Sunday, July 22, 2007

Heavily insulated cloisters

The quotation nested in this passage from Benjamin pictures a time when modernity might plausibly have been imagined as a collection of external effects from which one could withdraw:
The following passage from Valéry (Oeuvres complète, J, cited by Thérive, Le Temps, April 20, 1939) reads like a reply to Baudelaire: “Modern man is a slave to modernity…. We will soon have to build heavily insulated cloisters…. Speed, numbers, effects of surprise, contrast, repetition, size, novelty, and credulity will be despised there.” (The Arcades Project, S10,2)
We are tempted to believe that the historical moment in which a suspension of the aesthetic forms of modern experience might have been possible is past, that the whole titillating array of shapes of difference and change and discontinuity is more or less built in to how you look at things and who you are and what you desire and as such is not anything you might escape from but rather the animating force of the thing that is always trying to escape each decaying pleasure and wishing for some wild opposite to cut transversally across the enveloping boredom. But if instead of a retreat into heavily insulated cloisters one imagines moving into increasing openness, the paradigm of which might be walking outside on Earth, and if one just starts walking, an entirely different narrative order of experience might reveal itself.

2 Comments:

Blogger sixfootsubwoofer said...

This of course reminds me of Deleuze's "schizophrenic on a walk, having left the analyst's couch."

I think the strength of our particular contemporary era is our ability to effectively have both; an insulated cloister in which we can "be ourselves", can escape into, complete with an opening through which we can venture out into ever increasing openness, but is always available for short periods of respite.

We can have multiple narrative orders which nestle within one another like so many russian dolls, layers forming a constantly growing whole. Not discontinous, but concentrically spheroid, a shape through which not wild opposites but rather strange attractors can cut transversally in order to bring fascination into focus, bringing new pleasures into view, giving new life to old ones before they have the chance to decay.

I'm thinking here of contemporary youth subcultures and their extremely specific, yet constantly shifting aesthetic restrictions and admissions. Subcultures that cloister themselves into aesthetic no-fly zones which are permeable only to their members. Kids who identify with only a very specific kind of music to the exclusion of all others, and yet are constantly searching for new ones to add to, not replace, the former.

9/04/2007 5:13 AM  
Blogger Carl said...

You can have multiple narrative orders, or just multiple narratives, or just different places you really go, inside and outside.

9/12/2007 10:36 PM  

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