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baudelaire vs. anarchism (of detail)

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From Baudelaire’s essay “The Painter of Modern Life”:

In this way a struggle is launched between the will to see all and forget nothing and the faculty of memory, which has formed the habit of a lively absorption of general colour and silhouette, the arabesque of contour. An artist with a perfect sense of form but one accustomed to relying above all on his memory and his imagination will find himself at the mercy of a riot of details all clamouring for justice with the fury of a mob in love with absolute equality. All justice is trampled underfoot; all harmony sacrificed and destroyed; many a trifle assumes vast proportions; many a triviality usurps the attention. The more our artist turns an impartial eye on detail, the greater is the state of anarchy. Whether he be long-sighted or short-sighted, all hierarchy and all subordination vanishes.

I wonder what Walter Benjamin made of this passage. Hard not to think of his description of a “perception whose ‘sense of the universal equality of things’ has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction,” although, of course CB is warning against the arrival of such a mode of perception while WB is (with due ambivalence) welcoming its arrival.

Obviously the relationship between literary form and political form is complex – incredibly complex. But it’s nonetheless there, and there more than simply as metaphorical. I’m going to leave this as I’m busy with nothing more than a potential suggestive stub which I’ll hopefully return to soon: linguistic / discursive / narrative forms come and go, and with them ways of seeing or thinking. Avant garde literature at times tries to bring new forms into existence or even into currency.

(One other stub: I might be wrong, but it strikes me that we have only paintings of crowd scenes from Paris 1848-1851 not photographs. We only get unmanned barricades in the latter, as the photographic process at the time demanded long exposures. This to me seems interesting, and almost undoubtedly relative – if tacitly – to what I’m trying to suggest about the quotation above from Baudelaire… See here… And correct me if I’m wrong…)

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April 3, 2012 at 2:29 pm

objects in mirror may be…

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This via a post by Jon Day on the LRB blog and, in particular, an update that he posts in the comment thread beneath it.

One of the photos of the Millbank occupation that appeared in the Daily Mail:

And then the same scene in a differently framed . cropped photo:

Trying to work today on a piece on “broken windows,” which we should remember isn’t a phrase that’s exactly new but rather had wide currency a few years ago in a related, if distinct, area of the theorization of crime and violence.

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November 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

Posted in photography

americorps realism

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This photo, which accompanies this NYT article on the “digital switchover” in the US, is captioned “Danielle Eberhardt, front, and Katherine Daniel of AmeriCorps set up a TV converter box for Laura Wilson, left, in Baltimore.”

There is something at once thrilling and unsettling about this picture… I’ve never been sure about the studium / punctum distinction, but there’s a whole list of points of interest that grab the eye: the rabbit ears of course and what they’re streaming through the set, the khaki shorts of the corpswoman, the double rhyme of the color of the lamp and the paintscheme of the truck and of the off-kilterness of the lampshade and the off-kilterness of the photograph itself (look at the upper-left-hand corner).

Ah, no, that’s not it at all – being too specific about this. It’s the fact the photograph is a bizarre half-echo of socialst realism – technocratic youth come to the workers’ districts in uniform, bringing digital enlightment to the masses! Funny how easy it is for America to wear these clothes, but only fractionally, half-wholeheartedly, and with the framing all aslant….

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June 7, 2009 at 8:28 am

Posted in america, photography