What is the aura of Walter Benjamin and mostly, can we talk about this phenomena in relation to contemporary art?
The lecture focuses in understanding this concept, in the direction that Benjamin gave it, at the moment of its passing into modernity but also in the possibility of its survival through the experience generated by contemporary art. The examples we will discuss are strongly connected to the transformation and consequences that the work of art has suffered after its passing into the era of mechanical reproduction untill contemporaneity and also about the effect that this navigation of shock casted upon the human psyche. The changes come from multiple directions, social, cultural, technological, all of them imposing a shift in the way reality is perceived.
Fredric Jameson said in ‘Postmodernism or Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ that the cultural productions of postmodernism distract the spectator, using this term with a reference to Benjamin. The difference between modernism and postmodernism, which Jameson points out, is that the first still keeps residual information of a native nature, of the archaic and that the culture worked from the perspective of this resistance. Postmodernism and also contemporary art is the result of a completed process of modernization. What comes out of this is a world that profoundly belongs to men, in which culture becomes what he defines as a second nature, this being also what Benjamin identifies as a necessary condition for the survival of aura.
Contemporary art proposes new methods of being rather than concrete objects, the production of gestures primes the production of things. The artist and the public become a field of collective, participatory and critical experiences of a self-poetic apparatus. It is possible that at the basis of Benjamin’s aura lays utopia, which shape also transforms along with the social and historical going but which originates from the longing that the role of art is one of salvation, through the integration of art into the social arena.
 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Duke University Press, 2001, p IX
 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Duke University Press, 2001, p X
Mădălina Buhoș, born in 12th of November 1989 has a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Management at the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies and a Master’s Degree in Art History: History and Methodology in Visual Studies. Her dissertation thesis was on the subject of Walter Benjamin’s aura in contemporary art. Lives and works in Bucharest.
Image: Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project, 2003. Photograph by Tate Photography.
Curated by PAVILION – journal for politics of culture
An exhibition with extracts from the archives of PAVILION, BUCHAREST BIENNALE, FREE ACADEMY, REFORMA, BUCHAREST FILM BIENNALE, PAVILION RESOURCE ROOM
PAVILION – the project started in 1999 which generates the entire activity of the organization (BUCHAREST BIENNALE, FREE ACADEMY, REFORMA, BUCHAREST FILM BIENNALE, PAVILION – center for contemporary art & culture, PAVILION RESOURCE ROOM), alludes to the relative temporary structure of contemporary art.
“WHO IF NOT WE? / DACĂ NU NOI, CINE?” talks about 15 years of resistance in the local/Romanian art scene, about the subterfuges within the struggle against chaotic bureaucracy. It talks about the production of possibilities in the Romanian contemporary art scene, about the placement in the local socio-political field and about generating new perspectives and directions for immediate action. It is and exhibition which marks 15 years of existence and resistance through critique and creating linkages to access culture.
Critical thinking refers to the apprehension and perception of things critically, or argumentatively if seen from a first person perspective (in your position). Your position – your positioning – means to analyse the social, political and economical space where you evolve. For a “post-“ (communist, conceptual, modern) country, it is important to apprehend its history, to criticise it – either positively or negatively. The history of this type of habitat lies at the basis of the definition and terminological delimitation of the space and has also structured its mission: critical approach to immediacy.
Through the word “pavilion” we understand a construction that is temporary and built for a specific purpose – something between a house and a tent. Its primary function is functionality – it can be easily installed and uninstalled, you can change its location rapidly and still, it has the potential to mark a certain space, be it outside or inside of the pavilion. A temporary structure, just as PAVILION journal is a temporary platform for politics, art and contemporary culture.
The concept of temporality of the pavilion fits perfectly with the way the culture of today is (re-) presented. Art and culture are dynamic, temporary, often changing and moving not only backwards, forwards, left and right, but in every other direction. You need a temporary structure to analyze contemporary culture – you have to be fast and dynamic and you need a medium that is as temporary as the field it represents, but that should still remain solid. This is why a structure such as the pavilion could be useful.
“Being here” places us in a very specific social setting. A setting of mobility, territoriality and a place between different borders where the metaphors of globalization linked to the disappearance of said borders, implies that people, capital and goods take advantage of the freedom of movement, leading to the creation of a new network of mobility, which drives us towards cultural progress, the cultural act becomes an object of recreation, entertainment or personal development through leisure and this is an ubiquitous reality in contemporary society. It is claimed quite often that such a conception of culture would be expressed freely, as an abstract element, through unity-in-diversity, through universality-by-difference
To move fast in different directions is the most important criteria for an institution today –to quote Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari and their book “Milles Plateaux”, the institution should be a temporary structure, like a rhizome. A rhizome is sort of a stem cell that puts out lateral shoots in any directions, without having a dichotomous structure, but instead a pluralistic structure. A rhizome is a temporary structure insofar that it can spread out from every point within the rhizome to every other point in, or outside of the rhizome, having the possibility to grow new shoots and also to mortify old shoots – a structure, which is necessary for a cultural institution today – temporary and moving in every possible direction.
Only this temporary structure, the rhizoid structure, allows us to intervene in the “society of the spectacle” to exactly analyze recent issues and their power structures and to finally turn the spectacle upside down. We have the possibility to re-think processes and to redirect them.
Apart from the critical expectations of the PAVILION, we are also trying to undertake another type of critical thinking: the criticism of the person (id est “persona”), of the individual, the criticism of everyone by and from everyone, including self-criticism. We propose this commitment in order to have the opportunity to involve ourselves – even superficially or vulgarly – in the existence of our society.
Nevertheless, the basic function of all of these instruments, the journal, the centre and the biennale, will remain concretization.
P.S. The ideea of the title and the concept of the exhibition was inspired by the following texts: Zsolt Petrányi, “Chaos: The age of confusion”, reader of Bucharest Biennale 2, in Pavilion #9; Jan-Erik Lundström, “Being here. Mapping the contemporary”, reader of Bucharest Biennale 3, vol. 1: text book in Pavilion #12; Anne Barlow, “Tactics for the here and now”, reader of Bucharest Biennale 5, in Pavilion #16; Felix Vogel, “Handlung. On Producing Possibilities”, reader of Bucharest Biennale 4, in Pavilion #15.
The exhibition can be visited from Wednesday until Sunday, between 15.00-19.00