IV …for the first time in world history, technological reproducibility emancipates the work from its parasitic subservience to ritual. To an ever-increasing degree, the work reproduced becomes the reproduction of a work designed for reproducibility.
IV But as soon as the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applied to artistic production, the whole social function of art is revolutionized. Instead of being founded on ritual, it is based on a different practice: politics.
VI The masses are a matrix from which all customary behavior toward works of art is today emerging newborn. Quantity has been transformed into quality: the greatly increased mass of participants has produced a different kind of participation. The fact that the new mode of participation first appeared in a disreputable form should not mislead the observer.
VI Yet some people have launched spirited attacks against precisely this superficial aspect of the matter. Among these critics Duhamel has expressed himself most radically.What he objects to most is the kind of participation which the movie elicits from the masses. Duhamel calls the movie
XV “a pastime for helots, a diversion for the uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries…,a spectacle which requires no concentration and presupposes no intelligence…,which kindles no light in the heart and awakens no hope other than the ridiculous one of someday becoming a ‘star’ in Los Angeles.”
XV Clearly, this is in essence the old lament that masses seek distraction, whereas art demands concentration from the spectator… A person who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it; he enters into the work…
IIX This (distance) permits the audience to take the position of a critic, without experiencing any personal contact with the actor. The audience’s empathy with the actor is really an empathy with the camera. Consequently, the audience take the position of the camera; its approach is that of testing.
XV Reception and distraction-the sort of reception which is increasingly noticeable in all area of art and is symptom of profound changes in apperception-finds in film its true training ground. It makes cult value recede into the background, not only because it encourages an evaluating attitude in the audience but also because, at the movies, the evaluating attitude requires no attention. The audience is an examiner, but a distracted one.
So we have a few statements worth examining: • The role of art has changed. • The way in which the audience participates in art has changed. • Distraction and distance allow for a more critical viewpoint.
Bertolt Brecht & his ALIENATION EFFECT
Adorno to Benjamin 1936 …the romanticism which seeks to uphold the ‘personality’ and such-like mystification, or with that anarchistic romanticism which places blind trust in the spontaneous powers of the proletariat within the historical process -a proletariat which is itself a product of bourgeois society. To a certain extent, I must charge your essay with this second form of romanticism.
Adorno to Benjamin 1936 The laughter of a cinema audience - I have discussed this with Max and he has probably related this to you already - is anything but salutary and revolutionary; it is full of the worst bourgeois sadism instead. …I cannot find your theory of ‘distraction’ at all convincing…
Parade of the Old New I stood on a hill and I saw the Old approaching, but it came as the New. It hobbled up on new crutches which no one had ever seen before and stank of new smells of decay which no one had ever smelt. The stone that rolled past was the newest invention and the screams of the gorillas drumming on their chests set up to be the newest thing in music. Everywhere you could see open graves standing empty as the New advanced on the capital. Round about stood those who inspire terror, shouting: Here comes the New, it’s all new, salute the New, be new like us! And those who heard, heard nothing but their shouts, but those who saw, saw certain people who were not shouting. So the Old strode in disguised as the New, but it brought the New with it in its triumphal procession and presented it as the Old. The New went fettered and in rags. They revealed its splendid limbs. And the procession moved through the night, but what they thought was the light of dawn was the light of fires in the sky. And the cry: Here comes the New, it’s all new, salute the New, be new like us! would have been easier to hear if everything had not been drowned in the thunder of guns.