Victor Burgin: Returning to Benjamin
‘In the mid-1930s, Walter Benjamin posed the question of the relation of art to the dominant representational technology of his time: photography and film. To return to the artwork essay today in the spirit in which it was written is to ask the same question in respect of the hegemonic representational technology of our own time: the digital. Benjamin found that the medium of photography and film had dissolved the auratic quality of art. Digital technology has dissolved the very category of ‘medium’ itself.’ Walter Benjamin’s essay of cultural criticism ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ has become a ‘classic’ text, one which resonated through the twentieth century and beyond. In this succinct and pointed new essay, the artist and writer Victor Burgin rereads Benjamin’s 1935 text, to elaborate a new argument contending that the camera today is profoundly imbricated in that which is not visible.