Aura and the Dialectics of Printmaking

Clare Humphries
2010 Conference

In this paper I will examine the notion of the aura in relation to contemporary printmaking practice. I will argue that Walter Benjamin’s conception of the aura –rather than being in opposition to methods of mechanical reproduction – is in fact enfolded within the central discourse of the printmaking discipline. The structure of print-based image making implicates a suite of opposing tensions that are the core of the auratic experience, including the dualities of now/then, here/not here and multiple/individual. The printed image, for example, indicates both the touch and the loss of the matrix, and mediates a spatio-temporal distance between the artists’ hand and the work. Print works also expose the instability of the idea of authenticity, highlighting that it is never raised without its shadow – inauthenticity. Through reexamining Benjamin’s work in relation to printmaking, I will suggest that the question of whether the aura has – or indeed should have – withered no longer has utility in the reproductive arts. Instead it is more productive to examine the ways in which contemporary print practice implicates and enfolds the questions of auratic trace, origin and authenticity.

Download Full text PDF (128.34 KB)

About the author

PhD Candidate, RMIT University

Lives and works as a practicing artist in Melbourne, Australia. Studied Occupational Therapy at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, and practised in this area for over 10 years in numerous settings including rehabilitation hospitals, psychiatry clinics and community organisations. In 2000 embarked on career change and commenced study in the visual arts at Box Hill Institute of TAFE, and then RMIT University.

In 2007 was awarded a Collie Print Trust Scholarship for Emerging Victorian Printmakers at the Australian Print Workshop (APW). Has worked as a workshop assistant at the APW, and has taught printmaking and other art classes in community programs. Has exhibited regularly since 2004, and recently undertook a residency at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Geelong Gallery, Geelong; Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia; and the City of Whitehorse, Melbourne.

In 2010 was selected for the Print Council of Australia Print Commission. Is currently undertaking a PhD by research at RMIT, which is concerned with the aura of significance that surrounds personal objects of deceased family members.