MachineMade Digital Aura



MachineMade Digital Aura

Time: 07.11.2020-05.01.2021
Location: Building 11, No.2555, Longteng Avenue, Near Fenggu Road


Were we to regard mechanical reproduction as a necessary, technological prerequisite for the cultivation and popularization of modern design then we might also conclude that, nowadays, digital mass-customization is re-enabling design works, imbuing them with all the delicate existence of handmade artifacts.

However, a question arises: Is the iteration of contemporary technology able to completely retrieve the artistic authenticity of the design works undermined by their mechanical reproducibility? Is it able to bring back their perceptual uniqueness, their aura?

In the exhibition, we re-examine and re-interpret persistent arguments in Walter Benjamin’s "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" by asking a post-humanistic question: having intentionally eliminated human intervention in the production process, should digitally mass-produced works continue to be defined with our social constructed concept "copies"?

Different from the inherent binary opposition between original and replicas in manual reproduction or mold and products in mechanical reproduction, digital mass- customization does not rely on any replication mechanism built upon an original template. Rather, it upholds a proliferation reflecting the unfolding process from a virtual diagram to its infinite actualized results.

Process of the production and representation of the results collapse into each other.

While the processory logic of digital algorithms is projected into the physical state of the design work through the processes of the machine, the machinery process itself also affects the transformation of the design work in a subtle way due to the accidental deviation of material, energetical or informational exchange. When juxtaposing machines and humans under a flat ontology, those processes and transformations, either visible or invisible, would perform in the same way with what is celebrated as creative or productive errors in manual production.  Further, they would reveal the unique presence of the design work in time and space while constructing its artistic authenticity through historical testimonies.

In this way, the concept of “originality” and even “authenticity” might be eventually dissolved, or else distributed equally into each of the actualized results.

Beyond the oppositional structure of terms “autonomy” and “everyday” in artistic discourse, this post-humanistic detachment forms another estrangement between the design work and the viewer. Can this relationship produce a meaningful aesthetic experience? Can the viewer form empathy with the machine as a creative subject or even co-collaborator? As aura decays during the transformation of art from traditional forms to more modern expressions, can or will it be reborn in the digital age?

Curatorial Statement/Chao Yan