Category Archives: Week 9

Transforming Perception: De-Blackboxing Technological Reproduction


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Developing a theory for media and mediation is essential in understanding how art and all cultural forms can be presented in an interpretive interface because we derive meaning from how art and culture are presented, as much as from the artefacts themselves. Debray notes that transmission of the content or information of the art is more important than the preservation of the material of the object itself (4). Working from this idea, without understanding the ways in which media transmits culture, it would be difficult to use technology as a medium for transmission and preservation of information. Similarly, Malraux understood that the technologies themselves are not the main focus, but rather the “institutions and ideologies mediated through our technologies “ (Irvine, 10).

The creator of a piece of artwork may have had certain ideas and beliefs that were inextricably linked to the work, but that does not determine how the work will be perceived forever. The museum as a mediator’s job is to create a context where the art can be perceived (creating dialogue) but also to partake in the transformation and constant reframing of the concept of art. In this sense, the museum as a construct does not confine the art to simply historical reference. Malraux (qtd. In Irvine) says, “we have learned that, if death cannot still the voice of genius, the reason is that genius triumphs over death not by reiterating its original language, but by constraining us to listen to a language constantly modified, sometimes forgotten–as it were an echo answering each passing century with its own voice–and what the masterpiece keeps up is not a monologue, however authoritative, but a dialogue indefeasible by time” (Irvine, 13).

To illustrate further, Walter Benjamin says, “the uniqueness of the work of art is identical to its embeddedness in the context of tradition” (256). He further talks about how the idea of authenticity has changed due to reproductions such as photographs. Authenticity is at the core of art value, therefore, “as soon as the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applied to artistic production, the whole social function of art is revolutionized” (257). Both Benjamin and Malraux use theory to understand how transmission and reception are reframed over time. Benjamin also discusses how the way art is recepted is linked to social context. Media and mediation are systems with multiple networks and actors that depend on one another to function and create meaning. Therefore, art is best understood when all parts of the perception are consider (historical context, material, medium, individual). Media theory presents us with a framework that is: reproduction is just one part of the process of remediation of art, and we learn more about the art by looking at the system in which it operates rather than the physical art itself.  

 

Martin Irvine, “André Malraux, La Musée Imaginaire (The Museum Idea) and Interfaces to Art”.

Régis Debray, Transmitting Culture, trans. Eric Rauth. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility” (1936; rev. 1939).

The Medium “and” The Message


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Interface (n.): ” a point where two systems, subjects, organizations, etc., meet and interact.”

Art, meet art enthusiast; art enthusiast, meet… the death of originality, authenticity, of the aura… through the technological reproduction of art. In his essay “The Work of Art in the Era of Technological Reproducibility”, Benjamin discusses the effects of technological reproduction of art on the originality and authenticity of artworks and aids us in understanding what that means for art and all forms of cultural expression in the digital world we live in today.

He argues that traditional art forms, such as paintings have an “aura” – as they preserve their uniqueness and their attachment to their origins, their history and by extension their materiality – while the reproduction of any form of art or cultural expression using modern technological mechanisms, such as photographs, do not. Think of the original Mona Lisa in the Louvre vis-a-vis a poster of the painting that can be bought from the boutique, which is completely detached and removed from its sphere of traditions. As such, art mediation becomes concerned with preserving and delivering the aura of an art form. Here, Benjamin recognizes that although art has always been reproducible, the technological reproduction of art should be evaluated as a process in itself, extending his theory to the art of film.

We begin to move from evaluating and assessing what is authentic and what is not, what is considered to be original and what is not, to fixating on the knowledge and traditions – i.e. culture – that are being transmitted within a medium. In other words, we focus on the relationship between technology and culture: Mediology attempts to study the transmission of cultural meanings in societies, according to Debray. It is not concerned with technological determinism – whether or not “The medium is the message” (the famous phrase coined by McLuhan),  but instead with the social construction of technology (think socio-technical systems –  the relationship between the medium (technology) and the message. Mediology broadens the spectrum of understanding mediation – going beyond assessing whether or not printed books and paintings are real – in order to include digital mediums such as photographic images and cinematic footage and ultimately reconceptualize the understanding of art within social, political, and economic frameworks. It calls for the interaction between technology and culture, rendering the dissemination of ideas embedded in artworks possible.

Benjamin argues that the reproduction of art meant losing the uniqueness of an art piece; but Mediology makes room for digital reproduction, such that studying the relationship between the way art is transmitted and memorized (i.e. media as a memory, archival system) and the way it interacts with, structures, and organizes our thoughts, beliefs, and information (i.e. culture) is being studied. It allows for ideas to transpire digitally. As a consequence, it expands our network model of mediation by exploring the cultural aspects embedded into technology, and regenerating new and different encounters each time the audience meets and interacts with art. Thus, not only does this interpretation of mediation transcend space (i.e. communication), but also it transcends time (i.e. transmission).

 

Works Cited:

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility” (1936; rev. 1939).
(From the new edition of Benjamin’s writings, Harvard Univ. Press, 2003, with the revised title.) Focus on sections: Pref., I-VI, X-XII, XV.

 

Régis Debray, Transmitting Culture, trans. Eric Rauth. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.  Excerpts from Chaps. 1-2 and 7.

Art in the Age of Immediacy


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We are increasingly becoming dependent on reproductions through digital mediums to create meaning. Yet how do such reproductions become a means to mediate a full understanding of the context and creation of a certain thing?  Theories presented in Irvine, Bolter and Debray will provide a framework to understand how art and all forms of cultural expression can be represented in an interpretive framework or interface (Irvine). In Irvine’s Malraux and the Musee Imaginarie: (Meta)Mediation. Representation and Mediating Institutions, the theory of a musee imaginare becomes an abstract, ideal meaning-making system introduced by Malraux. The idea behind such a system governs the very essence of what makes a museum; the selection and arrangement of artifacts in some organizational way. Malraux has a rather political argument for the use of reproductions; to advance democratic principles. Museums become an interface to transmit some idea across, whether it be democratic principles for Malraux or a
“cultural encyclopedia” for Umberto Ecco (p. 6).

Bolter’s Introduction: The Double Logic of Remediation introduces the concept of the wire as the “ultimate mediating technology because the wire is designed to efface itself, to disappear from the user’s consciousness” (Bolter, p. 3). The author introduces the notion of a “double logic of remediation”, a culture’s contradictory imperitives for immediacy and hypermediacy (p. 5). The same idea can be applied to western visual representation. The examples that Bolter uses is a 17th century painting, photograph and computer system. They are all different in some capacity yet all attempts to achieve immediacy by ignoring or denying the presence of the medium and the act of mediation. They all seek to put the viewer in the same space as the objects viewed like in the case of the painting using atmospheric perspective for example. Such an illusionistic idea recalls the concepts presented in Debray’s Transmitting Culture where the author states that transmission is a “telecommunication in time”, “transmission takes its course through time, developing and changing as it goes” to make culture. In essence, is the author stating that anything could be transmitted through time without any boundaries? How does this play into the cultural component?

If I could try to tie all these readings together, it would go as follows. A musee imaginarie creates a certain message from the selection of the artifacts involved that transmit something through time about that specific artifact, creating something of cultural significance. Because everything is immediate and humans in this era crave immediacy, there needs to be some sort of way to organize and make meaning out of art and all forms of cultural expression. Art and cultural forms of expression can only be fully understandable if the theories surrounding them stay current with the times, with how the world has changed. One does not view a 17th century painting the same way now as they did when it was created. There is a shift in knowledge that arises with the advent of new technologies. As stated by Debray, “every major reshuffling of major reshuffling of technologies of the letter- in rough chronological order, means a corresponding change of saddle for the citizenry” (p. 23).

 

Martin Irvine, “André Malraux, La Musée Imaginaire (The Museum Idea) and Interfaces to Art“.

Régis Debray, Transmitting Culture, trans. Eric Rauth. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.


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The word “reproduction” reminds me of the word “commodity” immediately. Last week, I happen to visit Hirshhorn to see the exhibition: “Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s”. The 1980s was a seismic decade of global political shifts: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; along with the demise of Communism; a soaring stock market until the Crash of 1987; and the rise of U.S. right-wing conservatism under President Reagan. Moreover, extensive technological advancement led to Cable Television, with its multiple channels, MTV and CNN allowing viewers greater viewing options, along with late-night television and personal computers all contributed to altered visual viewing and the way we received information. The change in the art canon shifted in the 1970s toward Post-modernism inspired by the rapid spread of Critical and Revisionist Theory. Additionally, the AIDS crisis surfaced in the 80s, the rise of multiculturalism, Feminism theory and the intensive product branding demonstrated by Nike and Calvin Klein advertising on cable TV.

