John Bell

Date of Award


Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Owen F. Smith

Second Committee Member

Jon Ippolito

Third Committee Member

Jessica Miller


This thesis paper discusses the theory and motivation behind The Variable Museum, my thesis project. Section 1 describes my personal methods for creating artwork that discourages the negative effects of what Walter Benjamin termed 'aura'. Though Benjamin believed that reproduction would eliminate the unique history and thus the aura of an artwork, the near century that has passed since his original writing has shown that he was only partially correct. Aura has been extended to be almost as easily conferred upon a class of objects as upon a singular entity, and deliberate attempts to disrupt it have largely failed. Though a reproduced artwork can still accumulate aura, it is possible that a constantly regenerated work may be able to mitigate its negative effects. Section 2 discusses the conception of The Variable Museum as an artwork. The piece was developed as a method of presenting different artifacts of art to individuals within a shared space and encouraging discussion of those artifacts between members of a group. The goal of this presentation is to induce a shared, ephemeral artwork generated by the discussion of individual artifacts. This induced work is intended to fulfill the requirements of an aura-resistant artwork as described in section 1.