. It's something else which is taking place: circuits are functioning. They can nourish themselves with anything, they can devour anything and, as Benjamin said of the work of art, you can never really go back to the source, you can never interrogate an event, a character, a discourse about its degree of original reality. That's what I call hyperreality. Fundamentally, it's a domain where you can no longer interrogate the reality or unreality, the truth or falsity of something. We walk around in a sphere, a megasphere where things no longer have a reality principle. Rather a communication principle, a mediatising principle."
(Jean Baudrillard, The Work of Art in the Electronic Age, p.8)
"The work of art in the age of digital reproduction is physically and formally chameleon. There is no clear conceptual distinction now between original and reproduction in virtually any medium based in film, electronics, or telecommunications. As for the fine arts, the distinction is eroding, if not finally collapsed. The fictions of 'master' and 'copy' are now so entwined with each other that it is impossible to say where one begins and the other ends. In one sense, Walter Benjamin's proclamation of doom for the aura of originality, authored early in this century, is finally confirmed by these events. In another sense, the aura, supple and elastic, has stretched far beyond the boundaries of Benjamin's prophecy into the rich realm of production itself. Here in this realm, often mislabelled 'virtual' (it is actually a realer reality, or RR), both originality and traditional truth (symbolized by the unadorned photographic 'fact') are being enhanced, not betrayed.
But the work of art is not only changing its form and means of delivery. By far its most provocative extension is into the intimate bowels of our body, mind, and spirit. Besides this, all changes, even the Internet, even our recent evolution into the World Wide Web, pale. No single element of the messaging now going on disturbs the guardians of traditional modernity more than this single fact."
(Douglas Davis, The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction)
"Benjamin's and Brecht's enthusiasm and radicalism conceal a potentially one-sidedness. Thus the very democratization of art by means of reproduction is used to oust and reject all traditional forms of art associated with the performer and audience, owner and onlooker. Benjamin simply identifies 'aura', the aesthetic nimbus surrounding the work of art, with property, and mechanical reproduction with proletarianization. Of course, mechanical reproduction can be and is abused and absorbed by capitalism, and Benjamin was an early, perceptive diagnostician of this danger. As a preventative (or, if necessary, a cure) he argued for the social control of the media. In this there was nothing new. What was challenging was the suggestion that such social control would create new forms of art; more, that the politicization of the media was the same as the politicization of art. In other words, media and art were identified. The old distinction between form and content was abolished; form itself became political.
By thus collapsing content into form the range of forms may be restricted. Because Benjamin was the child of the first phase of a new technological era, when techniques like photo-montage had a direct political effect, he sometimes tended to isolate technique as politically effective in itself and to ignore that the politicization of technology involves the relations, as well as the means, of production."
(Stanley Mitchell, introduction, xvii, Understanding Brecht)
Through reproductive technology the 'aura' disappears along with notions of creativity under which the fiction of originality was maintained'. To take an obvious example, Sherrie Levine is an artist who simply re-photographs existing artists' work in much the same way as cultural theorists write with words and concepts that have already been written.
Benjamin proposed to abandon the conventional book form in favour of the essay. He wanted to write a book consisting entirely of quotations to undermine subjectivity and replace the conventional academic book form; 'an outdated mediation between two filing systems'. This 'collage' form made it possible for him to present incomplete, digressive texts, without proof or conclusion, in which he could assemble 'fragments' and 'close-ups' drawn from everyday life. Such use of quotation seems particularly fruitful in a hypertext environment where the connections and inter-textual relationships between quotations are as important as the substance of the quotations themselves. Through quotation one can enhance a piece of text by prizing it out of its habitual context, effectively transforming quotations (even though on a literal level they remain the same); a kind of 'transubstantiation'. In this way, spaces are made for the reader; it is a way of constructing a text for an 'active' reader, not merely following a considered, logical philosophical argument but weaving around concepts and ideas.