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Approaching Walter Benjamin from Beyond

Rachel Smith Althof
      Benjamin discussed the contemporary masses’ desire to bring things “closer” spatially and humanly.  This is the most fundamental of

consumer desires, and is a natural aspect of the age of mechanical reproduction.  We have evolved from the mechanical to the technological,

and we have pulled things in so close and have now flipped them inside out.  

   As discussed by Thomas Freidman and Daniel Pink , we are in an age where instead of the masses playing the role of consumer, the

masses have been called to become designers.  In the words of Jello Biafra, “Don’t hate the media, become the media.”  

 Benjamin stated that “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking one element: its presence in time and space, its unique

existence at the place where it happens to be.”  Indeed, unless that work of art was created in a virtual space, where it may co-exist with reproductions of it.  

   It is said that we are post-conceptual, post-structuralist and post-modern.  Benjamin stated, “For the fist time in world history, mechanical

reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual.”  He claims that art is now based on politics.  If so, then in our present

time, the politics have become de-centralized.

The politics have become personal – the platform has been leveled, encouraging individual participation.  Benjamin predicted, “The distinction between

author and public is about to lose its basic character.  The difference becomes merely functional; it may vary from case to case.  At any moment the reader

is ready to turn into a writer.”  We have indeed “penetrated deeply into its web,” and we have turned it inside out.
Photo by Rachel Smith Althof