Posts Tagged ‘aura’

We will begin here with Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility” (Second Version of 1936). (I’m not going to justify using this version except to say that there are aspects to it that exceed Adorno’s policing of Walter!)

W.J.T. Mitchell has clarified the genealogy that ties Benjamin’s “Artwork” essay to an effective diagramming of our present. “I will state it as a bald proposition, then, that biocybernetic reproduction has replaced Walter Benjamin’s mechanical reproduction as the fundamental technical determinant of our age. If mechanical reproducibility (photography, cinema, and associated industrial processes like the assembly line) dominated the era of modernism, biocybernetic reproduction (high-speed computing, video, digital imaging, virtual reality, the internet, and the industrialization of genetic engineering) dominates the age that we have called ‘postmodern.’ This term, which played its role as a place-holder in the 1970s and 80s, now seems to have outlived its usefulness, and is ready to be replaced by more descriptive notions such as biocybernetics” (W. J. T. Mitchell, “The Work of Art in the Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction” 486-87).

One of the first things that strikes me in Benjamin’s oft-cited essay is the notion that concepts must be created that can track, or account for the tendencies of capitalist cultural production–or rather cultural production under capitalism, and that these concepts aspire to the status of being completely useless for fascism. So Benjamin poses to us a question that, while having lost none of its pertinence, seems nonetheless so distant today, to us doubly ironic, postcolonial postmoderns. And that is can concepts–in their form and function–exceed Potestas-Power-Domination-Capital-Fascism? These are by no means all the same thing, but certainly there is a sense that Benjamin wanted to develop a kind of critique that would reject and dismantle the foundations of thought under fascism-capitalism.

It reminds me of Michel Foucault’s celebration of Anti-Oedipus as a handbook for an anti-fascist life (cf. the Foreword); it reminds me as well of Negri’s repeated assertion that today there is nothing outside of Power, and all nodes of resistance (through potentia) are produced as part of its very functioning.
Read on: “But let us return to Benjamin…”

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