i've been thinking about pricing as you all know, and that has led me to think about walter benjamin. i never thought he would stick with me after grad school - he's not the most entertaining writer (although i remember loving the arcades project). he wrote his famous work "the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction" in the early 20th century when art was just beginning to be mass distributed in prints.
he pondered what exactly it was that created the value of the "original" art work and why it should necessarily be worth more than a copy. he theorized that the original had been imbued with some sort of magical or religious significance and called this special something the work's "aura." but if you read the essay carefully and know that he was a good marxist, it seems that he meant this to be tongue-in-cheek. there really isn't an "aura" - it's an arbitrary system of value that's been assigned to the original, the rare, something called "art" - and that value system is inextricably linked with wealth and power. the mechanical reproduction of art made it available to everyone. one can only imagine what he would have thought of digital age! but the nazis made that impossible.
so i was thinking about those of us working from photographs, especially endlessly and instantly reproducible digital photographs - and re-interpreting them as fiber art. in some ways, it's the reverse of the process benjamin was describing - taking the copy and re-aura-izing it. even en embroidered pattern has something of this. the stitches give that same indexicality as the brush-stroke that lets you know the person, the artist or crafter, was really there. i guess this is nothing all that new since painters have long worked from photographs, which is another reason the whole logic of the "original" can be circular.
i've just been wondering why it is we stitch, beyond the beauty and enjoyment of it. what is it that's so compelling about this medium. the labor of it and time involved seems to have something to do with marking it as an original - and then the fact that it's typically a representational art, images or text but not often abstract - makes it seem very much like trying to fix something in memory, memorialize it, make it last. that's how i feel anyway. what do you think?