Like everyone else, Walter Benjamin liked to travel to warmer climates during the winter. Ibiza, Spain was a favorite destination. (That’s him at left during a 1932 visit to Jean Selz’s home on the island.) So if you’re traveling to Spain this winter, be sure to stop in Madrid for the Walter Benjamin exhibition. If you’re not planning a trip there any time soon, here are a couple of interesting features on Benjamin that appeared in the last two weeks.
Going to Madrid over the next couple of weeks? Already there? The Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid is holding an exhibition of Benjamin’s work until February 6, 2011. The “Constellations” exhibition is an multimedia presentation of historical documents, film clips, pictures, audio recordings and animations.
Alexander Gelley, Professor of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine, talks about Benjamin’s conception of history and urban culture in the Arcades Project. Gelley argues that Benjamin’s “weak messianism” is best conceived as a form of writing designed to incite a readership by means of image, example, anecdote, citation.
Henry A. Giroux considers the current historical moment in light of the Angel of History from Benjamin’s “Thesis on the Philosophy of History.” Giroux argues that we’re suffering through a more severe catastrophe of history than Benjamin experienced. Social progress has nearly ceased completely:
Social progress has ceded the historical stage to individual actions, values, tastes and personal success, just as any notion of the common and public good that once defined the meaning of progress is rendered as pathological, the vestige of a kind of socialist nightmare that squelches any possibility of individual freedom and responsibility. If progress even in its mythic register was once associated, however flawed, with lifting the populace from the bondage of necessity, suffering and exploitation, today it has been stripped of any residual commitment to the collective good and functions largely as a kind of nostalgic relic of a historical period in American history in which a concept of the social state “was not always a term of opprobrium” or a metaphor for state terrorism.