The Grateful Dead, Cave Paintings and Porn

For some reason the question of whether authenticity is still relevant to art in this technology-driven age of hyper-reproducibility made me think of the Grateful Dead.  For years, the Dead allowed fans to plug into their board and record concerts.  Back in the days of cassette tapes those tapes got dubbed, and then dubs were made of the dubs, etcetera until the sound quality was nothing like the original.  But Deadheads still loved them and passed them around, re-living shows they might not have even attended!

 

For the Deadheads, Benjamin’s idea of the “aura” surrounding an artist (in his example, an actor playing MacBeth on stage) wasn’t necessary.  The music is the art, no matter how many times it has been reproduced.  They danced to it the same wi

 

Benjamin’s description of the filmmaking, though, was intriguing, “[t]he film actor performs not in front of an audience, but in front of an apparatus” (p.30).   Is an actor creating art, when he does one scene in several takes on several days, or is the artist the writer who put the words in his mouth, the decorator who designed the sets, or the cinematographer who captured the whole thing? I would say it is all art, a new art form, much as still photography was new at one time, and even cave paintings were new way back when. And when they first painted on the caves, someone probably complained and said it was a mess!

 

Oh the subject of cave paintings, Baudrilliard talks about reproduction of an original cave painting “500 metres away, so that everyone can see them” (p.7).  He describes looking through a peephole at the preserved “real” cave painting, then walking through the reproduction.  It is an entirely different aesthetic experience.

 

In the end, from these readings the message I get is to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart—I can’t describe what is art, but I know it when I see it.  

Advertisements

One Response to “The Grateful Dead, Cave Paintings and Porn”

  1. Your Grateful Dead example is great. Thinking about art as a single finished piece rather than a process is so limiting. Defining a piece by its one specific author and not allowing anyone else to touch it seems to lend a very isolated tone to art as a whole, which, in my opinion, destroys the whole concept of art. What is the point of expressing anything when no one else can share in it?

    I agree also that each new reproduction or abstraction can be viewed as a completely new piece of art. Art inspires other art and that doesn’t devalue the original. If anything, it adds new meaning to the original. This new meaning allows the work to be reborn in a new era and reach new audiences in new ways. Technological reproduction offers timelessness and, even if that comes with some distortion of the original, it seems very close minded to me to get so caught up in authenticity that we disregard any possible advantage to alteration.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: