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Culture

By tigrinha Apr 20, 2012 721 Words
First it would be profitable to try to define culture; for a cultural studies researcher not only it includes traditional high culture (the culture of ruling social groups) and popular culture but according to Raymond Williams also everyday meanings and practices.As stated in Matthew Arnold´s "Culture and Anarchy" culture is “the disinterested endeavor after man's perfection”.It was James Clifford in “Collecting art and culture” that defended that what we gather for culture is not always the same because objects of study vary according to power discourses which define the value of the studied object.This being said, it is commonly known that we live in a time of consumption, so naturally art is seen from that perspective.Theodor Adorno defends culture is being sold as you would with commodities. The autonomy of works of art is eliminated by the culture industry they become bound to be trade as commodities. In a Marxist view, he defends that those who control the means of production, essentially control the culture. Adorno approaches the spheres of mass culture in a simplistic way, production (industry) and reception (consumption) – strip away individuality. Adorno also distinguishes high / low art. He says that high art has been diminished by "speculation about its efficacy”.. In this sense, high culture would be the art worth of serious academic study while low culture would be the culture of the masses. Walter Benjamin speaks about the way we define art is determined not by ideas but by theories. He reflects on what art is and the way it is being altered by technical means. W. Benjamin starts his essay by quoting Paul Valéry: “our fine arts were developed by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours” – so it is something questionable. In addition, Valéry states that the idea of Beautiful is constantly changing due to the growth in techniques and their precision. Benjamin corroborates this view by pointing out that techniques of representation detach the reproduced object from the domain of tradition and mass movements are responsible for this, especially the film. Although in his essay he states that "the film operator captures the image at the speed of an actor´s speech", thus showing us things we have never been able to notice before, like a gesture decomposed in several fractions of a second, it also manipulates masses – its ultimate purpose is profit. "The reproduction of works of art and the art of the film have had a huge impact on in its traditional form", as Benjamin puts it. Who hasn´t experienced this first-hand? Calling forward the example of painting, Benjamin points out that without its reproduction it would not be accessible to so many, we will have to dislocate in order to be able to contemplate the original work . But copies diminish the importance of the work of art. For example a symphony was trivialized “from an auditory to the drawing room”. This calls to question the authority of the object. Copies of a work of art made it commodity. Without realizing the painter was selling them to earn a living, although his ulterior motive was the artistic side of it. But it became a commodity nonetheless.According to both texts there is no high culture today and little remains in the sense it was first created. W. Benjamin states that high culture always had a cult component and it was bound by it. Statues were made to be contemplated in temples, mosaics in churches. Works of art like statues and mosaics that cannot be mechanical reproduced thus maintained their authenticity – “they are first and foremost related to cult value". When a work of art is related to exhibition value it loses its aura because by reproducing the uniqueness of every reality we destroy the aura. According to Benjamin high art would be the works of art that have an aura and can maintain their distance. If such a distance is not kept then true authenticity is questioned. An analysis of contemporary life sheds some light in this question. It brings us closer to every manifestation of art. He also states that contemporary literature is being undervalued. There is a thin dividing line between reader and writer. Virtually any reader can become a writer, once again closeness is implied.

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