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.

1 comment:

Scu said...

Very cool.
Some random thoughts.
(1) "After all, my MA is in philosophy, not revolutions." Funny to me because I'm pretty sure I've tried to dedicate myself into there not being a distinction. But whatever, I laughed.

(2) What do you do with benjamin's nihilism and his thought of a weak messiahism?

(3) Also, I've asked like a million people this (by which I mean I once asked in a class I took) what is the relationship between benjamin's notion of the aura and the notion of the affect in D&G?