Conor Reidy’s practice is informed by his weekly train journeys to and from college. Focusing on the juxtaposition of the natural and manmade objects in the landscape the work explores the subtle comparisons between these structures. Documenting his journey, the work incorporates imagery of natural structures including trees, water, and land, as well as artificial and mechanical structures such as pylons, buildings, wires, signs and telegraph poles.
The work developed as a response to Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936). The conceptual aspects of the work have foundation in some of Benjamin’s references and conclusions to printmaking in the essay, including his argument that the work of art’s authenticity or “aura” is diminished by technical modes of reproduction. Benjamin concludes that these mechanical modes of reproduction emancipate the art object from the “negative theology of ‘pure’ art”.
In Reidy’s work the natural structures in the landscape can be seen as a representative of Benjamin’s ‘pure’ art. It is arguable that the manmade structures are symbolic of the mechanical reproduction process Benjamin discusses throughout the essay. The experience of the actual train journey itself as mediated in the imagery acts as a response Benjamin’s argument. The journey demonstrates how the complex interplay of natural and manmade structure elements in the work can lead to unexpected new aesthetic combinations.