Benjamin: Blogger Flaneur
"How this work was written: rung by rung, according as chance would offer a narrow foothold, and always like someone who scales dangerous heights and never allows himself a moment to look around, for fear of becoming dizzy (but also because he would save for the end the full force of the panorama opening out to him)."
I was looking for a place,
in one chapter of the *Arcades Project*
where Walter Benjamin would project a
perfect image of a blogger.
It didn't take me long.
As I read this book, it feels
that Benjamin took on the task
of visualizing what it was to experience
the vast change that had taken place in
the world in the modern era, particularly
concerning the individual's relationship
with time. Walter Benjamin also
understood that the torrential
onrush of time in contemporary
life demanded a drastic change
in literary methods.
"Method of this project: literary montage. I needn't *say* anthing. Merely show. I shall purloin no valuable, appropriate no ingenious formulations. But the rags, the refuse- these I will not inventory but allow in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them."
"Making use of them."
So often Benjamin comes back to
themes of reclamation. In this way
he is similar to Robert Smithson and
Andy Goldsworthy. Benjamin took
the everyday literary reaction to time in
reverse for his project. The more
the pressure of time demanded
complicity, the more he
immersed himself in the
immediate past. He is insisting:
time is going slower than you think.
The demands of contemporary
production demand a relationship
to time that is completely complicit
with commodity production,
commodity consumption and
commodity disposal. The need for
reverie time should be constantly
lessened not only by means of
administered work: the administrators
have as their task to determine
the rate of production - the worker's
relationship with time. This is
discovered to be the most
effective way to enslave the
masses: making it impossible
for individuals to think for
themselves by removing the
type of time needed to acquire
exactly the emotional and cognitive
powers that might set them free.
"It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past: rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation. In other words, image is dilalectics at a standstill. For while the relation of the present to the past is purely temporal, continous one, the relation of what has been to the now is dialectical: is not progression but image, suddenly emergent.-..."
As the historical perspective
fades away into the fabled
world of the material present,
time changes speed. The exact
reverse of this is
"dialectics at a standstill."
"What has been comes together
in a flash with the now..."
Understanding here is
envisioned as a "flash,"
a flash of insight.
The past and present
stand frozen in their
contexts in symbolic forms.
In Benjamin, time's materiality
is all the more unnerving because
it is apt to come disguised in
details, and not present
itself as a completed
tableau. It is presented
in stages, to be absorbed
presently at the pace of the
flaneur. The irony is that what
is seen and experienced is not
translateable into insight by the
flaneur because the function of
commodity processes has
overwhelmed the perceptual
apparatus. Benjamin would
have loved the way a blogger
could move much so quickly
through informational time
and space as to outmaneuver
the one hypnotic materialistic
drone of information expressly
created for mass consumption:
buy now and buy *in* now.
"Resolute refusal of the concept of "timeless truth" is in order.
Nevertheless, truth is not- as Marxism would have it- a merely contingent function of knowing but is bound to a nucleus of timel ying hidden within the knower and the known alike. This is so true that the eternal, in any case, is far more the ruffle on a dress than some idea."
Like his friend and literary companion
Brecht, Benjamin's notion of history
is bereft of the notion of climax.This has
been replaced one the one hand by the
largest historical version: the breadth
of imagined time which is messianic time,
and on the other, by the moment to be
characterized by perception of the
multiplicity of objects for sale in a store
window.The tragedy that has already
taken place is more likely to be allegorized
in the form of a cane used by a beggar
play-acting the part of a cripple.
It's not that "timeless truths" are cliches,
it is that their emphasis is mistaken.
Such truths are proffered like a hunter's
stuffed prey hanging on a wall. They are
objects constructed in factories for quick
consumption and equally quick disposal
(for example, the conceptual planned
obsolescence of the academies).
Walter Benjamin would have
loved blogging because of its
capability of embracing as
part of its mortar what society
considers trivial and unmentionable.
These innumerable details,
which constitute the names,
or at least the initials,
of every person who exists or
who has ever existed, embrace
what traditional journalism consigns
to "quaintness" and the
"human interest story."
Walter Benjamin would have
understood that like the growing
masses of moviegoers ,
the thronging masses of bloggers
stand with insourciant
defiance towards the overall capitalist
conception of the function of
information and history.
"Necessity of paying heed over many years to every casual citation, every fleeting mention of a book."
Benjamin frequently refers to
time in relation to literary details.
This summons an image of
everyday activity and attention
and *citation* of details.
"It is the present that polarizes the event into fore-and after-hhistory."
"It is my intention to withstand what Valery calls "a reading slowed by and bristling with the resistances of a refined and fastidious reader." Charles Baudelaire, *Les Fleurs du mal*, introduction by Paul Valery, (Paris, 1928)
Benjamin is anything but the slow
and methodical kind of scholar-creator.
On the contrary, Benjamin would have
loved the quick turn-around of reading
and writing made available and
nstantly universally accessible as blogging.
Benjamin's collecting of materials for the
Arcades project, like blogging,
pleasurably embraces reading
over the shoulders of other writer.
In turn, this action embraces the past,
as well as the future.
"At any given time the living see themselves in the mdday of history. They are obliged to prepare a banquet for the past. The historian is the herald who invited the dead to the table."
The blogger invites the reader
to the table, and the table is
spread by bloggers en masse.
Time, by means of such connections
created each day by thousands of hands,
a wave of reading, in a tide of electronic pages,
new each day, return the passage of time
to the individual: the story,
invented by the media in complete
complicity with the demands of commodity
projection, is atomized and sprayed out over material
space and time as in Phillip K. Dick's *Ubik.*
All quotations from *The Arcades Project* Walter Benjamin
*On The Theory of Knowledge, Theory of Progress*
The Belknap Press of Harvard UP