Not Signed-In
Which clippings match 'Walter Benjamin' keyword pg.1 of 4
15 FEBRUARY 2017

Silent-era avant-garde artist-filmmakers disrupting the new realities of mass media (rather than replicating them)

"Around the time Shub started her documentary experiments, 20th century avant-garde artists likewise began using repurposed chunks of mass-produced ephemera. Picasso and Braque threw bits of newspaper into paintings; Max Ernst cut up Victorian illustrations to create proto-surrealist collages; Walter Benjamin, T. S. Eliot, and James Joyce pushed the literary practice of quotation into the realm of pastiche; Marcel Duchamp pioneered sculptural assemblage with his readymades; and photomontage blossomed in the graphic works of John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, and Alexander Rodchenko. These works rearranged reality to suit their artists' purposes but, unlike the compilation films, did not try to hide that manipulation. Whether Cubist, Dada, or Constructivist, these artists chose to disrupt the new realities of mass media rather than replicate them, savoring the illogic of dreamlike disjunctions and precipitating new ways to see all-too-common images."

(Ed Halter, 10 July 2008, Moving Image Source)


20th centuryAlexander Rodchenkoavant-garde artistsavant-garde cinemaconstructivistcubismcut-up techniqueDadadisruptiondocumentary experiments • dreamlike disjunctions • Ed Halter • Esther Shub • experimental film • found-footage • Georges Braque • Hannah Hochinfluential artistsJames JoyceJohn Heartfield • literary practice • Marcel Duchampmass media • mass-produced ephemera • Max Ernst • new realities • Pablo Picassopastichephotomontagepioneering filmmaker • proto-surrealist collages • quotationreadymade • repurposed archival material • Russian constructivism • sculptural assemblage • Thomas Stearns Eliot • Victorian illustrations • Walter Benjamin


Simon Perkins
22 JULY 2014

The Arcades Project: a world of secret affinities

"the entire Arcades complex (without definitive title, to be sure) remained in the form of several hundred notes and reflections of varying length, which Benjamin revised and grouped in sheafs, or 'convolutes;' according to a host of topics. Additionally, from the late Twenties on, it would appear, citations were incorporated into these materials–passages drawn mainly from an array of nineteenth–century sources, but also from the works of key contemporaries (Marcel Proust, Paul Valery, Louis Aragon, Andre Breton, Georg Sinunel, Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer, Theodor Adorno). These proliferating individual passages, extracted from their original context like collectibles, were eventually set up to communicate among themselves, often in a rather subterranean manner. The organized masses of historical objects–the particular items of Benjamin's display (drafts and excerpts)–together give rise to 'a world of secret affinities;' and each separate article in the collection, each entry, was to constitute a 'magic encyclopedia' of the epoch from which it derived. An image of that epoch. In the background of this theory of the historical image, constituent of a historical 'mirror world;' stands the idea of the monad–an idea given its most comprehensive formulation in the pages on origin in the prologue to Benjamin's book on German tragic drama, Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (Origin of the German Trauerspiel)–and back of this the doctrine of the reflective medium, in its significance for the object, as expounded in Benjamin's 1919 dissertation, 'Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik' (The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism). At bottom, a canon of (nonsensuous) similitude rules the conception of the Arcades."

(Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, p.x)

Benjamin, Walter (2002). "Das Passagen–werk [The Arcades Project]", US: Harvard University Press. 0674008022
Fig.1 Edizioni Brogi (circa 1880). No.4608 "Ottagono della Galleria Vittorio Emanuele", Milano.



193519th century • a world in miniature • a world of secret affinities • affinityAndre Bretonarcadescitationcollectibles • convolutes • department stores • documentary synopsis • encyclopaedia • epoch • Ernst Bloch • expose • Georg Sinunel • historical image • historical objects • Institute of Social Research • Louis Aragon • magic encyclopaedia • Marcel Proustmirror worldmonad • monadology • nostalgic tributenostalgic yearningnotes • original context • Parispassages couvertsPaul Valery • reflections • sheafs • Siegfried Kracauer • similitudeThe Arcades ProjectTheodor Adorno • topics • Walter Benjamin


Simon Perkins
27 JANUARY 2012

Adorno's ambitions for the constellation

"17. But I am eliciting these implications of Adorno's reservations about Gestalt because what they imply is what Adorno leaves unsaid here, namely the contrast with his ambitions for the constellation. I should caution here that Adorno sometimes uses the word 'constellation' to designate historically given, that is, already familiarized, ideological arrays or Gestalts [for example, Critical Models 138, 260]; my usage henceforth will connote 'constellation' in the sense Adorno valorizes, as a device with the potential to be turned, in somewhat the manner of the Brechtian V–effect, against such familiarizations (though just this dissident potential, of course, is what mid–century avant–gardists were seizing on in Gestalt). And as we'll see, the word's 'antithetical' reversals of meaning are themselves indices of the 'dialectical'–ness of Adorno's immanent critique. We might say that these 'antithetical' meanings––'constellation' as unconscious ideological synthesis versus 'constellation' as consciousness–raising estrangement; 'constellation' as object of critique, or as subject of it––are themselves a kind of constellation implying or encoding, concealing or de–familiarizing a narrative, that of the classic Enlightenment project summarized by Freud in the formula, 'making the unconscious conscious.' Adorno may 'repeat' an over–familiar constellation and then reliquify (or, Medusa–like, petrify) its 'congelations'; or he may present an unfamiliar and even shocking juxtaposition, whose estrangement is to provoke a new and heightened consciousness of the ideological condition in which we are entrapped. The historical image that results, ideological and critical all at once, appropriates the critical force we saw Adorno ascribing to the Benjaminian dialectical image, turning it, immanently, to estranging or defamiliarizing, sc. critical or (Hegel) 'negative' purposes."

(Steven Helmling, 2003)

Steven Helmling (2003). "Constellation and Critique: Adorno's Constellation, Benjamin's Dialectical Image", Postmodern Culture, Volume 14, Number 1, September 2003 | 10.1353/pmc.2003.0030


antithetical • avant-garde • avant-gardists • Benjaminian • Bertolt Brecht • Brechtian V-effect • concealing • congelations • consciousconsciousness • consciousness-raising estrangement • constellations • critical force • critical models • critique • de-familiarising • defamiliarising • dialectical • dialectical image • encodingEnlightenment project • estrangement • estranging • familiarisations • Georg Hegelgestalt • gestalts • historical image • historically given • ideological arrays • ideological condition • juxtaposition • making the unconscious • Medusanarrative • object of critique • Sigmund Freud • subject of critique • Theodor Adorno • unconscious ideological synthesis • Walter Benjamin


Simon Perkins

Nina Wenhart's blog on the prehysteries of new media

"this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today."

(Nina Wenhart, 26/06/2008)



20th centuryAlan Turingapplied researchARarchiveArs Electronicaart • art + science • art + technologyart of codeartificial intelligenceartificial life • artistic molecules • artistic practice • artistic software • artistsASCIIASCII-Artatom • atomium • audiofiles • augmented realityavant-gardebody • Cave Automated Virtual Environment (CAVE) • code art • cold warcollection • collection of resources • computercomputer animationcomputer graphicscomputer history • computer programming language • computer research • computer sculptureconcept artconceptual artconceptualisationconcrete poetry • copy-it-right • creative practicecritical theorycross-disciplinaryculture industrycuratingcurationcut-up techniquecybernetic artCybernetic Serendipitycyberneticscyberpunkcyberspacecyborgdata miningdata visualisationdesign research • dream machine • E.A.T. • early new media • Edward Ihnatowiczengineers • Eugen Roth • exhibitionsexpanded cinemaexperimental musicexperimentation • female artists and digital media • flaneur • flaneuring on the net • Fluxusfoundgenerative artgenetic artglitch • Gordon Pask • GPSgraffiti • Grey Walter • GUI • hackers and painters • hackinghacktivismHCIHerbert FrankehistorieshistoryhypermediahypertextIannis Xenakisimagineeringinformation theoryinsightinstructionsinteractive artinterdisciplinaryInternet • Ivan Picelj • Jack Burnham • Julije Knifer • Ken Rinaldo • kinetic sculpture • Lidija Merenik • live visualsmagic • Manchester Mark 1 • manifestomappingmediamedia archaeologymedia art • media art histories • minimalism • mother of all demos • mousemusical scorenetartnew medianew media art • new media exhibition • new media festival • Nina Wenhart • open sourceopen space • out of print • particle systems • Paul Graham • performance • phonesthesia • playlistpoetrypoliticspractice-led • prehysteries of new media • prehystories of new mediaProcessing (software)programmingprogramming languageprojectspsychogeographyradio artrare • re:place • real-timeresearch artefactresources • retyped • ridiculous • rotten + forgotten • SAIC • sandin image processor • School of the Art Institute of Chicagoscientific visualisation • screen-based • SIGGRAPHSituationistsslide projectorslit-scansoftwaresoftware studiesspeculative designspeculative research • Stewart Brand • surveillancetactical mediataggingtechniquetechnologytelecommunicationtelematic arttelematic experiencetext • textparts • Theo Jansentheoretical contexttheory buildingtimeline • Turing Test • ubiquitous computingunabomberundergraduate researchvideo artvideo synthesizervirtual realityvisual musicvisual research • Vladimir Bonacic • VRWalter Benjaminwearable computing • Williams Tube • world fair • world machine • Xerox PARCZKM • [Nove] tendencije


Simon Perkins
18 APRIL 2010

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

"In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man–made artifacts could always be imitated by men. Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing their works, and, finally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain. Mechanical reproduction of a work of art, however, represents something new. Historically, it advanced intermittently and in leaps at long intervals, but with accelerated intensity. The Greeks knew only two procedures of technically reproducing works of art: founding and stamping. Bronzes, terra cottas, and coins were the only art works which they could produce in quantity. All others were unique and could not be mechanically reproduced. With the woodcut graphic art became mechanically reproducible for the first time, long before script became reproducible by print. The enormous changes which printing, the mechanical reproduction of writing, has brought about in literature are a familiar story. However, within the phenomenon which we are here examining from the perspective of world history, print is merely a special, though particularly important, case. During the Middle Ages engraving and etching were added to the woodcut; at the beginning of the nineteenth century lithography made its appearance.

With lithography the technique of reproduction reached an essentially new stage. This much more direct process was distinguished by the tracing of the design on a stone rather than its incision on a block of wood or its etching on a copperplate and permitted graphic art for the first time to put its products on the market, not only in large numbers as hitherto, but also in daily changing forms. Lithography enabled graphic art to illustrate everyday life, and it began to keep pace with printing. But only a few decades after its invention, lithography was surpassed by photography. For the first time in the process of pictorial reproduction, photography freed the hand of the most important artistic functions which henceforth devolved only upon the eye looking into a lens. Since the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was accelerated so enormously that it could keep pace with speech. A film operator shooting a scene in the studio captures the images at the speed of an actor's speech. Just as lithography virtually implied the illustrated newspaper, so did photography foreshadow the sound film. The technical reproduction of sound was tackled at the end of the last century. These convergent endeavors made predictable a situation which Paul Valery pointed to in this sentence:

'Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.'

Around 1900 technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public; it also had captured a place of its own among the artistic processes. For the study of this standard nothing is more revealing than the nature of the repercussions that these two different manifestations – the reproduction of works of art and the art of the film – have had on art in its traditional form.

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. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original.

The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity. Chemical analyses of the patina of a bronze can help to establish this, as does the proof that a given manuscript of the Middle Ages stems from an archive of the fifteenth century. The whole sphere of authenticity is outside technical – and, of course, not only technical – reproducibility. Confronted with its manual reproduction, which was usually branded as a forgery, the original preserved all its authority; not so vis a vis technical reproduction. The reason is twofold. First, process reproduction is more independent of the original than manual reproduction. For example, in photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will. And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape natural vision. Secondly, technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record. The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a lover of art; the choral production, performed in an auditorium or in the open air, resounds in the drawing room.

The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. This holds not only for the art work but also, for instance, for a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie. In the case of the art object, a most sensitive nucleus – namely, its authenticity – is interfered with whereas no natural object is vulnerable on that score. The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced. Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter. And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.

One might subsume the eliminated element in the term 'aura' and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind. Both processes are intimately connected with the contemporary mass movements. Their most powerful agent is the film. Its social significance, particularly in its most positive form, is inconceivable without its destructive, cathartic aspect, that is, the liquidation of the traditional value of the cultural heritage.

During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity's entire mode of existence. The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well. The fifth century, with its great shifts of population, saw the birth of the late Roman art industry and the Vienna Genesis, and there developed not only an art different from that of antiquity but also a new kind of perception. The scholars of the Viennese school, Riegl and Wickhoff, who resisted the weight of classical tradition under which these later art forms had been buried, were the first to draw conclusions from them concerning the organization of perception at the time. However far–reaching their insight, these scholars limited themselves to showing the significant, formal hallmark which characterized perception in late Roman times. They did not attempt – and, perhaps, saw no way – to show the social transformations expressed by these changes of perception. The conditions for an analogous insight are more favorable in the present. And if changes in the medium of contemporary perception can be comprehended as decay of the aura, it is possible to show its social causes.

The concept of aura which was proposed above with reference to historical objects may usefully be illustrated with reference to the aura of natural ones. We define the aura of the latter as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be. If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch. This image makes it easy to comprehend the social bases of the contemporary decay of the aura. It rests on two circumstances, both of which are related to the increasing significance of the masses in contemporary life. Namely, the desire of contemporary masses to bring things 'closer' spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction. Every day the urge grows stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction. Unmistakably, reproduction as offered by picture magazines and newsreels differs from the image seen by the unarmed eye. Uniqueness and permanence are as closely linked in the latter as are transitoriness and reproducibility in the former. To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose 'sense of the universal equality of things' has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction. Thus is manifested in the field of perception what in the theoretical sphere is noticeable in the increasing importance of statistics. The adjustment of reality to the masses and of the masses to reality is a process of unlimited scope, as much for thinking as for perception."

(Walter Benjamin, 2008)

Walter Benjamin (2008). "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", Penguin.

[1] Walter Benjamin, 1935. 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' (extract narrated by Michael Prichard), Redwood Audiobooks, MP3 Podcast, 6.3 MB; running time is 13 minutes.
[2] Complete text of the essay, US English translation
[3] Complete text in German


Simon Perkins

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