Cult Exhibition and Internet

Walter Benjamin writes that art is received and valued on two different planes; cult value and exhibition value. Cult value is based in magic and ritual (“what mattered was their existence, not their being on view” 108) versus the spectacle nature of exhibition value, value based on being seen by everyone. With mechanical reproduction in mind, and moving on later to digital reproduction and the internet, I want to consider how these concepts may be reapplied in a slightly different context than the one Benjamin has in mind. For Benjamin, the fine art version of exhibition value is still, in a sense, retaining some cult value. Paintings shown in a gallery are meant to be seen by the public, but they maintain relics that only a few will travel to view. Today, most art that one wishes to see can be found on the internet in a form of endless digital reproduction, seemingly the end of ritualistic cult value. However, there is still generally an issue; you find that galleries, museums, and artists themselves, specifically do not upload images of their artwork, or specifically request that gallery visitors do not photograph the art. There is still a refusal to let go of cult value, even in the age of digital reproduction, where for most amateurs the only reasonable way to get noticed seems to be to publish your work online. In fact, even digitally available art can retain cult value; if a band or a film is considered underground, even if it can be found on youtube, a certain sense of pride can be found in its small audience in that they are the special few to have discovered this digital artifact. How visible is something anyway when it is only one part of a seemingly infinite, but otherwise accessible, space?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *