Language of Immediacy: Authenticity as a Premise in Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility

Christoph Zeller

Abstract

Walter Benjamin’s essay on The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility is as popular as it is disputed. Although illuminating different qualities of artworks and their perception, the historical shift from auratic to reproducible art is inconsistent. This inconsistency, as this article suggests, is caused by the concept of authenticity that Benjamin applies to both auratic and reproducible art. Authenticity refers to the utopian ideas of ‘purity,’ ‘unity,’ ‘truth,’ and ‘originality’ that dominated avant-garde aesthetics in the early twentieth century. Since then, ‘authentic’ artworks commonly either hint at an inaccessible origin beyond their medial status (auratic art) or emphasize their mediality by declaring the elements of art their ‘truth’ (reproducible art). Benjamin’s explorations of media, aesthetics, and culture draw on this under-researched, dualistic idea of mediated immediacy. (CZ)

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