“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin discusses the desedimentation of a work of art that has been reproduced through machinery.
But what happens when the opposite occurs? When an image that was created through digital means–a design that is meant to be reproduced and recreated identically and infinitely–is suddenly recreated by hand? These interventions happen all over the world in the form of ersatz logos–handmade reinterpretations of globally recognized forms. It seems corporate symbols have overtaken the religious in terms of omnipresence and recognizability, with the streets and walls of most world cities covered in a landscape of advertisements and logos.
Ersatz logos are not mere mimics, but shadowy doubles that impose a new way of seeing a familiar image. They are accidental subversions that call more attention to themselves through their differences than through their similarities. Benjamin insists that an original contains an aura that can’t be reproduced and diminishes with distance. With ersatz logos, the aura–that “strange tissue of space and time”–refers less to the original than to the replicas, which begin to take on a new life and new meaning through altered shapes and distortions.
Suddenly, something that has blinded through its familiarity comes back to life by way of an imperfect reproduction. A veil hasn’t been stripped from the original design and left to decay, but has been reapplied and magnified.