Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

07 December 2010

The Age of the Digital Reproduction (oh where, oh where, has the Original gone?)

I was teaching a class today,
and some of my students were doing
a presentation on Allen Ginsberg's
They were excited.
So was I.
They told me they had videos of Ginsberg


the video they showed was a trailer
for a current movie called

It was not Ginsberg; it was
a representation of 
"But it's so good," they said,
with eyes sparkling 
with the energy of students
who have just discovered
the Beat Generation.
"And besides,"
they added, eyes
still sparkling,
"James Franco is so cute."

I found a video with Ginsberg,
a zany, crooked-eyed,
aging hippy,
and showed it to them.
"You should at least know what 
he looks like,"
I insisted
 "He's an icon of an age."

And everyone wrote that down.

After class,
I went to my office,
by a student who has missed
almost 1/3
of the semester.

(Right now, 
I love opening
my office door; I have
a live wreath in there,
and whenever
I open 
the door,
I get a blast of pine scent,
and it reminds me of youth,
and the fact that somewhere,
people actually have the time to get ready
for Christmas.)

I opened the door
and I and
my student entered,
and she said,
"Oh, it smells just like one of those
scented candles."

No, she did not say
"It smells like pine,"
didn't acknowledge
the needles dropping on the floor;
she said
it smells like something
built to reproduce
the scent of pine.

I said nothing.

She showed me a draft
of a paper
that was late,
and almost
totally plagiarized,
cut and pasted
from every website
she could find
in a quick Google search,

and for a moment, I silently wondered:

is it really worth
chastising her?
She is, after all,
a child of the age
that revels in 
as long as the reproduction
is performed well. 
In such an age,
is copy and paste
really a sin?

But I pointed out to her
that I would probably google
a sentence out of each
of her paragraphs,
and I would probably 
what she copied,
and she got really quiet.

Walter Benjamin foretold it
when he recognized his age
as the Age of Mechanical Reproduction:
we live in the Age After
the Age of Mechanical Reproduction;
we live in the Age
of Digital Reproduction,
where the Original
is a nostalgic
black and white film clip
by someone who hadn't even been born
when the original 

And can we really criticize it?
If the reproduced performance
produces a resonance
in the heart 
that is real and Original,
is it really
all that bad?

The Original
somewhere near the edges
of the reproduction,
and the closest we can get to it
is the voice,
is the trace,
of the untraceable.

~ ~ ~