Flâneur III: Benjamin’s Shadow / Torben Skjødt Jensen / 1998

Flâneur III: Benjamin’s Shadow / Torben Skjødt Jensen / 1998


The arcades had grown shabby long before Benjamin came to Paris. Haussmann's boulevards had reduced them to haunted ballrooms populated by the ghosts of yesterday's fashions. Places dedicated to the pursuit of novelty, the arcades were doomed by the desire they inspired. But under Benjamin's eye, the faded arcade became something new again: an intellectual reflection. Like the ruins of the Roman forum in Goethe's day, the decaying arcade was a springboard for his imagination. ➡︎

But of course the “original” German (more properly German/French) version is not really “original” or definitive at all: who knows how Benjamin would have used his fragments, had he lived to see the project into print. The Arcades Project may thus be understood as an ur-hypertext: the numerical classification of the notes (e.g. A3, 1, A3, 2 … A3a, 1) provides ready passage from link [black square] to link in this Passagenwerk—a passage that would be even easier in a hypothetical digital version of the whole, which would allow the reader to to follow particular threads from text to text—indeed, to rearrange them. Benjamin’s Project is thus literally amovable feast; its hypertextual quality is part of its great appeal. ➡︎

One enters a maze to get lost, as Benjamin observed. Did he want to find a way out? He's trying to hold all of 19th-century Paris in his head -- its ideas, plastic art forms, merchandise, as well as its buildings and streets. At the same time, he's trying to fashion a new lens for bringing this bygone city into sharp, contemporary focus. Given more time, he might well have rendered his encyclopedic insights into seamless, panoramic prose. But the question of what might have been has a power of its own. That mystery is congruent with the enigmatic urban spectacle he set out to analyze. Of necessity, the reader is transformed into an intellectual flaneur, a stroller through an imagination so overcharged that Benjamin can barely sort out his own thoughts. ➡︎

Scholars have often read Métal as a purely formal experiment, but Krull used it as a commentary on contemporary life, producing the kind of montage that her friend Walter Benjamin championed, in which “the superimposed element disrupts the context in which it is inserted. . . . The discovery is accomplished by means of the interruption of sequences. Only interruption here has not the character of a stimulant but an energizing function.” ➡︎


◼︎ The Arcades Project / Walter Benjamin

 Walter Benjamin Archives

◼︎ Baudelaire, Benjamin and the Birth of the Flâneur / Bobby Seal / Psychogeographic Review / 2013

▶︎ Reading for Leading: U.S. poet Kenneth Goldsmith on why an unfinished book is his favorite book / CNN

◼︎ Making a Pilgrimage to Cathedrals of Commerce / Richard B. Woodward / The New York Times / 2007

 Passages Couverts, the Arcades of Paris / Interactive Graphic / The New York Times / 2007

◼︎ The Flâneur Discovers Paris, a Step at a Time / Elaine Sciolino / The New York Times / 2015

 Walter Benjamin, Berlin / Germaine Krull / 1926

 Eiffel Tower / Germaine Krull / 1929

 Nouveau Paris Monumental: Itinèraire Pratique de L’Etranger Dans Paris / Librairie Garnier Frères / 1878


◼︎ The Passages of Paris And of Benjamin's Mind / Herbert Muschamp / The New York Times / 2000

◼︎ Unoriginal Genius: Walter Benjamin’s Arcades as Paradigm for the New Poetics / Marjorie Perloff / Études anglaises 2008/2 (Vol. 61)

◼︎ Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography / Kim Sichel / In Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg, eds. / MoMA 2014

The Culture Show: The People's Palace / BBC / 2013

The Culture Show: The People's Palace / BBC / 2013

Toute la mémoire du monde (All the memory of the world) / Alain Resnais	 / 1956

Toute la mémoire du monde (All the memory of the world) / Alain Resnais / 1956