The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility

Filippo Tomaso Marinetti, Les Mots En Liberte Futuristes, 1919.

Just finished “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” by Walter Benjamin — One of the most eerily prescient programmatic essays. But anyway, first, this insane quote which Benjamin cites, from the Italian futurist Marinetti’s manifesto for the colonial war in Ethiopia:

“War is beautiful because — thanks to its gas masks, its terrifying megaphones, its flame throwers, and light tanks — it establishes man’s dominion over the subjugated machine. War is beautiful because it inaugurates the dreamed-of metallization of the human body. War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine-guns. War is beautiful because it combines gunfire, barrages, cease-fires, scents, and the fragrance of putrefaction into a symphony. War is beautiful because it creates new architectures, like those of armored tanks, geometric squadrons of aircraft, spirals of smoke from burning villages, and much more…. Poets and artists of Futurism, remember these principles of an aesthetic of war, that they may illuminate… Your struggles for a new poetry and a new sculpture!”

After which Benjamin goes on:

“Imperialist war is an uprising on the part of technology, which demands repayment in ‘human material’ for the natural material society has denied it…

“‘Fiat ars — pereat mundus,’ says fascism, expecting from war, as Marinetti admits, the artistic gratification of a sense f perception altered by technology. This is evidently the consummation of l’art pour l’art. Humankind, which once, in Homer, was the object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, has now become one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached the point where it can experience its own annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure.”

-pg 42

Fiat ars — pereat mundus: Let art flourish, and the world pass away. Terrifying. A play on the sixteenth century Holy Roman emperor Ferdinant I: “Fiat iustitia et pereat mundus” — Let justice be done and the world pass away.

from The Work of Art in the Age of its Technical Reproducibility and Other Writings On Media, by Walter Benjamin, ed. Jennings, Doherty, Levin; trans. Jephcott, Livingstone, Eiland; Harvard University Press: 2008.