One of the key effects of the technological changes is that the art world exploded in the 1980s, becoming a disparate medley of new approaches and ideological contention. Artwork became a commodity and the artist, a brand. A commodity always depends for its status and its value on its relative scarcity; once the reproduction and distribution of that commodity become effectively free, then it necessarily loses that value and that status. This is great news for consumers of art, but for artists (producers), it means, quite simply, that they suddenly have nothing of value to sell. There is no doubt that artists need to and have to sell art commodities at a relative profit. However, there is a fundamental difference between them in terms of what the aim of generating those profits is. In the case of artists, the aim is generally to generate enough income for a decent standard of living which will enable them to keep making artworks.

But now we are living in an age of digital reproduction. This form of digital reproduction makes the advertising of original works by amateur artists to be on the same ground as professional artists because it becomes a level playing field. The influence of the art world as an institution is placed on the sidelines and in the area of art history while contemporary artists compete for hits, recognition, and sales. The sales of artworks online have increased dramatically since the 1990s and while there is no official census, one may conclude that the sale of art online might have already surpassed the sales of artwork in art galleries.

What does this mean for the contemporary art galleries? That depends entirely upon what direction the socially elite decide to go in, for that is predominantly the driving force behind art sales in art galleries. If the social elite maintains the status quo and continues to buy art through schmoozing at art shows, then contemporary art galleries will continue to maintain their own status quo. If the social elites decide to begin investing their money by purchasing artworks online from the vast plethora of artists available it could create a radical shift in the value of maintaining actual sale-oriented art galleries.

Walter Benjamin’s writings within “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” foretold this shift, but at the same time stressed the value of the ‘aura’ of the original piece. This ‘aura’ was the feeling of tradition, the feeling of the artist’s hand, and the uniqueness of the piece. He argued that it was this unique ‘aura’ that drove people to ownership of specific pieces of original art. I think that pieces do have auras that we attach to them, a sense of karma if you will, but I do not believe this is what drives us to possess these objects. Rather it is our greed and capitalist pleasure that we get from acquiring objects, especially rare objects, that drives people to spend enormous amounts in the effort to purchase rare art objects. For example, many people buy for aesthetics, but they do not brag about buying an aesthetically pleasing art piece from a no-name artist.

 

Theory is in the Eye of the Beholder


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Using at least two of the readings for combining concepts, discuss how developing a theory of media and mediation is essential for understanding how art and all forms of cultural expression can be presented in an interpretive framework or interface.

If there is one theme that arises from our readings this week, it is this: everything changes. Art changes: “By the mere fact of its birth every great art modifies what arose before it; after Van Gogh, Rembrandt has never been quite the same as he was after Delacroix” (Malraux, Irvine 13). Technology changes: “The once-revolutionary industrial obiect… once it is withdrawn from circulation, transmits only pastness” (Debray 54). And most of all, theory changes. In comparing this week’s readings, we see shifts and differences—some subtle, some large—that emphasize that theory is never universal and so, I would argue, not strictly necessary.

Malraux makes the point that, despite the flaws introduced by reproduction—the degradation of a work’s uniqueness, the elimination of proportion, the loss of context—reproduced art still maintains a certain arty quality and contributes to society in a similar way. “Diverse as they are, all these objects… speak for the same endeavor; it is as though an unseen presence, the spirit of art, were urging all on the same quest…” (Irvine 12).

Benjamin, on the other hand, treats reproduction as a sort of numbing force, the new opium of the masses. His treatment of film as an art of distraction is more than slightly disdainful; he refers to it as inviting “the liquidation of the value of tradition in the cultural heritage” (254). (The specific reference to Shakespeare here is laughable, particularly the idea that countless film adaptaions have somehow destroyed the culutral value of Shakespeare more than any other development since 1600.)

Debray, in fairness, calls out Benjamin and the scholars in whose footsteps he follows, writing, “Their humanist diatribes against industrial alienation are animated by a classically instrumental view of technology conceived as the sum of mere props and nonessential tools at the disposal of a cause that far surpasses them” (25). Yet he is nearly as scornful toward the idea of communication.

