The aura is a term often used to describe the energy field surrounding the physical body. It’s coloured according to the activity of the chakras, dominant thoughts in the mind, emotions, and physical sensations.
However, this article is about something else. Walter Benjamin referred to the aura of an original piece of art. The “here and now of the work of art.” It “bears the mark of the history to which the work has been subject”, including time and place. How an original piece has a “unique existence” that is not carried forward in prints and reproductions.
I would describe this as the presence of the work and disagree that it’s not carried forward. However, it is much reduced the further it is from the original. This is like the darshan of a spiritual teacher. It’s the strongest live, in person. Strong live online. Weaker in recordings. And even weaker in writing (or prints). Yet even that writing can be charged with the energy of the author. Prints can connect us with the presence of the original, especially if that’s been directly experienced. I also have prints that were “charged” by the artist before shipping them to me.
The video below is by Dami Lee, a Vancouver-based architect who muses on the built environment.
Sometimes, what she means by “aura” is this presence. And sometimes, it’s the closely related collective consciousness. I saw an excellent video (which I could not re-find) awhile back on how cities have a dominant meme, a label for a dominant quality of the collective of the city. Easterners nicknamed Vancouver “Lotusland”, for example, because it’s so lifestyle-oriented. New York is nicknamed “The Big Apple” because it’s very achievement-oriented. That clip gave a few examples of American cities that I found insightful.
Dami’s video explores cities in this aura context. And how you can navigate a city in an undefined way. (She mentions in another video that the revolutionary cement facade structures that were popular in the 70s (my youth) are now known as Brutalism.)
If you enjoyed this, you’ll enjoy her channel.