Unreal Nature

June 1, 2017

To Avoid Disappearing Forever

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… “The idolatrous mob demanded an ideal perfectly understood.”

This is from the essay ‘Notes on the Subject without Qualities: From the Cowboy Flâneur to Mr. Smith’ (2003) found in Walead Beshty: 33Texts: 93,614 Words: 581,035 Characters: Selected Writings (2003-20015) edited by Lionel Bovier (2015):

… In this model of social anomie we lose ourselves in the ebb and flow of a realized utopia of our desires. Our perpetual movement between the limbos of non-places, such as airport terminals, thruways, malls, housing developments, and pre-fab homes — all realizations of some form of consumptive desire — create a sense of place wholly dissociated from previous ideas of specificity, be they regional, historical, or temporal.

… Thus we fear we are defined by such places, emerging as subjects who demand and are comforted by such control, even empowered by it, and yet are simultaneously subordinated, and de-individualized through the aggregation of our wants and needs. As we spread our culture everywhere, our own identity becomes catastrophically generalized, diluted, and at the moment globalization completes its mythical project, completely dissolved.

… the more we attempt to order and control our own world, the more we are defined by it and enact, symbolically and practically, our own absence.

… whatever drifts across the screen of either television or home computer is part of the same homogeneity … an infinity of routes and the equivalence of all destinations.

[ … ]

… The flâneur is defined by Baudelaire in terms of vision, the view of the scene encompasses his capacity to internalize the system around “him,” from which he vacillates between a mastery over the crowd and “his” own dissolution into its flow. Walter Benjamin takes special note of this condition. As he writes in his 1938 essay, ‘Paris in the Second Empire in Baudelaire,’ “Baudelaire divorced himself from the crowd as Hero … he set out to conquer the streets — in images.” This view of the crowd is intertwined with a primal revulsion, as Baudelaire goes on to say: “The idolatrous mob demanded an ideal perfectly understood,” and for Benjamin the primacy of vision in Baudelaire amounted to a way of regaining control, to avoid “disappearing forever.”

My most recent previous post from Beshty’s book is here.

-Julie

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