Penny McCarthy



Output: Other

This research examines a viewer’s experience of an ‘original’, authentic artefact and has generated the following outcomes: 23 mixed media drawings, a live work, a digital app, a limited edition print work and a print portfolio.

Drawing is still associated with truthful and scientific observation, at the same time as being seen as ‘belated’- and invested in notions of artistic authorship. In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, the German critic Walter Benjamin observed that modern image technology had transformed art.

Benjamin’s work considered the impact of photographic methods of reproduction to examine the effects of the mass circulation of images. A period of research at the Walter Benjamin Archive in Berlin was pivotal to build on Benjamin’s legacy to consider the image in digital transition.

The project reflects Bruno Latour’s notion of ‘switching codes’ by exploring the aura of the ‘original’ through facsimiles and replicas to consider the notion that a copy may actually add new layers of originality to the original to create new insights. The exacting production of mimetic drawings in pencil and paper transforms mediated images that often originate through fast production processes into examinations of history and memory. The resulting drawings produce a singular, ‘original’ work that is simultaneously a replica of an archival document or printed page. This meticulous mode of working stands in contrast to the predominance of instantly replicated and circulated memes and jpegs in the post digital age. Despite this, there is currently a renewed interest in the ‘authentic’ material object in contemporary exhibition practice.

The research submitted here was in part supported by an ACE grant and disseminated through touring exhibitions, symposia, conference papers and presentations.

Research Output

This collection of images displays the outputs from this project. Find out more details in the full case study below.

Research Method

This enquiry into the auratic properties of images builds on Walter Benjamin’s reflective writing on the spell of images by applying the types of knowing and mimetic capacity offered by drawing. The Aura project affectively draws on our feeling for the idea of the unrepeatable, authentic artwork imperilled by digital technology, reflecting a somewhat paradoxical desire to inscribe works through the hand of the artist, whilst undermining this through the use of digital sources.

Key Methodologies:

Full Project Output

REF '21

To learn more about the output, methods and dissemination of this work, explore the full project submission.

Other Projects By

Penny McCarthy