CONVOLUTE M: Movement, Collection, Archive

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Convolute M: Dial M for movement.

“Movement is a constitutional element of our understanding of the environment we find ourselves within. Walking, cycling, driving, running and strolling through different environments changes the way in which we engage with these places. They become three-dimensional and active, and in direct relation to us a reciprocal communication and influence takes place between us and them. It is this relationship that I am interested in, namely the importance of movement concerning how we engage with the world around us.”
Johanna Hällsten, ‘Movement and Participation: Journeys within Everyday Environments’, Contemporary Aesthetics, vol. spec, no. 1, 2005

Benjamin’s ‘convolute’ on the flâneur is dedicated to movement not because the flâneur was a type in motion (so to speak) but, rather, because of the speed at which that movement took place. The people presented in the convolute walk, take their tortoise for a walk [M3,8], take the horse-drawn omnibus, or travel by stage-coach to Vienna. This slowness, this deliberative pace, is the most important part of the flâneurs engagement with the society, culture & discourses of the urban space.

Collecting is a form of practical memory, and of all the profane manifestations of “nearness” it is the most binding. Thus, in a certain sense, the smallest act of political reflection makes for an epoch in the antiques business. We construct here an alarm clock that rouses the kitsch of the previous century to “assembly”.”
From [H1a,2]

Benjamin, we contend, attempted to establish a new methodological foundation for historical & ethnographic study and analysis. A method that not so much rejected programmatic approaches that all only ever lead back to the writer as ignored them in a effort to find something better [whether he succeeded is a open matter].

Truth becomes something living; it lives solely in the rhythm by which statement and counterstatement displace each other in order to think each other
From [M1a,1]

By rejecting programmes of study in favour of the collection of traces through ‘derive’ we hope (& we think Benjamin hoped) to prevent the reification of our projections of our own relationship to our jeztziet as ‘coherences’ that ’emerge’ from our ‘study’ of other times, places and people.
It is quite obvious that most research into and writing about society-culture-discourse is writing about the self in a social-cultural-discursive situation and the supposed object of study is merely a pretext for such self-disclosure (initially I had thought it would be the context of such behaviour but we have no even progressed that far).

The true method of making things present is to represent them in our space (not to represent ourselves in their space). (The collector does just this, and so does the anecdote.) Thus represented, the thing allows no mediating construction from out of “large contexts”. The same method applies, in essence to the consideration of the great things from the past – the cathedral of Chartres, the temple of Paestum – when, that is, a favourable prospect presents itself: the method of receiving the things into our space. We don’t displace our being into theirs; they step into our life.
Convolute H [H2,3]

Convolute M – The Flaneur

The action (such as it is) of the Flaneur – flanerie – is an attempt to re-inscribe the urban space which starts from the acknowledgement of the actors compromised position and status. Benjamin insists that we see the Flaneur as ‘the intellectual’, as an investigator of urban life under capitalism, as a cultural product of that very capitalist urban life, as a figure compromised and limited by their imbrication with the market, a person of whom we must ask where do they stand in their relations of production and what do they transmit of those relation [cf The Author as Producer] and that he is such a figure.

“The most heterogeneous temporal elements thus coexist in the city. If we step form an eighteenth-century house into one from the sixteenth century, we tumble down the slope of time. Right next door stands a Gothic church, and we sink to the depths. A few steps farther, we are in a street from out of the early years of Bismarck’s rule … , and once again climbing the mountain of time. Whoever sets foot in a city feels caught up as in a web of dreams, where the most remote past is linked to the events of today. One house allies with another, no matter what period they come from, and a street is born.” Ferdinand Lion, Geschichte Biologisch Gesehen, (Zurich and Leipzig 1935).

We know that, in the course of flânerie, far-off times and places interpenetrate the landscape and the present moment.
From [M2,4] {Jeztziet}

The Flaneur is the compromised intellectual; compromised by capital, by the their role as consumer, by the ‘orders of discourse’, by their imbrication in their reproduction of the relations of production.

The flâneur is the observer of the market place. His knowledge is akin to the occult science of industrial fluctuations. He is a spy for the capitalists, on assignment in the realm of consumers.

