In this text, Benjamin mainly talks about the effect of modern forms of technological reproduction on art as the title describes. The essay first gives a glimpse on the development of reproduction of art throughout history starting from woodcut, lithography until the appearance of photography and cinema which created a drastic change in the artistic field.
On the other hand, it discusses the concept of the “aura” which refers to the uniqueness and authenticity of the work of art. This aura was lost in modern times because by new means as photography can create a copy of an original painting which made art lose its originality. Actually, the aura distanced the masses from having the opportunity to get a closer look at objects as seen in the buildings of the ruling classes for example. But, the new means of reproduction allowed the masses to have a close look through the use of close-ups in movies and zoom in photography for example.
Another key point discussed in this essay is the change of human perception along history which is controlled by two factors : nature and history: Just as the entire mode of existence of human collectives changes over long historical periods, so too does their mode of perception.
Moreover, the meaning and function of work has changed over time because at the beggining it was related to rituals/magic but the modern reproducibility freed art from its cult background ” the whole social function of art is revolutionized. Instead of being founded on ritual, it is based on a different practice: politics“. Although Greeks contributed in reproducibility by stamping and casting, the reproducibility of film differs from it due to its tendency of improvement through the process of editing which can enchance the quality of the scene reproduced.
Talking about machine, this equipment affected radically human’s life. It is no longer the relation between Man and Nature but it turned into a relation of machine/man/machine. For example in the case of cinema, when the actor performs infront of the camera(which is like mirror-image), but actually this camera is not only a machine because actually he’s performing infront of masses who are invisible and inspite of their invisibility they’ll control him afterwards. This situation represents the actor’s estrangement infront of this machine which at the same time represents the humans being’s self alienation.
Ofcourse, politics controls arts as it does with all other aspects of life. For example, now we see that in movies certain classes are controlling our perception of role models, perspectives and even distribution of films. But at the same time, no one can deny the role of independent film that revolutionized the role of art too.