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In “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1968), Walter Benjamin proposed that technologies of mechanical reproduction destroyed the aura of a work of art. Sanctified in a museum or on chapel walls, art retained a sense of inaccessibility and mystique that conferred as well a sort of elite privilege on its consumption. With the advent of mechanical reproduction, however, art could become popularized, and also politicized – a rebirth through which art could match the leveling of classes that Benjamin and his contemporaries envisioned. How do these sentiments translate in an increasingly digital age? Through a series of dialogues between an anthropologist and film curator, this essay is an inquiry into the meanings and significances of mechanical methods of research practice and performance in an era increasingly saturated with hype of the digital. Rather than speaking out against the digital, this essay is concerned with the perspectives for scholars, curators, and artists alike that are retained when one engages with the mechanical.
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