All of these scholars have, buried in the core of their arguments, the idea that art means something, that art can convey a message and values that were put there by its creator; this is the idea of art as an interface. It is not an idea that demands theory, but rather a modicum of critical thought; though they might not use the same terms, I imagine that many people—most people, even, particularly those with some education—recognize that art is generally not just a pretty picture. And this is something that Malraux, Benjamin, and Debray can all agree on, despite differences in their other attitudes.

Returning to the question at the top of this post, I’ll note that it involves a little bit of circular logic. The idea that “art and all forms of cultural expression can be presented in an interpretive framework or interface” is in and of itself a theory of media and mediation. If the goal is to discuss how a broader, more overarching theory is necessary to understand the more specific theory of art as an interface, then my answer is this: it’s not.

Art and Alienation


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In “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” Benjamin discusses the art of film as a form of alienation. It not only alienates the actor from the stage of the performer in the case of performing art, but also estranges him from his own person (31). That is to say, the actor is objectified before the camera and is deprived of its authenticity to some extent. One feature of art that Benjamin pointed out through this case is alienation, and this is indispensable from the new form of artistic reproduction. Benjamin argues that technological reproduction of art destroys its “aura,” which is bound to the actor’s “presence in the here and now” (31). In other words, the historical process that produced the art is separated from the display of the artwork

The same logic also applies to the still form of art: paintings and sculptures that hang in museum and art galleries. Once being put in institutions of arts, the artwork becomes an isolated object, a high art, that is detached from the time, space that produced it and the artist that made it. This, it seems to me, in turn helps the transmission of what the piece of art wants to express, because only when a piece of art is separated from the process of production, can it become an independent work. The liberation of an artwork from its “background” actually helps with its interpretation, because it foregrounds both the abstract ideas that the artist wishes to express and the form of art that embodies those ideas. Under such an interpretation, the alienation of art from its form of production actually promotes the interfaces between the object of art and its viewers.

Even though museum alienates an artwork from the space and time that the artwork was produced, it promotes a new form of space and time in the transmission of artwork. Debray proposes that “if communication transports essentially through space, transmission essentially transports through time” and that “with transmission, time is appreciable internally” (3). Transmission prolongs the interfaces between an individual and a piece of artwork, and emphasizes the forms or symbols of an artwork that helps the viewer to interpret and communicate with it. Even though the institution of art deprives the aura of an artwork, it puts the artwork in a new form of space and time that enables the interface between an artwork and its viewer.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility.” Harvard Univ. Press, 2003.

Debray, Régis. Transmitting CultureTranslated by Eric Rauth. Columbia University Press, 2000.

Museum, photographic reproductions, and the digital media


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From the reading of The Museum Idea and Interfaces to Art that traces back the photographic reproductions and museum as an interface, to the reading that talks about the current prosperity of digital media and its influence toward art interfaces, I gained more understanding about how art and different forms of cultural expressions in different stage of time produced interfaces.

In the first article, the role of photographic in the given context of mass reproductive photography and the looming war has driven concern that how could “photographic reproductions promote democratic principles, while also maintaining an awareness of ideological forces that can regulate what gets represented.” The idea that different art form gives the understanding of art interfaces is interesting, the article mentioned that photographic reproduction that transmits the art history interfaced to the meaning system from prints, books to the museum and to the digital world of Google Art Project.

Museum as the mediator and interface that display the artwork with its own concept and meaning resembled. The idea that museum without walls is interesting as it suggested there is no boundary in the art and museum functioned as the transmitting place for the artworks to be displayed and deliver a meaningful message to the public. For the Morse painting of Gallery of the Louvre, he transmitted his idea of giving the knowledge of European art tradition to the American audience. In this way, “the painting is a meta-painting, a painting about paintings, an interface to the collection represented. ”

As we move from the past to the present, the advancement of technology enables the artworks to be displayed in various formats and places that achieve immediacy, interactive, transparent and remediation. While the digitization of museum collections, artworks and the history of art is presented, how does it change the function of the museum itself and the artworks? The article mentioned the Artificial Intelligence which is the technology that is popular right now, the immediate realistic experience that this new technology has could be created the illusions of things are real or not. As related to the art world, the new technology like AI created a new interface for the artworks to be presented in advanced and better user experience to learn about art, yet the effect of the digital interactive media products can also pose questions about understanding the art. I think this is the main concern that is risen in today’s society. Where we are creating more advanced technology to minimize the distance between people and the artworks but simultaneously enlarge the real meaning of appreciation to the art world.

