This photo, taken from Google’s “streetview” team cameras captures a time and place that will never be able to be recreated in the exact same way again. The photo highlights an amazing view of a turtle floating above the coral and reef underwater with millions of little creatures and fish in the background. Obviously the aura created by physically being there at that moment and time when the photo was taken is ultimately the greatest and will surpass any display of the moment such as the picture, but that is the point of photography. Photography often portrays unique or spectacular views of a moment for others or the photographer to relive the aura felt in the presence at every future glance of the photo. Walter Benjamin describes this marvelously as “a distance as close as it can be” and a “strange weave of space and time”. Benjamin goes on to point out that photography loses it’s meaning and value as it loses its aura. Aura can be effected by an infinite number of things, but like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. A painting we see may not even catch our eyes, but given the knowledge that the painting was created by a famous artist and was sold for thousands for even millions of dollars undoubtedly changes our perspective on that artworks aura. This also arises the thought of the “fake aura”; since aura is intangible it is often argued. The aura associated with original painting of the Mona Lisa gives it great value and meaning, but a recreation of the same artwork, even if the artwork is nearly identical, holds little to no similar value. This thought is a conflict in the art world, and for those who critisize the value of artwork.
I found this image on Google map; it is a view from South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada. In “The World Of Art”, Walter said “This image makes it easy to comprehend the social bases of the con- temporary decay of the aura. It rests on two circumstances, both of which are related to the increasing significance of the masses in contemporary life” (III); as you can see in this image, the boulevard divided the view into two different parts. The left view has tower and theater with crowded group of people, it seems like pretty busy downtown. In contrast, the right view makes you feel very peaceful and relaxing because of the small lake with water fountain.
“The concept of aura which was proposed above with reference to historical objects may usefully be illustrated with reference to the aura of natural ones. We define the aura of the latter as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be.” (III); with this image, every single element combine to make a beautiful view. Additionally, they help people determine and illustrate about human life; they are always various aspects that suppose to make your life more colorful. When you look at the peaceful small lake with few people on the sidewalk in your right and the buildings with busy atmosphere in your left, you can feel two side of the image are neutral. Plus, the two lines of the tree make you feel fresh, energetic and eager. This place supposes to entertain people and everybody go to Las Vegas with only one reason, enjoying their life.
Unlike other posts, it seems as if everyone had what they were looking for when playing on Google maps. This picture was definitely hard to find. The picture you see above is at Wakanui (waah-kah-new-ee) Beach, in the island of New Zealand. I spent about the whole night searching for whether I should use a beach picture, a waterfall image, or one of those sunset on the horizon. The reason why I chose this picture is because not everyone uses the random spots all over the world. You can be at any place, and at that given moment, realize that you’re standing in a spot to remember, and that spot will always be remembered. Now, Wakanui Beach is not some famous beach or anything. I chose this particular place to acknowledge something that Walter Benjamin had mentioned in, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” On page 4, he mentions that any photograph is “the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be.” The horizon looks as if it was only right there besides the cliff, that’s the power of the 9-eyed camera. We are under the impression that once we look towards one way, we can’t turn back for the next view. Wrong. According to Walter Benjamin, “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be,” (3). It’s not just the way we look at the image, it’s the originality that comes out of it.
This is a picture of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.This Wall is believed to have been constructed around twenty BC and has been a place that people from all over the world come to pray. Although this wall has been around for over two thousand years, it still continues to be a popular place of worship and tourism. Even though many things have taken place since the wall was first constructed, war, famine, etc. . . this has always been a place that the Israeli people can pray and reflect. It is amazing that as technology and culture continue to grow and are always morphing into something different, there are still some places that can be a window back in time.
In Walter Benjamin’s article “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” he talks about the fact that the technology is stopping us from experiencing these moments in time. (3) It is this statement that I want to focus on. Benjamin says that “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space.” (3) While this can be true, how can you say that this photo of the Wailing Wall, which has been around for a long time, is lacking time and space? Can we say that something is lacking in time and space, if it is timeless and has never changed? Even though there can be a disconnect between someone and a photo of the Ayers Rock in Australia. I don’t see how a photo of something that has been going on for thousands of years can be lacking in time or space.
