Precis: Benjamin

Benjamin talks a good deal about the authenticity of works of art. For him, the concept of authenticity relies on the here and now. The here and now can be thought of as an artworks unique existence in a particular place at a particular time, and it includes the history to which the work has been subject. This history may include physical changes to the work and changes in its ownership.

When authenticity is thought of in these terms, no reproduction can ever fully encompass an original work, as the here and now are lost in the process of technological reproduction. Benjamin gives two reasons for this. First, the reproduction is independent from the original. And second, the reproduction can place a copy of the original in impossible situations, which devalues the here and now.

I think people can experience the here and now when they view art. If I’m looking at a famous painting and someone tells me that it’s not the original, my feelings of admiration for the work diminish to some degree. A replication is never as impressive as the original. But on the same token, if I’m looking at a replication of a famous work of art and someone tells me it’s the original, a false sense of the here and now is produced. It could be argued that the here and now are subjective and in the eye of the beholder.

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