Author: Rotstein, Aviva Yael
This study considers Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura in the context of new media. Drawing from Benjamin’s writings as well as scholarly interpretations of his work, I argue that aura has not been eradicated despite technological advancements that have vastly increased the accessibility and mobility of images and image making. Following from interpretations of Benjamin that link the phenomenon of aura to an intrinsic human longing for transcendent fullness of (auratic) presence that can never be realized but persists in a partial state, I develop a general aesthetics of aura that centres on manifestations and representations of trace. I then modify my aesthetics of aura to account for dematerialization and other challenges of new media. My research methodology is phenomenological: I utilize autophenomenographic methods, iteratively documenting and reflecting upon my own embodied perceptions of auratic encounters with new media art. I compare my various observations in the context of the aesthetic criteria of aura previously identified, re-evaluating my original theoretical positions. I eventually confront the issue of aura’s potential instrumentalization, concluding that my accidental and chance encounters with aura, often the result of a design or programming oversight, ultimately cannot be reproduced and instrumentalized at will. I determine that in new media artworks, aura fundamentally lingers within these accidental ruptures that prevent immersive experience.
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Thesis advisor: Marontate, Jan
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