Tutorial: Block 1, Week 9

David Somers bio photo By David Somers Comment

This week, using the e-library at ual, and continuing talk of elusive taxonomies


One of the librarians at UAL — Jan Morgan — gave a virtual tour around the e-library at UAL.

Can search databases, and ones of use may be:

Can search e-Journals, and ones of use may be:

  • Aperture

For e-learning:


When referencing, UAL uses Harvard notation.

More on elusive taxonomies

(Fifield, G. The Digital Atelier. Art New England: Oct/Nov 1997)

The artist’s ability to effortlessly reposition and combine images, filters and colours, within the friction-less and gravity-free memory space of the computer, endows them with an image-making freedom never before imagined.’

I noted that its always the case? Artists always mix and match using what they have to hand at the time… just now its the computer?

Jonathan says that’s a key question:

is it just that, just artists playing with tools as always, or are these tools different to those that went before — is this ‘an image-making freedom never before imagined’?

Walter Benjamin’s essay: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction from 1936. It is a seminal piece of writing: quoted and used in current debates about art practice in a digital world.

Walter Benjamin was writing from a strongly political stance, as a marxist in Germany at the time of Hitler rising to power. Benjamin talked about art having ‘aura’ - it has been argued that this is a key reference for developing a language for this evolving media. Aura is uniqueness and permanence of what we consider works of art — he saw it related to uniqueness, and place. A photo (the mechanical reproduction) of a mountain looses sense of place and uniqueness and permanence. He was writing at a time when the ability to reproduce full colour images with photos and screen printing, lithography etc were getting more and more advanced

Berger, Way of Seeing, builds on this too.

Andy Warhol quote though: > I think ‘aura’ is something that only somebody else can see, and they only see as much of it as they want to. . . You can only see an aura on people you don’t know very well or don’t know at all.

As Jonathan then noted: I think most of us will have experienced something of aura in relation to art, when you are actually standing in front of the actual work of an artist, spanning time and place - you can get a remarkable feeling — so does the digital mess with this? give us other options? does it have any aura?

Scale. Etc,

Bill Drummond said that scale should not come into…is the angel of the north impressive just because of its scale? Bill Drummond’s 10 commandments of art.

Aura not related to size. Just look at how small the Mona Lisa is. Pollock for example is all about space and rhythm.

David Joselit: > value and aura, today, are not generated by uniqueness and geographical specificity, but by replicability and ubiquity

The meaning and ‘aura’ of an artwork depends on the environment and how you choose to exhibit it

Final thoughts:

  • Is there a link between popularity and value?

  • Do we now need a whole new language to understand ‘aura’ and uniqueness of what art is in a digital age?

These words and metaphors might be more useful than a fixed idea about what art should be:

  • hybrid — less distinction between ‘traditional’ & ‘new’?
  • score / script — working in theatre or music - no one denies the creator is a named person for group but the work is remade, reinterpreted each time it is performed
  • merging — real & virtual mixing to become one? like the merging of art and ‘everyday’ in the 20th C?

Are these useful ways to think about the new ways artists need to think and act?

  • filtering
  • curating
  • signaling
  • amplifying
  • library science
  • ‘knowledge citizen’

Add ‘social media’ to the list.

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