The Unbearable Aura of a Website. Originality in the Digital Age – Domenico Quaranta

The Unbearable Aura of a Website. Originality in the Digital Age – Domenico Quaranta

“With the digital medium, Benjamin’s theory about the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction seems to have reached a dead end. When there is no difference between copy and original, the aura fades and rarity can only be artificially stimulated. Yet, is this always true? Playing with Benjamin and Groys, this article shows how like the mythological Phoenix, the aura can resurface in the most replicable digital artefact: the website…

“In other words, a Web address gives to any file a presence, an aura. A website – or any file experienced through the Internet is an auratic, digital original. Technically, a website is a collection of files located on a shared computer space, associated to an IP (Internet Protocol) address (a numerical label assigned to any device participating in a computer network) and to a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). If a website is a building, the IP is its position on a map (i.e. 1071 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10128-0173) and the URL is the name currently used to identify it (i.e. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). As a whole, a website can be described as an installation: it locates a series of fragments (documentation of invisible originals) in a specific unique place. You can go to that place using a browser and clicking on a link. As any real original, if the link is wrong, or the website is not there anymore, you can’t experience it. You may experience an identical copy locally, but it won’t be the same thing: you will miss the aura of the original piece.

“This ‘aura’ is the result of a unique relationship: the one between the content of the website and its location.”

Domenico Quaranta, The Unbearable Aura of a Website. Originality in the Digital Age, Artpulse, Vol. 2 No. 3 Spring 2011. The article can be found here.

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