Tuesday, June 26, 2007

“Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their rights, but instead a chance to express themselves.” Page 14

Questions, in this asynchronistic format are a bit difficult. The questions either seem too huge- Does Benjamin believes that film, which presents a reality outside of a specific humanity, history or location, will be the undoing of religion? Or they seem too small-What does the sentence “When the age of mechanical preproduction separated art from its basis in cult, the semblance of its autonomy disappeared forever.” actually mean? I will take my small token, the chance to express myself, and pose a question. All questions great or small are welcome to this forum.

I would like to look across this reading at some themes about the body and ask a more generalized question about body, routine, and politics.

Benjamin speaks about the body in terms of film actors. The film displaces the actor from his audience, thereby severing any location or history. Walter Benjamin equates the original to location and history or space and context. He compares the original to reproductions in terms of value, cult value vs. exhibition value. On page 8, this displacement of the body is talked about in terms of an exile of the self.

The body is also discussed in terms of the eye. Mechanical reproduction focuses attentions on the eye, or sight. In the case of film, the eye of the cameraperson or editor is predominant. Great weight is given to the choice of the cameraperson through their eyes. In Marxist terms, this gives great power to the producer.

Toward the end of the article architecture enters into the discussion, as the oldest art form. Architecture becomes an ideal model on which to formulate the potential of art because it is perceived in a distracted state. This distraction, Benjamin argues, is inherent in reproduction. In the age of mechanical reproduction, we have all become distracted experts. On page 14, the use or appropriation of buildings happens in two ways, “by touch and by sight.” Touch and architecture meld into habit.

So- to my question. Benjamin both identifies the political power of reproduction to control, while at the same time, sees the tremendous potential for positive change. So where does the body figure into all of this? The body is the site of perception, but it is also the site on which we test or evaluate different modes of art or politics. Body and habit-touch and sight- politicizing art and aestheticizing politics. There are, in this writing, many different notions about how the body enters into these ideas. What do you think?

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