In 1936, German social theorist Walter Benjamin wrote "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." He believed that modern culture consumed art in a way it never had before - in a way that ultimately destroyed it.
Within his lifetime Benjamin saw the technological advances of mechanical reproduction and the growing accessibility of print media. In his book, he claims that, historically, art has always possessed an aura, which comes from the time and space it was created in, and the purpose it was created for. But now in the age of mechanical reproduction, images of works of art are reproduced in textbooks, post cards, film, etc. - and because of this, the aura is lost. For example, the mystical quality of going to the Vatican, walking into the chapel, and gazing up at the astounding paintings is depreciated because most people today already know what it looks like. It is not consumed in the way it was intended.
Fast forward 30 years - the Pop Art movement monopolized on this theory. Warhol's Marilyn's and Mao's were made with the intention of being reproduced. Of the prints he made, no one is more original or authentic than the next. In the age of mechanical reproduction, “the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility” (Benjamin).
My point: where does this leave me - a Fine Artist in the Age of Social Media.
A ceramic sculptor at that. I work with dirt and fire, literally the most archaic medium.
In the Age of Social Media, art is consumed in a mater of seconds. Maybe two. And a double tap (if you're lucky). On one hand, I have to thank Instagram. Through it I've gained a modest following of strangers who'd have never found me otherwise.
But here is my problem (the same Benjamin exposed nearly a century ago): I create in the third dimension - but my art lives in the second. So rarely is it ever consumed within the realm I literally formed it in. Most people will never know the size of a piece, the depth and detail, the weight and touch. And I will never see their emotional interaction - which is a huge factor in my creative process.
It's interesting because I find myself creating within this awareness. I've made a number of pieces over the last year that I sculpted in a day, spray painted, snapped a photo of, posted to Instagram, then let crumble back into dust. Without putting it through the kiln (which takes time and money), my sculptures will go back into the earth it came from. Whereas my fired and finished pieces will literally last thousand of years. Think of all the ancient pottery from cultures long forgotten - my work (not dependent on if people want it or not), will outlive me for centuries.
But that's just it.
Not only is the aura of my art lost through the two dimensionality of social media - but if I keep creating art in this way, for this two second consumption - my work will physically be non-existent.
Better pull a Warhol quick and figure out how to embrace this.
(Also, I think this might be the start of my grad thesis.)