Thursday, October 4, 2007

Week 1 - Introduction

This week marked the beginning of the Digital Cultures module. Off to a great start we're reading Borges' "Pierre Menard" and Benjamin's "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."

A few questions:

In "La postulación de la realidad" Borges maintains that in order to create verisimilitude in stories (and this was the aim) the author must create and imagine
"una realidad más compleja que la declarada al lector y referir sus derivaciones y efectos" (219)
[nb. my rough translation more or less: a reality more complex than the one declared/shown to the reader and then to refer/tell of the consequences and effects.] How does this idea of creating such a complex reality fit with Pierre Mendard?

"He did not want to compose another Quixote --which is easy-- but the Quixote itself. Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide--word for word and line for line--with those of Miguel de Cervantes."


"In spite of these three obstacles, Menard's fragmentary Quixote is more subtle than Cervantes'. The latter, in a clumsy fashion, opposes to the fictions of chivalry the tawdry provincial reality of his country; Menard selects as his "reality" the land of Carmen during the century of Lepanto and Lope de Vega. What a series of espagnolades that selection would have suggested to Maurice Barrès or Dr. Rodriguez Larreta! Menard eludes them with complete naturalness. In his work there are no gypsy flourishes or conquistadors or mystics or Philip the Seconds or autos da fé. He neglects or eliminates local color. This disdain points to a new conception of the historical novel."


How can the same words be so much richer? How can Cervantes' original worlds invoke only truisms but Menard's rendition point to a whole new conception of the historical novel? What might this mean for the role of culture in interpreting writing (or art etc...)? What might this imply for us today, possibly reading online those original words crafted in the 1600s through the Menardian production? (*think of how this might reconstruct the past through the contemporary and how that shapes the reader and culture*)


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Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original."


"The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity"


"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original"


In terms of the digital do the terms "original" and "reproduction" hold true in the same way?

If for Benjamin the (easy) reproduction of art implies greater access which leads to a political slant, then with today's more accessible environment where Web 2.0 ethos tells us we're all experts, what role might politics play in reproduction? Is there a move from reproduction as art to digitization as content/information?

3 comments:

Your biggest fan said...

Interesting questions Jess. Will give it some thought.

paul said...

In terms of digital reproduction then there need not necessarily be an original work in terms of content. It may however be possible that there may be a context for the original work of art. I.e. Accessed from a particular website or set of menus.

It may well be also that there is still a relevance in the effect of time or temporality on the digital content. While the content may remain static the context will alter. Which i suppose would relate us back to Pierre Menard.

It is also possible that a work of digital art such as the first open source sentence would both change over time in terms of its relationship to the rest of the net and the additional content it has gained, the ways in which the coding of the text has altered. So while the net moves on at pace (i.e. the use of video, flash animations etc) a text based digital art work will be in a different context.

It would also be reproducible but the original would/could still be added to.

paul said...

In terms of digital reproduction then there need not necessarily be an original work in terms of content. It may however be possible that there may be a context for the original work of art. I.e. Accessed from a particular website or set of menus.

It may well be also that there is still a relevance in the effect of time or temporality on the digital content. While the content may remain static the context will alter. Which i suppose would relate us back to Pierre Menard.

In that a work of digital art such as the first open source sentence would both change over time in terms of its relationship to the rest of the net and the additional content it has gained, the ways in which the coding of the text has altered. So while the net moves on at pace (i.e. the use of video, flash animations etc) a text based digital art work will be in a different context.

It would also be reproducible but the original would/could still be added to.