Art after Aura. On the integration of technological reproducibility into contemporary artistic practice: A Benjaminian reading of the oeuvres of Ai Weiwei and Jeff Koons
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What are the consequences for art when technological reproducibility is integral to artistic practice? Walter Benjamin explored the implications of mass media on art in his 1936 essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility’. Since then, the very aspects of technological reproducibility that changed art have become integral to many contemporary artistic practices. Due to the profound consequences it had on art, it is worth investigating the employment of technological reproducibility by artists for the production of their work. This thesis uses Ai Weiwei and Jeff Koons’s artistic practices as case studies, and Benjamin’s text as theoretical starting point for each chapter. Each chapter respectively discusses the process of artistic production, the basis for an artwork’s valuation, and the relationship between artist and viewer. Through its integrated position in artistic practice, technological reproducibility allows for increased output in exchange for the distancing of artist involvement from a works execution. Also, artists make familiarity the basis for value by using motifs and producing a singular concept in multiple editions. The substitution of aura with personality is technological reproducibility’s most profound consequence. Artists use mass media to cultivate a public persona which exists both outside the realm of art, but also as a context in which their works can be understood by the viewer.