Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimers’ “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” takes the Karl Marx theory that the economic base of a society creates its superstructure and they expound upon that to say that culture is simply a commodity. Not only is culture a commodity but it’s creation is dictated by economic forces.
I agree that almost all of pop culture is a commodity that is used to create a profit for all involved in the endeavor and our economics has impacted the type of “art” that is being produced today. I don’t think that artists ONLY produce their works to make money but I think it influences what they choose to create and in what medium. Beyonce is a good example of a pop culture phenomenon that has impacted the entire world. Some of her work is truly groundbreaking, she is a symbol of female strength and a ardent civil right's advocate. But she is still a commodity. She would not be known the world over if no one profited from her work.
Then there are pieces of culture that can operate both outside economic forces and are considered authentic masterpieces that influence artists today while also being used as a commodity because they are so valuable to us and having a piece of their work for ourselves is used as a status symbol. In other forms, the masterpiece of old have been adapted for use in our modern pop culture to earn a buck. For example, photo editing apps have filters that mimic Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night,
|Nothing like a little Starry Night to make Toadz bar look appealing.|
you can buy a pair of socks with Hokusai’s The Wave on them
and you can find hundreds of meme's that channel Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
|Pop Culture's spin on The Scream|
Do these replications hold the same value as the original? Walter Benjamin makes a valid point when he stated, “The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition.”
I would agree that reproduced works of art do not hold the same value of the original, especially in the form of socks. Original works of art have high value because of the time, place, and social environment in which they were created. One can even argue that the pieces of art themselves weren’t considered valuable at the time because of the artist but rather, time has shown us the genius of these artist’s creation and are appreciated themselves after the fact. Michelangelo did not create art in order to become rich. In fact, most artists in his era were extremely poor and in Michelangelo’s case, his father hated that he was an artist. Michelangelo also did things that were illegal and against all acceptable societal norms in order to create the masterpiece The David. Michelangelo knew some of the monks that cared for the bodies of the dead before they were buried. He would go to these consecrated places at night and dissect bodies very carefully and study the intricacies of the human body in order to create sculptures that were as accurate to the human body as possible. Not only was this dedication to his craft, it adds another level of authenticity that can be admired but not necessarily replicated.
The Sistine Chapel will always be the original and have more value than any replication of the chapel itself or the famous ceiling that Michelangelo took 40 years to paint. Even if the ceiling of the Sistine chapel were made into wallpaper and mass produced to sell to everyone, it would not diminish the value or sanctity that the original holds in the hearts and minds of man.
|Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel|
So my question is this, do you really believe that true artists and authentic art has not or cannot be produced simply because someone is trying to make money off of it? I believe that true artists will create what they feel inspired to created with no thought given to the financial gain or notoriety that may arise from their creation. We have evidence of artists creating truly transformative art when their craft was not respected, much less rewarded or used as a status symbol. Artist today may have a lot to gain but does that take away from their authenticity?
I would also like to know your opinion about the following:
What is so important about the "domain of tradition?"
Why are we obsessed with the cultural value of something? Is it because we feel it reflect who we are as a people?