1:50 characteristic of the nineteenth-
century’s conception of history."
Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century (Exposé
of 1939), "Introduction"
Aus tiefern Traum bin ich erwacht! I have awakened from
a deep dream.
It is hard to think of "the nineteenth-century’s
conception of history" without thinking of Hegel,
and hard to think of Hegel without calling to mind his
famous declaration that the owl of Minerva—the symbol
of knowledge itself—only flies at dusk.
Benjamin’s goal is to find a way to discover the
Historical in the everyday. Not to sleepwalk through life,
but to recognzie the meaningful in what is usually sesned
as background, if noticed at all. Even thosse most acutely
aware of the meaning of time—historians—have
no better instrument for divining the History from out
of the chaff.
"The events surrounding the historian, and in which
he himself takes part, will underlie his presentation
in the form of a text written in invisible ink. The history
which he lays before the reader comprises, as it were,
the citations occurring in this text, and it is only these
citations that occur in a manner legible to all. To write
history thus means to cite history." [N11,3]
This is part of Benjamin’s extended critique of
"historicism". What he looks for is some way
of making this "invisible ink" legible. These
photographs were all taken in January 2002. They contain
concrete evidence for "the events surrounding the
historian". They help make plain how the past world
imagined by the historian is always shaped in some way
by the world in which he walks, eats, and sleeps.
2:05 "Method of this project: literary montage.
I needn’t say anything. Merely show. . . "
Die Welt is tief The world is deep,
Narration 2:12 "[I regret having treated in only
a very incomplete manner]. . . those facts of daily
existence—food, clothing, shelter, family routines,
civil law, recreation, social relations—which
have always been of prime concern in the life of the
great majority of individuals. [Charles Seignobos, Histoire
sincère de la nation française (Paris,
"Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht. And deeper than
the day remembers.’
What history is the most long-lasting? What do we remember?
As historians, where do we look for the most insightful
and reliable evidence? What stories do we want to tell?
Do we need to tell? Benjamin’s questions and incitement
in The Arcades Project are part of the
twentieth-century debate about the meaning and practice
of cultural history which he also explores in his essay,
"Eduard Fuchs, Collector and Historian."
Multi-Media Essay Notes To help bridge the space between art and scholarship
each author has put together a series of notes to
his and her film.
These include the voiced-over words of Benjamin
(Narration) with appropriate
citation, other text where appropriate, and a discussion of the author's
intent (Author's Note).
00:02. Credit Sequence:
O Mensch, O Mensch O man! O man!:
The music is Gustav Mahler’s setting in his Symphony
no.3 of Nietzsche’s midnight song in Thus Spoke
00:23 Paris Arcade
ach, gibt ach Take heed, take heed
00:35 Broadway in New York
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht What does the deep midnight
00:47 "In the fields with which we are concerned,
knowledge comes only in lightning flashes. The text is
the long roll of thunder that follows" [N1,1]
Ilumination is one of the most important of Benjamin’s
categories. "It is not that what is past casts its
light on what is present, or what is present its light
on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has
been comes together in a flash with the now to form a
constellation. In other words: image is dialectics at
a standstill. For while the relation of the present to
the past is purely temporal, the relation of what-has-been
to the now is dialectical: not temporal in nature but
figural. Only dialectical images are genuinely historical—that
is, not archaic—images. The image that is read—which
is to say, the image in the now of its recognizability—bears
to the highest degree the imprint of the perilous critical
moment on which all reading is founded." [N3,1]
00:58 Table of Contents
1:15 "The subject of this book is an illusion expressed
by Schopenhauer in the following formula: to seize the
essence of history, it suffices to compare Herodotus
and the morning newspaper."
‘Ich schlief, ich schlief! ‘I slept, I slept!
The challenge here—and in this project more generally—is
to find a visual language in which to convey Benjamin’s
commentary on the nineteenth-century German historical
tradition, and on the nineteenth-century German philosophical
interpretation of history. The "essence of history,"
in Schopenhauer’s phrase, is the whiplash of moving
betweeen the distant, isolated and grandly Historical—for
which what could be more emblematic than the first book
of history, with its story of the war between Greece and
Persia — and the banality of the everyday: history
in its raw form, but not yet Historical.
I believe that the contrast between the ordinariness of
the front page of the New York Times of September 11,
2001—which I had just put down when I looked out
the window and saw smoke where I used to see Tower 1--and
the History that so rapidly overtook us all, makes this
Zarathustra’s self-recrimination stands of course
for us all---we are usually unaware of the historical
unfolding all around us until it bursts into presence.
"What is expressed here is a feeling of vertigo