One must be absolutely modern – Rimbaud
Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) [1873], Adieu

Walter Benjamin argued that mass dissemination always depreciates the quality of works of art, that ‘technologies of mass reproduction’ deprive art of a unique aura. It is true that this process partly accounts for the fading dynamism of the avant-garde – we now live in a post avant-garde era – as well as the democratisation of many forms of ‘art’ hitherto the exclusive sphere of privilege and wealth. Can it be that this ‘aura’ is not the aura of aesthetic qualities, but more a patina of ‘value’ that nowadays no one believes in, because everyone can see that ‘high culture’ was a propaganda machine for a wealthy elite of prelates and princes? Is it really the case that a good reproduction of the Mona Lisa is always a poor substitute for the original? Does the reproductive process really strip a masterpiece of its ‘aura’? One cannot fail to detect a certain taint of snobbery in all this. It is the same line of thinking that lead Clement Greenberg to contrast a poem by T. S. Eliot with a Tin Pan Alley – song to the detriment of the song – tbefore attempting to define the role of the avant-garde as protecting ‘culture’ from Capitalism. Heidegger maintained that scientific rationalism and industrialisation has destroyed the basis of art – he called this ‘the death of art’ – because the primordial national culture of olden days can no longer sustain itself, has sunk into a new age of darkness.

There is a fear behind these concerns – an apocalyptic fear – and Neophobia, fear of The New.




A.C. Evans

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