Seminar Group Reading – The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction – Benjamin, W.

I was given a few pages of this book to read for a review with my seminar group, and here is my summary of what I read and the ideas that I took from the book.

To begin with, I found the language of the book very difficult to comprehend, as I believe it was quite old and had been translated from another language. This meant that it took me a while to get my head around it, but I got there eventually.

The key points that I picked up were that, at the time the book was written (1936 I believe), mass production for things such as artwork was something quite new. New machinery was being created that could reproduce and print things much quicker than before. In the first few pages, Benjamin comments on how the world has progressed with its understanding of technology. For example he says:

After reading further into the book, the main idea that I got from it is that the context of the reproduction is key to its success in the art world. For example if a work of art is reproduced thousands of times for something like a postcard or advertisement, then the original becomes much more desirable, collectible and popular. This results in people almost yearning to see the original, as it has become famous from the amount of remakes and advertisements that have been produced. But if something such as a coin is reproduced millions of times, it becomes much less valuable because they are used so often in day to day life. The exclusivity of a work of art is what makes it popular in the eyes of the public.


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