Thursday, September 07, 2006


Walter Benjamin, in his 1936 seminal essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, identified the aura as that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction; the aura is the uniqueness of an individual work of art. This idea of a withering aura has a new challenge posed during a Philagrafika panel discussion on September 6th, about Megawords Magazine.

The artists who create Megawords magazine, use the commercial process of offset lithography, to create an art object. Yet, in this digital age, somehow a mechanically printed magazine has become an object of nostalgia, with a very strong aura created through the imagery, content and means of distribution.

Megawords is also telling a story of place. Steve Powers, one of the panelists, identified this image from Megawords, of Herr's potato chip bags as being a powerful image and part of the story that the artists are telling about Philadelphia-showing their version of Philadelphia.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

At the same time, though, Tony and Dan seem to resist the uniqueness of the magazine as an art object. At their talk they even specifically said, "there's nothing precious about this". Maybe it evokes nostalgia, but it does so in a way that leaves the "art object" (they'd probably just call it an "object") detached. Its effect may be one of toying with our emotions (possibly linked to aura), but the magazine itself isn't meant to be cherished.

jesseG said...

I agree with anonymous. To be fair to Dan and Tony, and their stated intentions for the project, Megawords really isnt about creating an art object - thats something that would have to be imposed upon the project by viewers looking for such things.

The reason i'm interested in megawords is that it really isnt an auratic work - in every good way imagineable - and it also isnt a commodity - which is usually all thats left after the 'aura' has 'withered'. THis is not because of some inherent quality of the magazine as image or object - it is a product of their mode of art-production.

If we are going to return to Walter Benjamin to make sence of megawords, it might be more instructive to consider the Author as Producer essay as opposed to the mechanical reproduction one.