The future is not what it used to be

I am (still) reading Walter Benjamin’s Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction I enjoy the quote that opens it by Paul Valerey. Sounds like Mcluhan, but he is talking (Benjamin too) about shifts due to mechanical development – reproduction, now this needs updating with an essay about art in the age of electronic production.

More Paul Valery quotes follow, including the bit I have paraphrased above from the Benjamin essay.

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931

A work is never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfaction, the need to deliver, or death: for, in relation to who or what is making it, it can only be one stage in a series of inner transformations.

I like that one and am waiting for the next phase… though I guess posting this is part of the unfinished process, does not quite feel like it.

Will keep on blogging my close reading of Benjamin.

3 Replies to “The future is not what it used to be”

  1. Benjamin is important but I suspect maybe not much has changed since he wrote that essay. After McCluhan we had Arthur Kroker describing contemporary workers as, “specialists without spirit”. I tend to agree, but still believe there is a nice chunk of the sublime for each of us if we want it.

  2. Neath, I think the electronic production is not so much changing the old as adding a dimension and an impact that is invisible to us, we are so immersed in it, but its full impact is still to come, especially in visual arts as it is only recently that we can make big enough files and send them fast enough to make a difference.

    I will keep your comment the in mind as I read on!

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