A description of the Digital Aura exhibition, with details on all four featured videos: (Modern) Formations II by Laura Hyunjhee Kim; Inextinguishable Fire by Cassils; I. by Adrian Regnier Chavez; and Threshold by Sanaz Mazinani.
Sanaz Mazinani, Threshold May 5–July 29 ALL Laura Hyunjhee Kim, (Modern) Formations II May 20–June 16 MMoCA Cassils, Inextinguishable Fire June 17–July 14 MMoCA Adrián Regnier Chávez, I. July 15–August 6 MMoCA
Digital Aura responds to philosopher Walter Benjamin’s seminal essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936). The exhibition presents works by four artists who are re-inventing the meaning of Benjamin’s concept of aura within the context of our contemporary digital age. For Benjamin, an artwork’s aura exists as both a feeling of presence and an attitude of artistic reverence—an “aesthetic experience” resulting from the work of art’s unique existence. He argued that aura is lost when the singular authenticity of an artwork can be multiplied through reproducible media—in his time, photography and film. Over the last half century, technological developments have introduced the possibility of infinite reproduction, raising new and urgent questions about the state of the “original” artwork. Because digital media can be copied with no generation loss, the so-called original becomes instantiated with each new version. In other words, originality now exists in plurality, like views of the same world through a series of windows. At the same time, the ease of reproducibility opens up new opportunities for artworks to be quickly disseminated and reach wider audiences, thereby increasing the impact of revolutionary artistic content. Furthermore, the rise of networked communication and internet culture have positioned these originals in a new kind of public sphere—or public screen—where civil discourse occurs instantaneously on a global scale, with the possibility for technologically-enabled progress (or regress) exponentially increased. Digital Aura presents works by Sanaz Mazinani, Laura Hyunjhee Kim, Cassils, and Adrián Regnier Chávez—contemporary artists whose innovations in digital media challenge Benjamin’s assertion that auratic experience and political cinema are mutually exclusive. By engaging with Benjamin’s notion of aura, these artists demonstrate the capacity for digital works to evoke a sense of ritualistic awe. At the same time, they defy the author’s proposed predicament by embracing the democratizing and socially transformative potential of infinite reproduction. Through a combination of sublime imagery, ambient sound, and existential thematic material, each work embodies its own unique “digital aura,” while simultaneously engaging in important dialogues of social concern.