Thursday, February 17, 2011

Google's Art Project and the "aura"

It has been a while. I just realized that I have three followers, which is exciting, considering I thought no one visited this blog, never mind wanting to follow it. So hello to you and I hope you are having a lovely evening!

Have you visited the Google Art Project yet?
      A professor of one of my courses this semester brought it to the class' attention. I immediately ran home and tried it out. It is pretty amazing. You can visit all sorts of museums and view a wide range of works up close. I am a little disappointed that many of my favourite works are not up there and you can only zoom in on specific works. "Wandering" through the galleries is wonderful but if a work catches your eye you can't get close enough to it.

Here's a video of how Google went about creating this project:

How amazing would it be to get that close to a work? To wander through a gallery without other visitors?

I hope other galleries will join in. Its a fantastic tool for those with a bit of an interest in art to get close enough to see the details of a specific work. Maybe it will be the seeds of a love for art for those who do not wish to visit a museum.

     My professor posed a question that was quite interesting. Do you think this will replace the museum and the physical art piece?
     My reply would be no, not for me. It's great to be able to visit museums online and look at works close up, possibly closer than if you were actually in the museum (such is the case with the Mona Lisa, or so I am told). It brings to mind Walter Benjamin's theory of the "aura" and how photographic reproductions of works can never totally replace the experience of the work. Each art work contains its own "aura" that is lost in reproduction. I could not agree more. A couple of years ago I took a fantastic Bernini seminar course, in which the professor allowed us to experience learning art in a way that was only open to her graduate students. We attended a Bernini conference, which was a little piece of heaven on earth, as well as visiting the Ottawa National Gallery for the Bernini Portraits exhibition. It was amazing. As I have stated a great many of times, my love for Bernini is undying and fervent. Many of the portrait busts at the show were ones we had looked at, a great number of times, in class. You know they're great but you don't know how great until you stand before them. One such work was Bernini's Scipione Borghese. 

                                           Portrait Bust of Scipione Borghese, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Marble, 1632

Studying it, you understand he was a large man, therefore, the work is a large piece. You are taught that the work has a life-likeness to it and it seems as though the marble is about to speak. Nothing I had read prepared me to see the actual work. It is massive, solid, and shiny. The man has such presence and you feel as though you are in conversation with him. As though his thoughts are rendered in his eyes and his tongue is about to speak what he his thinking. He was, and is, a large man. The shininess of the work tells you he's large, as though he is sweating because of the extra weight. There's a feeling, an emotion that every art piece has and it is something that cannot be captured by photography or Google. You have to physically stand before the work and feel it (although don't touch it!). It is in this way that the Art Project can never replace visiting the museum. Something I am sure the countries featured, tourist sites and museums are quite glad to hear!

Until next time. Thanks for reading.