Saturday, September 16, 2017

Reflection Post - "Work as Worship" - 9/4/2017

This week, my workload for the semester began to start picking up speed. Normally, this would be something that discouraged me from even trying in school. Why try if I might fail? That's how the old me used to think. However I've come to a point in my life where not trying is no longer an option, and I've spent too many years "preserving energy" so I wouldn't have to do anything, and therefore not fail. Doing nothing, I have found out, is a failure. A failure to see the beauty and potential in almost everything that we can do with our minds and bodies in the 21st Century. This is why I am excited to be in school. There have been many times in my creative career where some idea or opportunity has motivated me to create, but I failed to see the importance of approaching all aspects of my life with the same mindset.

So, this semester I have decided to approach everything that life demands of me with a heart of devotion, with curiosity and mindfulness as the instruments of my devotion. What can I learn about myself when I really clean my room? I mean really clean my room. I still haven't done this, and I'm not sure I will like what I find out when I do.

The most challenging thing for me this semester will be complete attention and devotion to my schoolwork in a place that still feels foreign to me, surrounded by extremely talented and competitive colleagues who are probably more disciplined than me. I cannot let myself focus on this. The line of thinking ends with me giving up for the potential risk of failure. I need to engage in all aspects of my life with devotion, regardless of the outcome.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sketches for the CNC Demo

Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction - Response

I have been confronted with this essay three times now in my undergraduate career and during every read, Benjamin's core arguments have been revealed more clearly to me, however flawed or outdated they may be after 81 years of technological progression. Despite this, this essay causes my thoughts to race in an inspired way. Can an artist create authentic and largely reproducible work? Am I a magician or a surgeon? And most importantly, what do our current technologies imply about the future? Benjamin's Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction can at the very least give practitioners of the arts applied insight of Marxism in the 20th Century and the importance of distinguishable work in the age of an oversaturated market full of reproduced work in the 21st Century.

            Benjamin built his argument off of two principles: the role of Marxism, where reproduced art meets economic and political utility, and the function of authorship in a world where it is becoming easier and easier to reproduce work. In the closing of the essay, he argued that, “only war makes it possible to mobilize all of today’s technical resources while maintaining the property system”. This was clearly the case with the Nazi and communist regimes of China and Russia, where propaganda played a large role in the proliferation of their ideals. However, I believe that art outside of the practice of propaganda in the 20th Century, despite being produced on a large scale had cultural significance. Film and photography has the ability to reach massive audiences, where before their popularity the arts were reserved to those who visited galleries. While these mediums surely were used to further the agendas of dogmatic regimes, there are endless examples of its value outside of the political sphere.

            Next, Benjamin argues that mechanical reproduction reverses the function of making art. Before the age of mechanical reproduction, art was a ritualistic practice. Now, the motive is political. I really enjoyed his approach to this idea, but after nearly 80 years of technological progression, I think his conclusion has been proven only to be partially true.

“Confronted with its manual reproduction, which was usually branded as a forgery, the original preserved all its authority; not so vis `a vis technical reproduction. The reason is twofold. First, process reproduction is more independent of the original than manual reproduction. For example, in photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens...” (Walter Benjamin)

Here I think Benjamin actually makes his own argument invalid, or at the very least he brings to light a convergence in which two approaches can be taken to explore authorship in reproduction. One follows his own line of thinking. When an art object is designed to be reproduced, it loses it’s “aura” as well as its authority and originality. The act of reproduction detaches the creator from the object and it's audience. I would offer an opposing perspective. When an art object is designed to be reproduced, especially in today’s technological age, the author forfeits his command over its intended response. However, this has always been something the artist has had to grapple with, as people bring their own experiences and perception to the art gallery and impose their own interpretation on a work. This is something I think Benjamin has overlooked in his essay. However, the aura within a reproducible object can still remain intact, however distorted it may be. The ability of technology like the photograph or film to examine parts of the human experience we normally would not perceive lends even more creative freedom and authority to the author to explore new territories, which the traditional arts could never articulate. 

            Given the information Walter Benjamin had, I think he did an excellent job extracting out real questions that people needed to ask in the 20th Century in the midst of a rapidly evolving society. What I am left with now, and something I would really like to explore in my own work, is what’s next? I often find myself overwhelmed with the amount of content on the internet. So many people doing incredible creative things and using the internet to gain exposure. It is simply impossible to recognize all the work out there, let alone innovate and do something new. I have always been interested in channeling the collective consciousness of the creative population and doing something with all the amazing information that benefits both my life locally and the world at large. I hope to explore this question throughout this semester in Digital Multimedia.