I shop therefore I am
Walter Benjamin was a Marxist philosopher who looked in incredible detail at the idea of reproduction and the effect that it has on the value of an original work, in terms of art. However ideas from his theories can be applied very easily to works of graphic design in the same way.
The first thing of note from the text is the mention of the way people critique and look upon art, and the idea that this has never changed, so people still view art with ideas of creativity, genius, value and mystery in mind. All these are traits of the creative genius that are intrinsically related to the work of art.
I chose this Barbara Kruger work as it’s a piece of design that has been reproduced and imitated massively over the years and is a great example of design in the age of mechanical reproduction. Benjamin mentions that,’ In principle a work of art as always been reproducible’ and artifacts could always be ‘imitated by men’, however I find the idea that with mechanical reproduction ’the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility’ very interesting.
The original work by Kruger was a silk screen print, just like photographic negatives, many copies, all differing slightly can be produced from one screen, it is most likely that these would have been in a limited print run. However Kruger’s work went on to be used as a slogan on many different items, most notably she was commissioned by Selfridges to produce a range of promotional material. By doing so, the aura of the work shrivels, the idea that the work was produced by a creative genius is also somewhat lost, and the idea that owning an original print from the first run becomes much more impressive.
Even the most perfect copy of Kruger’s prints therefore is always going to be ‘lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence and the place where it happens to be’. By imitating the style and creating copies the time at which it was created becomes unimportant and the placement of these copies takes the original work and concept behind it completely out of context.