Sunday, 29 June 2008

i just might be on to something...

I was doing some referencing research in Benjamin today, and I stumbled across the crucial evidence to grounding my project.
Nature is messianic by reason of its eternal and total passing away.
To strive for such a passing away -- even the passing away of those stages of man that are called nature -- is the task of world politics, whose method must be called nihilism. (
Theological-Political Fragment)
Taken in this light, the "Work of Art..." takes on a new meaning. Benjamin tells us that aesthetics has to become political, which he relates to communism. However, the political can only be thought in terms of nihilism. In order for aesthetics to become political, it has to become nihilist.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

work report for week ending 22 june / new directions

I have excuses for why this week hasn't been as productive as I wanted, but they are just excuses. However, I have had a productive past few days. I finished reading Words of Light and it has proved highly useful (an in-depth analysis will follow shortly). I went to Birkbeck yesterday to do some reading. I have found it difficult lately to get work done around the house, as there are just too many distractions. While sitting in the silent reading room, reading Cadava's book, I had a breakthrough.

Au revoir, M. Debord. I think it's about time we parted ways. It's not you, it's me. Honest. I really do like you. The Society of the Spectacle is a fantastic piece of work. I'm just not ready for a commitment of this level. We can still be friends though. And who knows, maybe down the road we can get back together.

I feel kind of bad about it though. My supervisor was pretty gung-ho about my project, telling me not to change it. While it does have the advantage of being original, I'm just floundering at this point. Besides, I feel like part of me just picked him to write about to satisfy some kind of a revolutionary desire to throw bricks at cops and burn down the Louvre. The main comment on my work I keep getting back from my supervisor is: "More philosophy, less barricades!" I just keep finding myself drawn back to the same issues, which ultimately put me back at the barricades. While essential to the overall revolutionary project, it's not exactly appropriate here. After all, my MA is in philosophy, not revolutions. Now that I've had time to step back from it, I've realized that I don't need Debord. Trying to bring him in is just cluttering my thought. I have plenty to work on without the SI. I still think there are a lot of untapped resources within the Situationist discourses that have been overlooked. The affinity to Benjamin is so strong, it boggles the mind as to how it has largely gone unnoticed. I think that it might be something I would want to work on for a PhD. project, but for now, it's time to let it go.

So, now it's time to move forward on my project. Walter Benjamin and Nihilism. I feel that Benjamin's thought is inherently nihilistic, in the Nietzschean sense. While consistently tied to Hegel and the dialectic, Benjamin's dialectical images share far more structurally with Nietzschean affirmation than they do with Hegel. This project will argue that Benjamin's essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility" is fundamentally a call for a nihilist aesthetics. That is to say, it demands a transvaluation of aesthetic values. The crisis of authenticity brought to a head my reproducability is not unique to modernity. To say, as Benjamin does, that the work of art no longer has any recourse to authenticity, is to also say that it never had such recourse. In a sense, technical reproduction does on a small scale to art what recurrence does on an eternal scale. Even items such as Michelangelo's "David" can no longer claim to be authentic. Given eternal recurrence, this is merely the recurrence of David. But that is not to say that there ever was an original statue. Meaninglessness is only a crisis if one still holds onto an idea of meaning. For Benjamin, this crisis leads to fascism. (In Debord, the crisis continues into totalizing hegemonic capitalist globalized domination.) However, if one is to let go of authenticity as a category, as a basis of value, the disintegration of aura is of no consequence. The necessity of a new aesthetics is indissociable from a new politics. At the same time, both are also bound to Benjamin's history (this connection will be discussed further in the next post on Cadava's book). Thus, the goal of this project is to perform a nihilistic analysis and construction of Benjamin's work, in an effort to extrapolate his aestetic, historical, and political system.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

work report for mon 16 june

I spent most of the day working, with quite a few distractions. As a result, I didn't get as much done as I wanted before my eyes started threatening a mutiny. But, all in all, a productive day.

I read half of this book: Words of Light: Theses on the photography of history by Eduardo Cadava. It's fantastic. He links Benjamin's philosophy of history to the philosophy of photography. On top of being really useful, it's an enjoyable read. He brings in Nietzsche too, which is making me think I'm on the right track. But he doesn't seem to go far enough. A more detailed report when I finish today.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

origin story...

This blog was conceived out of a conversation with my colleague and housemate. We decided that we should create blogs to document the progress of our MA dissertations. I know it's a little late in the game for it, but I assure you, we're not that far along. So the purpose of this blog will be two-fold:
1). To hold myself accountable for how much work I'm doing. If i post up what I've done at the end of the day, it should encourage me to get more done. And it'll let me see how much I've accomplished and how much more work I should be doing. Ideally, we'll get some more comrades from the program and see if we can't get a sort of ring going.
2). To get feedback on my work and ideas. Going back to the previous idea, if we can get enough people together, we can encourage each other and have a free exchange of ideas and opinions across the board, much more easily than if we were going back and forth. Of course, anyone else who reads this is free to comment as well.

That stated, this is not my personal blog; it is strictly related to my academic/philosophical endeavors. As such, rants about my personal life, popular culture, and non-research related topics will be kept to a bare minimum.

And, for those of you who don't know, my dissertation is on Walter Benjamin and the Situationists (primarily Guy Debord). I have not yet figured out exactly how to problematically frame this critical analysis.

Now, back to work.