What is the Aura?

Although the presence of the aura (distinctive feeling that seems to surround an original artwork, for instance a painting) remains debatable, I personally deem the notion plausible and plan on emphasising why. The aura is essentially a transcendent sentimentality induced by the physical presence of a painting and often amplified by the knowledge of its unique creation. In comparison to painting being intrinsically unique in its fabrication, the instigation of the modern age and influx of reproducibility has provoked a new dispute on our relationship with art and authenticity. Theorists Walter Benjamin and John Berger have both contemplated the aura's illusive impression on the spectator, whilst Benjamin stipulates that the aura has been negated, the influence of the 'original' becoming diluted by infinite duplicates, Berger goes on to maintain that the original's status has merely changed, now exaggerated by being the first materialisation of a work of art, 'the original'.

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.

Links: Ceasrfire Magazine on Walter Benjamin: Art, Aura and Authenticity

Key Text: Walter Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction / John Berger: Ways of Seeing

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