I am here in Madrid and settling in. We went to a strange cine-text-omatical exhibition at Circulo de Bellas, “Constelaciones Walter Benjamin.” Benjamin is the rag and bone man of 20th century poetico-critical materio-humanist philosophy. One cannot make a stew or a suit of clothes from any of it, but his work is dense, cryptic, and allusive. For me, his many brief texts have amply repaid close and careful readings over many years. (Although his work is a hard sell to students!) He is a pioneer of the fragmented disjunctive text. To put his work into a blender together with an enormous catalogue of images and film clips, has produced a very beautiful outcome.
Put up in a well-upholstered basement gallery, this show might be thought of as a filmic presentation differently arranged three times along three successive rooms. First, it is a kind of incipient storyboard as part of an aleatory alphabetical “index of concepts” accessed by computer. Then, in a roundel of comfy chairs, bits of the thing are projected on big screens. Finally, in a theater-like room, we may relax and watch all 45 minutes of a melange of images captioned by scraps of the haunting philosophical texts of Benjamin.
Why? The blogger “El pez Martillo” writes (in Spanish, via Google translate): “In constellations, the stars are independent, have no connection between them, but our observation has led us to establish lines of connection that allow us to see shapes in them, even though the stars are still there and we still see them as such. This is the model that Benjamin proposes to study human phenomena, especially history.” The thing as such; independent of systems or systematizers. Perfect for showing art.
This exhibition is also called “Atlas,” like the huge aleatory show at the Museo Reina Sofia arranged around ideas pillaged from Aby Warburg's famous “Mnemosyne-Atlas” project. There is to be a symposium about this; I will report that next month.
“Constelaciones Walter Benjamin.”:
(all in Spanish) circulobellasartes.com/benjamin/index.php
the site includes the text/image generator; the film, sadly, is not online; although a very formal colloquium with presentations in Spanish, French and German is also archived here
about Aby Warburg's “Mnemosyne-Atlas”: