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Does Aura Exist in Digital Art

Nov 9, 2007
Ever since Walter Benjamin published his essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," scholars have debated whether mechanically reproduced art can have "aura" as Benjamin discussed this concept. The debate has now included digital art and cybernetic systems, but the question has remained the same. Can a work of art not produced by human hands, but by a machine have the same quality or atmosphere as conventional works?

Referring to Benjamin's own definitions regarding "aura", one can argue that it is possible for "aura" to be present even in digitally produced art, if the artist is aware of the spatial concerns necessary to meet Benjamin's expectations. Using as an example the artifacts of Mariko Mori, a Japanese-American multimedia artist, the presence of contemporary "aura" is examined in terms of technique, installation, and metaphorical qualities of digitally-created art, as the artist appears sensitive and aware of the importance of space and the viewers' perceptions and experience.

Mariko Mori is a former fashion designer and model who decided to turn to artistic photography, video, and performance arts. As a multimedia artist, Mori's solo exhibitions in U.S., Italy and Japan have gained world-wide recognition, as she manages to take her playful imagery to a new level of literalness, while her dexterity and creativity with innovative technologies have resulted in spectacular forms of art. Her appeal is mainly due to the fact that Mariko Mori has managed to combine Western ideals of feminism and Japanese pop culture and express surreal thoughts on the subject. By creating her complex artifacts, nearly life-size installations of video, photography, sculpture, and sometimes even fragrances combinations, she links Eastern spirituality with modern technology, connecting the ancient Asian past with the global world of today.

Mariko Mori's large photographs and video installations present futuristic scenes that meditate on the profusion of artifice in contemporary culture and extract elements of Eastern spiritual thought and art, to express optimism for life in the next millennium. Mori always stars in her own creations and usually presents herself as a computer-fabricated pop star who explores the hybrid nature of individual identity and its relation to private fantasies and global culture. Cyborgs and avatars are mostly featured in Mori's works, coupled with a healthy portrayal of the incorporation of modern technology in daily life.

Inspired by the Buddhist concept that all things in the universe are interconnected, Mariko Mori believes that art shares with electronic technology, religion and even fashion photography, the ability to give form to our dreams, fantasies and desires. In order to demonstrate better her beliefs she uses space as if it was a tangible material. If now one concentrates on the spatial properties of aura, that it has a unique presence in space through time, electronic media and digital artists through different approaches can meet this requirement. Artists, like Mariko Mori, who can create a unique spatial environment for work that is mechanically reproduced or digitally produced are actually able to "transmit" aura through their work. In other words, an artist can create aura through a digital media by using space. Thus, an artist can contradict Benjamin's theory about mechanically reproduced art, by simply following his own definition.
About the Author
Jonathon Hardcastle writes articles on many topics including Arts , Beauty , and Jewelary
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