 

Irvine, Martin. Malraux and the Musée Imaginaire: (Meta)Mediation, Representation, and Mediating Institutions.

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000. Excerpts from the Introduction and Chapter 1.

 

 

Art in the Age of Reproduction


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Art has always been replicable (Benjamin, 1939, p. 252). From Morse’s Gallery at the Louvre to art history textbooks with photographic reproductions, the only change was the exactness of the reproduction. Once a work of art is copied, authenticity and originality come into question. “The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity” (Benjamin, 1935, p. 3). Indeed, technology allowed for the ability to see the original work of art in a new medium, a photograph, but Benjamin is more concerned with how the technology changed the concept of art. The way we consume music today greatly differs from the pre-Spotify era. Once we could experience music without the actual musician in front of of us, the way we experience it changed. As McLuhan says, “The medium is the message.” However, I do not think reproductions of music or art causes us to devalue the cultural capital, but technology offered affordances to experience art or music at any distance from the creator.

So how have new technologies changed the way we perceive art? On one hand, works of art are taken from their context and lose what Benjamin describes as an “aura.” Museums have traditionally been the context we associate with consuming art; they “are the frame and effective support upon which the work is inscribed/composed.” (Buren, 1985, p. 189). We trust what is in museums to be authentic work, which is why standing in front of a Vermeer involves a transcending experience of time-traveling back to the presence of the painter himself. “The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history it has experienced” (Benjamin, 1935, p. 4). We have been socialized to believe that in the presence of the original, we can connect to a different time and place. However,  as our lives become more digital, virtual, and technical, our grasp of what is considered original changes. If the museum’s function is to be mediated by technical means, the art would have to change forms.

Call Me By My Monet Mika Labrague

Technology has not only changed the form in which  we receive messages, but also how those messages are perceived. For example, there has been a certain buzz around an Instagram account called “Call Me By My Monet” – which combines scenes from the Oscar-awarded film “Call Me By My Name” and Monet’s paintings. The Guardian writes “Call Me By Monet: how Instagram hybrids turned pop into art” (Gosling, 2018). But is this art original by combining two mediums in a new way, or is this simply appropriation? Debray observed that “no new dimensions of subjectivity has formed without using new material objects (books or scrolls, hymns and emblems, insignia and monuments)” (2000, p.2). The film, Call Me By My Name was actually filmed where Monet used to paint so by combining two forms of artistic expression – the film and Monet’s paintings – Mika Labrague uses a new material to mediate her own expression. As a collective, art still exists in the safekeeping of the museum; however, like the music industry, technology could redefine how and where we perceive art.

Creative geniuses – like Warhol – combined aspects of our social world and art history to form new definitions of art. People said what Warhol was doing wasn’t “art” and now his artwork is the most coveted (according to price) in the world and his name is forever sealed into art history textbooks. Just as during Warhol’s time, we are undergoing a cultural shift. Ours is a shift from people of tangible things (books, paper, pens, faxes, etc) to people of screens. We look at screens more and more so why can art not appear on screens? Arguing that Call Me By My Monet can be considered art, we could be entering a new genre of art, with its context in the cultural phenomenon of memes, digital reproduction, and nostalgia for art of the past.  Much like we have not forgotten the importance of tangible books, seeing a musician live, or the appreciation for the authentic, a work of art will always be valued more in its original form, but maybe we are moving away from art in a museum, bound by a canvas, to art existing on our phones.

‘Call Me By Monet’ is your favourite new Insta feed

Benjamin, W. (1936). The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility. (From the new edition of Benjamin’s writings, Harvard Univ. Press, 2003, with the revised title.) Focus on sections: Pref., I-VI, X-XII, XV.

Buren, D. (1985). Function of the Museum. In Theories of Contemporary Art, edited by Richard Hertz, 2nd ed., 189–92. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

Debray, R. (2000). Transmitting Culture, trans. New York: Columbia University Press. Chapter 1-2.

