Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

There's a pretty famous series by feminist photographer Sherrie Levine called "After Walker Evans". In it, Levine takes works by male artists, in this case, Depression-era photographer Walker Evans, and "re-photographs" them. 

As Howard Singerman puts it in his article "Seeing Sherrie Levine", "From the beginning, then, they [Levine's re photographs] have existed not as images on the wall, but as an absence in those images" (p.79). As Benjamin pointed out, the implication of exact reproductions of art is political. By taking an artist like Walker Evans and photographing his work to the point where it's impossible to tell the difference between the two, Levine is working beyond the visual spectrum and into the theoretical. "After Walker Evans" is a visual representation of an experiment in authorship, authenticity, and gender. 

Looking at “After Walker Evans” on a screen, then, is a further degree from the original sharecropper's wife. I’m looking at a replicate on my screen of a photo of a photo. It’s more complicated than Inception

That is to say—as Benjamin points out in "Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" the existence of the ability to rapidly replicate works of art complicates art. It complicates artistic processes, complicates authorship, complicates reality. This is only truer now with the advent of smartphones, etc. 

I guess the thing about this is, it kind of excites me. Quick reproduction and the ability to totally capture the audio and visual qualities of an object, person, or place allows for a total new medium, and different approach to art. We don’t have to be hyper realistic in painting, anymore. Paintings can be whatever they need to be.The advent of photography as a medium means that we were able to re-prioritize was important in other mediums, and thus lead to movements like post-impressionism, surrealism and postmodernism. I wonder what the advent of our current digital age means for art now. Is it changing the game? 

As Singerman point's out about "After Walker Evans", the importance of the piece is rooted in the absence of the real piece, but when standing in the room with "After Walker Evans" there is still piece that holds space in the physical realm. What does it mean when that physicality isn't present in the repclication—when I look at "After Walker Evans" on my phone? When looking at "After Walker Evans" on my phone, not only is the absence of the original felt, but now I feel the absence of the replica, too.