Aura stories

In class today, we were talking about an “aura” that exists around original, physical art objects. I have experienced this on several occasions, but there are two that are particularly dear to me.

One was when I stepped inside the Globe Theatre for the first time, less than a year ago. I admit, I cried a little. I had read every one of Shakespeare’s 37 glorious plays by the time I was 18, and had reread the majority of them several times. I also read about a quarter of his corpus in French because I just could not get enough of this guy. To step inside that building was the hugest of deals for me, especially because I got to be a groundling and my tickets cost me less than ten dollars! I watched The Tempest as I leaned against the stage! Imagine! I’m about to faint just remembering it.

The other time, I’m a bit less ecstatic about and a bit more reverent. Personally, I consider so much of Christianity to be art, especially the Bible. I’m not just an adherent — I’m really a student, and sometimes I find my academic interest in my faith overshadowing my religious devotion. Anyway. A couple of years ago, the Dead Sea Scrolls came to NYC and I harassed my dad into taking me. I’ll spare you the sappy description of how much it touched me to see words written twenty-five hundred years ago (words I had read again and again throughout my life) just one pane of glass away from me, but trust me, it was awesome. The coolest thing in the world, though, was that they had a stone from the Second Temple at Jerusalem. I got to touch a stone that, who knows, Jesus or other biblical figures could have walked on. Talk about an aura!

On a lighter note, I was reminded of this clip from one of my favorite shows when we were discussing “technology anxiety” in class today. 🙂

One Reply to “Aura stories”

  1. I’m glad somebody continued the conversation about this topic because I think it’s a fascinating thing that many of us have experienced!

    When I was in my early teenage years, I remember my father telling me about a trip he took to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He told me about how he stood a few feet away from a famous painting (Which one? I can’t remember because my teen self was probably only half-listening!) and felt physically sick to his stomach looking at the precision of the brush strokes. At the time, I didn’t really get it. I had heard of people being moved to tears by musical performances or theater, but couldn’t imagine how a painting could do that. Viewing a painting or other stationary art object didn’t register in my head as an “experience” like live performances did.

    A few years later I proved my prior notions wrong. While visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, I found myself completely entranced by a small piece of paper on which John Lennon had penned an early draft of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. It was fascinating to see the scribbled-out lyrics that could have been, and to imagine Lennon in his element, spelling out a song that would become iconic. There it was, just inches from my fingertips, loaded by time with the story of The Beatles’ journey into stardom and the eventual fate of John Lennon, unknown to him as he put words to paper. Physically, it was just a piece of paper, but it made me understand how an art object can be an experience in and of itself.

    The fascinating thing about the auras around these art objects is that they can’t be fully anticipated. We can prepare ourselves for what we’re going to see and get excited about it, but chances are good that the moments when we’re experiencing the object will hold a level of reverence we couldn’t see coming.

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