Essay Post #4 Class#8, Class#9

Due: 8/13/18 Monday 12:00 AM

The Gaze. Read: Susan Sontag “In Plato’s Cave” TBA

Shifts in Production: Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Read: Walter Benjamin “The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

  1. Consider the following statement about Susan Sontag’s essay “In Plato’s Cave”

Sontag claims that like the Plato’s Cave allegory, when anyone looks at a photograph it is only an image of the truth, so what they see is not always entirely true without explanation. In the Plato’s Cave story, the shadows cast upon the wall that the trapped prisoners see are much different than the real objects in front of the fire . The allegory shows that the prisoners in the cave only see an image of reality which is the shadow, but never the real objects behind them. Sontag compares the allegory of these shadows to photos and reality, saying that photos are like shadows: they are not real. Also, photos can be doctored: scale changes, cropping, retouching, aging, and can be bought and sold. This example reveals the falseness of photos: that they can only be as true as anyone thinks, even if they are not. Even if someone were to believe a photo’s purpose or appearance to be entirely true, it could still, however, be completely false.

I would like you to consider this statement and compare it’s relevance to today’s practice and use of photography within the current social media landscape such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

A. Sontag also warns, the act of taking a picture is “predatory”, because once a photo is taken it can be used against anyone in a repulsive way, whether the victim is aware of it or not. The posting of photos on social media platforms can be used as negative way to inflict harm to another person. How has this ability effected the way humans interact and tolerate one another in the digital realm and in everyday society?

B. In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. How does ethics play in the role of observing interpreting image on a social media platform?

2. For the 2nd part of this blog post I would like for you to select a photographic image that through time has changed in it’s meaning, or lost it’s aura or authenticity due to it’s status as a reproducible replication of it’s implied content or narrative intent.

The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

AURA The aura is an effect of a work of art being uniquely present in time and space. It is connected to the idea of authenticity. A reproduced artwork is never fully present. If there is no original, it is never fully present anywhere. Authenticity cannot be reproduced, and disappears when everything is reproduced. Benjamin thinks that even the original is depreciated, because it is no longer unique. Along with their authenticity, objects also lose their authority. The masses contribute to the loss of aura by seeking constantly to bring things closer. They create reproducible realities and hence destroy uniqueness.
The sense of the aura is lost on film and the reproducible image itself demonstrates a historical shift that we have to take account of even if when we don’t necessarily notice it.

What does it mean when the aura is lost?

How does it function and how does it come about?

How does the mechanically reproduced work of art manage to make up for this void?


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