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Ground Zero: Walter Benjamin’s Urban Politics

Ground Zero: Walter Benjamin’s Urban Politics AbstractThis article explores “urban atmosphere” through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s utopian politics. While a city can be defined as a built environment enjoying relative longevity, this stands in tension with the fact that cities are objects of intense technological transformation and hence transitory. Benjamin looked to the aesthetics of architectural purism (Le Corbusier) and surrealist encounter (André Breton) in order to find a redemptive obverse to the destructive technology of capitalist production. Walter Benjamin explores the theme of atmosphere in his 1929 essay on Surrealism. Here he attributes to André Breton the discovery of revolutionary energies concealed in the processes of technological obsolescence. Outmoded objects exude an atmosphere or mood that Surrealism seeks to convert into revolutionary energy. The modern city is the environment in which innumerable processes of obsolescence take place. Hence, Benjamin’s utopian politics inevitably centers on the revolutionary interpretation of urban atmospherics. His reflections on the “decay of aura” in his 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” should then be placed within the framework of his urban theory. Once the connections between object obsolescence and Benjamin’s revolutionary theory are grasped, the shift from an aesthetics of concentration to one of distraction can be better understood. Zerstreuung (distraction) does not denote an individual lack of attention but instead a collective condition of somatic self-awareness. Through the media of modern art forms, the urban collective is capable of translating this self-awareness into revolutionary praxis. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Architecture and Culture Taylor & Francis

Ground Zero: Walter Benjamin’s Urban Politics

Architecture and Culture , Volume 3 (2): 17 – May 4, 2015

Ground Zero: Walter Benjamin’s Urban Politics

Architecture and Culture , Volume 3 (2): 17 – May 4, 2015

Abstract

AbstractThis article explores “urban atmosphere” through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s utopian politics. While a city can be defined as a built environment enjoying relative longevity, this stands in tension with the fact that cities are objects of intense technological transformation and hence transitory. Benjamin looked to the aesthetics of architectural purism (Le Corbusier) and surrealist encounter (André Breton) in order to find a redemptive obverse to the destructive technology of capitalist production. Walter Benjamin explores the theme of atmosphere in his 1929 essay on Surrealism. Here he attributes to André Breton the discovery of revolutionary energies concealed in the processes of technological obsolescence. Outmoded objects exude an atmosphere or mood that Surrealism seeks to convert into revolutionary energy. The modern city is the environment in which innumerable processes of obsolescence take place. Hence, Benjamin’s utopian politics inevitably centers on the revolutionary interpretation of urban atmospherics. His reflections on the “decay of aura” in his 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” should then be placed within the framework of his urban theory. Once the connections between object obsolescence and Benjamin’s revolutionary theory are grasped, the shift from an aesthetics of concentration to one of distraction can be better understood. Zerstreuung (distraction) does not denote an individual lack of attention but instead a collective condition of somatic self-awareness. Through the media of modern art forms, the urban collective is capable of translating this self-awareness into revolutionary praxis.

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References (42)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
ISSN
2050-7836
eISSN
2050-7828
DOI
10.1080/20507828.2015.1067026
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

AbstractThis article explores “urban atmosphere” through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s utopian politics. While a city can be defined as a built environment enjoying relative longevity, this stands in tension with the fact that cities are objects of intense technological transformation and hence transitory. Benjamin looked to the aesthetics of architectural purism (Le Corbusier) and surrealist encounter (André Breton) in order to find a redemptive obverse to the destructive technology of capitalist production. Walter Benjamin explores the theme of atmosphere in his 1929 essay on Surrealism. Here he attributes to André Breton the discovery of revolutionary energies concealed in the processes of technological obsolescence. Outmoded objects exude an atmosphere or mood that Surrealism seeks to convert into revolutionary energy. The modern city is the environment in which innumerable processes of obsolescence take place. Hence, Benjamin’s utopian politics inevitably centers on the revolutionary interpretation of urban atmospherics. His reflections on the “decay of aura” in his 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility” should then be placed within the framework of his urban theory. Once the connections between object obsolescence and Benjamin’s revolutionary theory are grasped, the shift from an aesthetics of concentration to one of distraction can be better understood. Zerstreuung (distraction) does not denote an individual lack of attention but instead a collective condition of somatic self-awareness. Through the media of modern art forms, the urban collective is capable of translating this self-awareness into revolutionary praxis.

Journal

Architecture and CultureTaylor & Francis

Published: May 4, 2015

Keywords: Walter Benjamin; urban experience; political utopianism; avant-garde art and architecture; modern technology

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