Empathy with the commodity is fundamentally empathy with exchange value itself. The flâneur is the virtuoso of this empathy. He takes the concept of marketability itself for a stroll. Just as his final ambit is the department store, his last incarnation is the sandwich man.

Preformed in the figure of the flâneur is that of the detective. The flâneur required a social legitimation of his habitus. It suited him very well to see his indolence presented as a plausible front, behind which, in reality, hides the riveted attention of an observer who will not let the unsuspecting malefactor out of his sight.

The Flaneur is an expression in culture of the ‘relations of production’ of C.19th capital.

The “colportage phenomenon of space” is the flâneur’s basic experience. Inasmuch as this phenomenon also – from another angle – shows itself in the mid-nineteenth-century interior, it may not be amiss to suppose that the heyday of flânerie occur in this same period. Thanks to this phenomenon, everything potentially taking place in this one single room is perceived simultaneously. The space winks at the flâneur: What do you think may have gone on here? Of course, it has yet to be explained how this phenomenon is associated with colportage. |History|

Where do we stand in the relations of production and consumption of our time? As the flanuer does to C.19th French State-Capitalism in The Arcades Project.

Where do we stand in the relations of production and consumption of ‘history/past’ (or any other object of study)? As the flanuer does to the city, the urban, and capitalism, in The Arcades Project.

Foucault showed that the Knowledge/Power Duality was a crucial tool for the analysis of discourse, culture and society and that the ‘deeply-rooted’ and relational nature of power in society ensured that certain relations of power, specific modes of knowledge, particular discourses, would nor be capable of being critically analysed because of the police function (the disciplinary nature) of discourse. The Orders of Discourse shows us that both truth and falsity/error are functions or effects of discourse and that those truths and falsehoods were disciplinary matters regulated and policed by the governmentality of discourse. Discipline and Punish showed us the carcereal function of discourse and the pan-optic force of power and how these modes of operation ‘constructed’ selves and discourses.


Convolute M : the ‘derive’ of the archive.

Landscape – that, in fact, is what Paris becomes for the flâneur. Or, more precisely: the city splits for him into its dialectical poles. It opens to him as a landscape, even as it closes around him as a room.”
From [M1,4]

The situationist practice of ‘derive’ takes the place around us and re-inscribes it from geography to psycho-geography in an effort to cut through and across the symbolic forms and structures that the place is supposed to denote. Effectively ‘derive’ strips away what we had taken to be the denotation of the place and shows us that it was a connotation (& not necessarily our connotation) all along.

There is a shared approach with the surrealist practice of ‘collection’ where objects are placed in new and wild juxtapositional schemes to reveal that self same connotation masquerading as denotation and force us to recognise the problem of this.

There are problems with these modes of criticism. This stripping of the alters of the supposedly denotive does nothing the get at the limits, structures, and relations-of-power that brought about that conversion of the connotive into the seemingly denotive. Flanerie offers a chance of both over-throwing the ‘forced connotive’ and providing a means of critically engaging with those modes and means of power that ‘derive’ & and surreal ‘collection’ do not confront.

Flanerie in the archive aims to achieve the same thing for ‘historical’ understanding as the early dérive experiments tried to unfold for the urban. The dream of bringing that which was/is separated into contact and connexion with each other that inspired the early situationists in the space(s) of the city is the same thing as Benjamin sought to achieve in the ‘archive’ and the spaces of the past.

Flanerie is ‘dérive’ that admits to it’s limits, limits that it itself does not control. Dérive provokes us to pay attention to the power-peculiarities of society and it’s spaces but does not concern itself with it’s own imbrication in those power-peculiarities; there is no dérive of the dérive.

For Benjamin Flanerie as research method is, so to speak, the dérive of the archive. The archive (in the sense of all the available surviving material relating to the object of study) is the city and Benjamin (& us) is the Flaneur.

Flanerie comes first, then ‘collection’, then ‘parataxis’. Being a Flaneur is the necessary pre-condition for analysis {participant-observation that acknowledges the Kurtz in the Malanowski}, collection is the mode of analysis and parataxis the medium of presentation or rather each is the foundation of collection, the means of analysing the collected material, & the mode of presentation … they are folded into one another.

In the Arcades Project Benjamin has folded the object of study and the means of study into each other to expose the processes of construction found in both and the role in each of the construction of the other.


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