This groundbreaking essay was hard work for me and it took me a while and a second and third reading to be able to somewhat summarize my takeaways. It explores how in the age of mass media audiences can see a work of art or listen to music repeatedly and what the social implications of that might be.
Benjamin questions the notion of art, connecting the meaning and the value of it with the conditions in which it was produced, distributed and received.
Benjamin applies some of Karl Marx ideas by showing how the devaluing of an art work as a unique object in time and space might cause alienation in the artist and the viewer as a result.
There were a lot of interesting ideas especially with regards to film theory but I had the impression the book ended a bit abruptly so I felt a bit hanging there at the end.
“One of the foremost tasks of art has always been the creation of a demand which could be fully satisfied only later. The history of every art form shows critical epochs in which a certain art form aspires to effects which could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard, that is to say, in a new art form. The extravagances and crudities of art which thus appear, particularly in the so-called decadent epochs, actually arise from the nucleus of its richest historical energies.”
In general reading Walter Benjamin felt to me like trying to catch soap bubbles. Oh and interesting idea, oh no it spins off in all direction, I try to catch it but it’s really hard to keep up 😉
I personally take away from the book as a consumer to fully engage with all the art that I consume.
Definitely not an easy read but definitely worthwhile. What other books by him would you recommend me to read?