The time and space of the work of art in the age of “Electrickery”

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Kane, Michael
Issue Date
Dublin Business School
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Starting by returning to Walter Benjamin’s idea in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” that the technical reproducibility involved in the new media of photography and film would promote a “revolutionary criticism of traditional concepts of art”, this paper looks at some of the suggestions as to what happened in the twentieth century to “traditional concepts of art” – ‘art’ understood in the broadest sense – as well as at how “concepts of art” are so often linked to - or mapped onto - concepts of time and space. What is ‘the work of art’? Where is it? Where do we stand (or sit) in relation to it? The age of youtube and ‘smartphones’ has perhaps added a new dimension to such questions – or possibly just supplied material for a footnote to Benjamin’s 1936 essay. Questions concerning what one might term “The Time and Space of the Work of Art” have been and continue to be discussed by theorists ranging from Benjamin and Marshall McLuhan to Paul Virilio, Zygmunt Bauman and Jacques Rancière in more recent times.