Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Value of Originality

After reading Burke's Terministic Screens and talking in class, I started thinking more about the value of originality. The class seems to be circulating around the question of what determines whether something is worth reproducing, editing, critiquing, etc. and what effect that outside influence bears on the original. It would seem that an original should stand on its own, and I had previously not given much thought to loss of integrity any piece of art, literature, or creative expression experiences after getting sifted through the public eye. However, there are definite ways that an original is changed even in the act of interpretation.

The two ways that stuck out to me came from Benjamin and Burke. Benjamin, in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, frames interpretations in terms of how they are framed more in a literal sense, as mechanical reproductions of works of art attempt to be accurate and transcend that issue of time and space. Burke takes a different perspective as he looks at how the original nuts and bolts (terms) can be used in different ways for vastly different outcomes of interpretation. What I got from these theorists is that is comes down to a question of intention. Burke and Benjamin both deal renovations of things that already exist, but Benjamin is interested in maintaining integrity while Burke is more interested in new ways of seeing old works.

This can best be understood in comparing how they deal with the reproduction of photography. Benjamin is extremely concerned with maintaining at least a semblance of the integrity of the original as he writes, "technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself . . . the situations in 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"(1235). In contrast, Burke writes, "When I speak of 'terministic screens,' I have particularly in mind some photographs I once saw. They were different photographs of the same objects, the difference being that they were made with different color filters"(45). Benjamin is conscious of the depreciation and sees something of a misfortune in it, while Burke much more embraces the difference and mutability of "something so 'factual' as a photograph," as he puts it.

So does the integrity of an original suffer in reinterpretations or is glorified in the appreciation of other artists to portray it in different ways? I'm still not sure, but I think there is value in maintaining an awareness of the original with its historical context and original interpretation, otherwise we would end up in a world of creative mutability lacking in the hierarchy that often inspires artists to create in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the integrity of the original does not suffer from reinterpretations and that if someone, another artist, author, etc, deems a work worthy enough of being reinterpreted, the original isn't affected. The original is the original. As long as historical context and as you said original interpretation is known, or at least the intent of the artist is not lost, then the original does what it was supposed to do. If though, through re-presenting the work diminishes its original goal then there is a problem. But interpretation is up to the individual. If the artist's intent is to portray one thing and someone, upon seeing the original arrives at a different conclusion, who is right? Isn't interpretation based on an individual's perspective? Burke talks about a man having a dream and taking that dream to different schools of thought, Freudian, Jungian, or Adlerian, and says that "the same dream will be subjected to a different color filter, with corresponding differences in the nature of the event as perceived, recorded, and interpreted" (46). I think that since even the original is up for interpretation, it does not lose anything in being reinterpreted. It is just seen through a different color filter but it's still itself.


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