Monday, February 21, 2011

The Museum in the Age of Digital Reproduction.

What will experience be like once everything is mediated by technology. I already can zoom into any location with Google street view or use my mobile camera and gps to get information about the locations around me. More and More, the world is packaged in digital space, and as scary as it may be, it allows us access to information we otherwise could not see or know in physical space.

Prime example, the new Google Art Project will not only allows anyone with Internet access to navigate museums around the globe, but also zoom into to paintings at high resolution allowing you to see details that the regular human eye would not be able to capture.


When Benjamin spoke of how art would change in the age of mechanical reproduction, he thought art would become more democratic but that its aura would somehow be lost in a sea of infinite replications. There is no doubt that looking at the Mona Lisa in person is an entirely different experience than looking at it in pixel form on the computer screen, but many people cannot afford to travel all the way to the Louvre. Art is democratized for the masses, no longer a privilege for the wealthy.

While it may be an experience absent of aura and that special life force that outlines physical presence, Google's Art Project will no doubt redefine the place of the Museum as well as the place of experiencing art in the digital age. While it won't completely discount the importance of actually visiting museums (one can only imagine it would increase it), I am left wondering whether the virtual will be the penultimate experience, mediating and informing our physical reality?

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