The work of Art in the Age of Its Reproducibility – a Rehearsal of Consumerism and the Aesthetic Consequences of the Dissolution of Tradition

Michał Stemerowicz (Graduate School for Social Research, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences)


This paper aims to look at Walter Benjamin’s famous art essay (Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit) through a Heideggerian perspective. In order to do so, a brief rereading of Benjamin’s art essay will be supplemented with his critique of the traditional notions of history and his concept of Ursprung. In conclusion of this reproduction of Benjamin’s thought, it will be claimed that Benjamin does not only adopt a position that can be characterized as an affirmative technological modernism, but moreover calls for a guidance, a certain agent that navigates the masses through the turmoils of technological advance. It will be argued that such a reading makes Benjamin’s art essay approachable for its critical examination through the lens of Heidegger’s thought concerning technology. Finally, an attempt will be made to evaluate the aesthetic consequences of a world in which the work of art is truly liberated from any “aura” and its embeddedness in tradition. However, this evaluation will not focus on the prime examples of film and photography but rather concentrate on the architectural landscape of the contemporary polish village.