Recovering the Aura in the Age of Digital Reproduction

Much has been lamented about the loss of the Aura of Art in the Age of Digital Media - mostly because the transition from old to new media has been poorly understood or poorly executed. And then comes an amazing collection of landscape photographs by someone who has never been there, has not even taken the photos.


Creating stories a bout foreign places is neither rare nor new. Anyone growing up with German generations with stories of the Old West he had never visited, mostly because he spent a bigger part of his life in jail.

The New Yorker brings the story of Jacqui Kenny, "a New Zealander living in London, began exploring the world on Google Street View" as she suffers from an anxiety that makes it impossible for her to travel.  On her Instagram Account "Agoraphobic Traveler" she collects images from the reality created by Google Street View. You may perceive this as "just grabbing some images from a computer screen" but then Jacqui vas there, visited as much as you would walking around neighborhoods as a tourist, neighborhoods you don't belong to, you are not part of, you will never really understand. If you're old enough to recall those dreadful slide show evenings in a friend's dark living room, suffering from ultimate touristic boredom unless you suddenly find a friendly hand from a perfect stranger holding your hand under the table, which may make the evening a success, but I digress...

As we chase after the Google Car that drives across space and time, relentlessly recording the word as we see it, creating a map that is as big as the territory. Alfred Korzybski pointed out "A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness." [Science and Sanity (1933, p. 58) quoted after Wikipedia] - Google Streetview is a map one level removed, on par with 15th c. Maps that in many instances are more beautiful than useful.  Streetview – and Amazon A9 developed Street View before Google [full disclosure: I Was there when it happened]  – creates a "hyperreal" as Baudrilliard describes it in Simulations. "Henceforth it is the map that precedes the territory — PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA — it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map." (ibid. p. 2). 

As much as we create a piece of art depicting what we perceive as reality, we have the opportunity to create a piece of art from a digital perspective of reality that is no more or less real and the aura is created through the work of art in the age of digital reproduction.

[UPDATE] - just found an interesting piece on the relationship between map and territory:

The Relationship between a Subway map and the actual lines through the city - ponder a moment which representation you consider the "right one".

More here.

Canaletto: The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice

Canaletto: The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice