Walter Benjamin and the Ideology of Realism


I keep seeing Walter Benjamin references, so I figured I ought to pay attention.

This morning I was reading Doraslity. I have been attempting to read it for years. I noticed one synchronicity, chapter 2 is about Broch’s Death of Vergil ,which I talk about a few posts back. This is a pretty synchronicity. The book then went all to talk about exodus and some other things that I was not captivated by, but I regained interest with a discussion of cinema and Benjamin’s concept of the Aura.

So Benjamin says mass reproduction politicizes art, before art was ritualistic. What is the difference between ritual and politics? I mean there is a difference, but both are about the exercise of power. Ritual comes from the latin ritualis, and perhaps from the sanskrit ṛtá: A proven way of doing something, an order. Politics is greek from polis – city, and is about the governance of the city – We could say politics is about the rituals of the city or how to order a city… it is a specific case of ritual.

To move art from ritual to politics is to reduce the scope of art.

we can also imagine that what mass reproduction does is reproduce ritual, reproduce art as ritual. So it is not really art. If there is a bowl of fruit, or a human being – that itself is not necessarily art, when I paint it – perhaps it becomes art – at least I am attempting to make art. If I take a photo of that same still life or human is that photograph- which is mechanically reproduced – art?

There is some sort of gap. I am finding a more literary word – but that is what it is a gap.

A painting of a still life is a ritual – a photograph of a still life is not a ritual.

My grandfather was a photographer. I remember long boring afternoons posing for photos with lights and who knows what – it was super boring – it took me years to actually like photography at all. That was a ritual – the posing for the image. The setting the stage. The staging of the piece.

The snap of the camera breaks the ritual in some way.

Ritual is about a melding of worlds, of the symbolic and the literal. A camera or any sort of mechanical reproduction – athough enjoyable, entertaining, a source information and education, does not meld worlds – it reduces and collapses all words to the literal. It is Map Reduce (Hi computer nerds- my people).