Gosling, S. (2018). “Call Me By Monet: how Instagram hybrids turned pop into art.” The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/mar/16/call-me-by-monet-instagram-hybrids-alexa-chung-artlexachung-harry-potter-gryffindior

Hyper About HyperMediacy


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Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Days_(film)#/media/File:Strangedays.jpeg

How is developing a theory of media and mediation essential for understanding how art and all forms of cultural expression can be presented in an interpretive framework or interface?

My interpretation of this question is, how does analyzing the development of media technology allow us to understand the new ways in which art has been publicly conveyed over the years? I’ll take a crack at that, using the texts The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility by Walter Benjamin and Remediation: Understanding New Media by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin.

Walter Benjamin talks about the many ways in which art has been reproduced for display purposes over the years. It started with the Ancient Greeks doing casting and stamping; it carried on with the woodcutting of the Middle Ages; and still endures with the lithography and photography of modern times. Finally, thanks to the rise of film, art and cultural expression have discovered their most far-reaching outlet to date. Film has “mobilized the masses” and been subject to “capitalist exploitation” like no other art form before it.

 

Source: http://www.nestledinnostalgia.com/2012/03/wizard-of-early-cinema.html

Benjamin is aware that cinema has its harsh critics, quoting one who described the medium as “a pastime for helots, a diversion for uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries.” One wonders where all of this intense animosity towards cinema comes from– perhaps Duhamel is simply upset that a non-traditional art form is becoming more popular than the classical ones he so values.

But, as Benjamin notes in the beginning of his essay, there is no use in resisting the changes which emerging media will bring to artwork. There are always “revolutionary demands in the politics of art,” and (quoting Paul Valéry) “we must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts.” The “media theory” which Benjamin presents in this texts explores how art has passed from one dominant framework to the next over time, and what various implications of that trend may be.

The other essays seem to agree that art is ever-evolving, and our frameworks for it have to evolve as well. The whole concept of “La Musée Imaginaire,” for instance, suggests that we must always push the envelope of our imaginations so as to make room for new inventions and developments. Remediation: Understanding New Media takes a closer observation at this whole process– Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin agree that media and art change rapidly and borrow from their predecessors, but also do more to consider how contemporary technologies fit in this whole trend. The current process is similar to what it was previously, they seem to imply, only on steroids.

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/jhengcute/hypermedia-16828769

Probably the greatest difference between “remediation” in our age and previous ones is that there are so many new forms of media out there now, and they’re evolving so much more quickly than ever before, both because technology allows for it and society demands it. Using the film Strange Days to support his reasoning (I watched this film last semester as part of my Global Science Fiction Film class, so it’s fresh in my mind), the authors observe that we’re in a world that pretty much resembles science fiction: our current age features so much new media and technology that it’s impossible to keep up with. Hence, we’ve arrived at a state of “remediation”: “our culture wants to both multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation; ideally, it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them.”

The film and essay both came out in the mid-90’s, when people were excited about the future and the great new platform of opportunity which the arrival of the new millennium was supposed to represent. This whole culture of excess was summarized in Strange Days, which takes place on December 31, 1999, a date which the world had been obsessing over for years. Modern times are defined by a “logic of immediacy” and “hypermediacy,” and they oscillate between the two of them.

There is a lot to gain from the media theory presented here. It allows us to connect the dots between past trends and old (“the practices of contemporary media constitute a lens through which we can see view the history of remediation”). It provides insight into the cultural borrowing that takes place during mediation (“the desire for immediacy leads digital media to borrow avidly from each other as well as from their analog predecessors such as film, television, and photography”). And it also alerts us to some of the potential consequences of these trends (the “wire” in Strange Days led to many harrowing side effects, such as the observation of a rape scene; will virtual reality presence in the real go the same way?)

People will always be thirsty for new styles and representations of art; it’s useful for us to have media theorists who can make educated guesses as to how that process will unfold and what the end results may be. It’s also nice to see that cinema has gone on to prove its academic value in the long run. Movies aren’t just for dimwits, as Duhamel once scathingly described. As Strange Days demonstrates, they can be put to fine use for critical theory and intellectual conversation (I’ve now had two graduate-level courses prove that point!)