"The bogus religiosity which now surrounds original works of art, and which is ultimately dependent on market value, has become a substitute for what paintings lost when the camera made them reproducible. Its function is nostalgic. It is the final empty claim for the continuing values of an oligarchic, undemocratic culture. If the image is no longer unique, and exclusive, the art object, the thing, must be made mysteriously so."
Can you see what is happening here? It is the return of the aura, of the unique and irreproducible artistic work. Across the artistic spectrum, we are starting to see a turn toward forms of aesthetic experience and production that by their nature can’t be digitized and thrown into the maw of the freeconomy. One aspect of this is the cultivation of deliberate scarcity, which is what Alec Duffy is doing with his listening sessions. Another is the recent hipster trend to treat the city as a playground—involving staged pillow fights in the financial district, silent raves on subways, or games of kick the can that span entire neighborhoods. This fascination with works that are transient, ephemeral, participatory, and site-specific is part of the ongoing rehabilitation of the old idea of the unique, authentic work having an aura that makes it worthy of our profound respect. But in a reversal of Walter Benjamin’s analysis, the gain in deep artistic appreciation is balanced by a loss in egalitarian principle.