In historical terms, the "aura" of a certain piece of art is a description of the divine mythology placed around the works themselves. Something that could NEVER be recreated, The artist, the genius, through their transcendental visions has created this masterpiece, never to be recreated, and accepted to never be fully understood. The value of this, is that of the masses fearing god, of firm believe in capital, of war; accepting something you have no hope in fully understanding. This allows for plenty of room for deception. With no hope of reproduction, art becomes susceptible to a hierarchy placing the most "divine" at the top, never to be reproduced; who would want to slap the divine in the face? The withering away of this concept is not only good, but necessary. "To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose “sense of the universal equality of things” has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction." Once this divine "aura" has been stripped from art, the possibilities are endless. Mechanical reproduction allows for art and ideas to be streamed through the masses, and thus, a consciousness of cognitive progression is born. The destruction of the "aura" takes the art from the upper class to the low, allowing for ideas of revolution and progression to ensue.
how can today’s films (focus on one) be understood in terms of Benjamin’s ideas about the aura and mechanical reproduction?
Man Ray's "Emak Bakia Cinepoem" takes both objects of "aura" (The sea, flowers, eyes) and representations of a new, aura-less art and records them on an infinitely reproducible medium. This flower is no longer something divine, to be gazed at from a distance, it is no longer pure. It simply exists in this man's film. Nothing more, nothing less. Streams of photogramed nails fall through the screen, showing the mechanical advances of the modern age. Images of the mechanical and artistic progress of the days placed right alongside images blessed with the aura of nature, neither showing more significance, both simply existing equally next to one another.
what role does their “readymade” status play in this?
Film and Photography have proven to be the destruction of "aura". Strips of film are pre made, and ready to be used by ANYONE. Machines (cameras) have been made to record any images one desires to capture. This takes away all uniqueness, in terms of aura, away from the art. This art is not divine, it is man made, all of these images already exist. Man Ray takes readymade objects, then bends and refracts lights around them to re-contextualize them as nothing more than a part in the swirled nonsense.