Walter Benjamin said that “photograph reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape the natural vision.”(3) This any other photograph would escape the natural vison because it’s frozen in time. No one can ever see the exact same image over and over again unless they take a picture. By this time, that red car would have been way past me. In three minutes, something disastrous could happen, be seeing what is happening before, one could try to figure out why the man got attacked by seagulls and the car crashed into the seafood restaurant. Escaping the natural vision by putting things in slow motion is very helpful in figuring out crimes, as people need to gather evidence. Through looking at images like that, they may find the answer. Images can show a whole story.
In this next image, I am looking at a closer view. I probably couldn’t be standing here at this moment in real life because that red car would run over me or get really angry.
Walter Benjamin also talks about the cult of remembrance. Humans in the picture give value. One sees them at that moment in time, but will never again in real life. If that man in the picture was your friend and were to die one day later for some reason, you would see the last moments of his life frozen in time, possibly wondering if you could have done something. You may value this last picture, looking at it for hours in tears. It contains a special aura of a particular moment that you can look back and remember.
As I was I searching on Google Maps, I stumbled upon this image taken in New York. This is a photograph of a sunset over Crystal Lake. This photograph captures the moment of a beautiful evening by the lake as the day comes to a close. Although this is a beautiful sunset, there is no way to fully undergo the aura of this sunset simply by viewing a photograph. One must be there to have the entire experience. Walter Benjamin mentions the aura in his article, and says that the aura is “the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be” (4). The sun setting in the picture looks as though it is just on the other side, when in reality, it is far away. We are under the impression that we can go over to the other side and we will be closer to the sunset. We don’t know the distance. This is an example of the trickery of a photograph. The camera seems to bring the sun closer to us. For all we know, this image could’ve been photoshopped. Benjamin also says: “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be”(3). We know that the photograph was taken at an unheard of Crystal Lake, but where exactly is the lake located? Is it off a road? Or is it at a nearby park? By the sunset, we assume that the time is around 6PM. How are we to know for sure? Any work of art lacks in the element of time.
While exploring google maps, I decided to show an image on Kukulaua Ave. in Honolulu, Hawaii. I chose this image because I have been to this exact spot and thought it was interesting seeing the street view on a computer. Here in this image, we see what seems to be a typical day in paradise. Although there is a lot of beauty to this image, one cannot fully expirience the “aura” of this place by just viewing an image of it from the internet. The “aura” that is talked about in Walter Benjamin’s article, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (6) is essentially the mood that is created by a piece. In this image, we see a beautiful blue sky, dozens of palm trees, and Waikiki beach. By only viewing the image, one misses out on the real sights, sounds, and smells of beautiful Hawaii. The aura that is created is warm and relaxing. By going to this place, I have experienced the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze from the ocean, the feeling of the sand as you walk on the beach. All of these aspects are truly what affect the overall aura of this place. Benjamin says that the aura of an artistic piece cannot be found in a captured image. The images are what make the viewer feel distant. This is something I agree with. Although the image appears to be beautiful, The feeling of being in that actual place in much different.
Here’s the picture and here is the permalink to the picture if you want to see a larger image.
Larger Image Here
This post will center focus on Walter Benjamin’s idea of the aura with relation to the image attached to this post. Benjamin’s idea of the aura is “the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be” (4). He further goes on to say that this aura decays as it progresses. This is what I am aiming to represent in my image. Looking at it from left to right or top to bottom, one can see on the left the green tree with life; however, as it moves towards the right, this decay of death is seen through the tree on the left. This tree looks rather dead. This is also depicted in the image from top to bottom. The blue symbolizes life and moving down it gets cloudier until the plants are shown rather dead as well. The idea that auras degenerate over time is stated by Benjamin as well by stating that the masses remove the uniqueness of an item by having it constantly reproduced (4). This means that as more and more of the same reproductions come into availability, the item loses it’s value. I once read a book called The Cave by Jose Saramago who was a potter. He usually sells his items to a mall which would then sell his wares to buyers; however, this one day, his work is refused due to the reason that the bowls he makes out of ceramic have no more value or use because of the new plastic bowls that can be made and bought for cheaper for more profit.
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Tagged #Walter Benjamin, Art, Aura, Benjamin, Death, Decay, dtcv, Google, Google Street View, Images, Stuff, Tradition, Walter