:: Criticism archive ( click for articles pre-2006)

the audience’s identification with the actor is really an identification with the camera published 10/09/2014

Benjamin’s appeal to “tradition” in defending the aura of authentic works of art against banalisation is regressive and conservative. Indeed, his entire overall championing of aura appears to be placed in opposition to the putative agenda of the ‘masses’, who are implicitly equated with the proletariat. This position, counter-intuitive to a Marxist, suggests the inevitable intellectual tension facing the bourgeois cultural theorist who espouses a leftist political position.

In the second of a three part series examining Walter Benjamin today, Jim Fearnley dissects The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

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Worlds Without End published 09/09/2014

Unknown to us, we have hyper-identical “brother-stars” in a host of star systems. This is not the only place where a Plautus contrived Manaechmi and a Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. This is not the only place where a Kardashian girl married a Kanye, a U.S. Secretary of State is outflanked in a brutalized Near East, and your alter-ego is now scanning the words “your alter-ego is now scanning the words” in 3:AM Magazine.

David van Dusen on Louis-Auguste Blanqui‘s Eternity by the Stars

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chasing mirages: Anaïs Nin’s unexpurgated diaries published 01/09/2014

“Today I am quietly sad. Mirages. Mirages.” Nin uses the word “mirages” throughout her diary as a kind of monastic chant, a linguistic rolling of prayer beads to ease the pain of her reality via ablution of the now mere “illusionary.” The idea of the mirage becomes an escape for Nin, so the world doesn’t have to be real when she doesn’t want it to be.

Callie Hitchcock on the dream and the mirage in Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin 1939-1947.

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The Rottweiler’s Guide to the Dog Owner published 29/08/2014

Poetry that is about the yearning for a moment you missed and couldn’t ruin, poetry that goes to an imagined community of real people who rightly fear the known, poetry that reverses justice, becoming the carrot with the stick taken out, poetry that comes out of bars as philosophy, that never forgets nor forgives Eliot, that is taller, that from afar can be mistaken for tomorrow and from a distance yesterday and from here neither yesterday nor tomorrow nor either proven until false nor shown to be true, poetry that is always losing the connecting verb, that arrives incognito by mistake, that, given a presupposition of well-being and confidence, resists opinions and clings instead to Werner Herzog, Bowie’s ‘Heathen’/’Reality’/’Outside’, leaving a recorded message because it’s caught in traffic wanderlust or some indeterminate clause… the binaries all left undone and untidy.

Richard Marshall on S.J. Fowler‘s The Rottweiller’s Guide to the Dog Owner.

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Twenty Pound Spectacle: Brett Bailey (Exhibit B) published 27/08/2014

Exhibit B is reminiscent of South Africa past and present. It opens up a space for thinking about cultural institutions in London and their relationship to histories of slavery, colonialism, and contemporary forms of racism.

Yvette Greslé on Exhibit B by Brett Bailey.

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Phantamasgoric Capitalism: Benjamin’s Arcades Today published 25/08/2014

Velocity runs through any consideration of capitalist development, from the carrier birds used to share information that Benjamin mentions were in use in the 19th century, to the edge provided by hyper-fast fibre optic cabling used for high-speed transactions (HSTs) in the current period. Further speed is added by the use of software algorithms for financial market decisions, eliminating time wasted on human hesitation and reflection. Conversely, in the sphere of consumption, time spent on purchase is reduced by the replacement of barter, arguably a social interaction. Whatever its purpose, to barter has a social dimension missing from, e.g., making an automated purchase in a supermarket.

In the first of a three part series examining the relevance of Walter Benjamin today, Jim Fearnley deliberates over the timeless Arcades Project.

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The Overhearing published 21/08/2014

While Eaves’ first three novels are centred around London and the West Country, this book is more diverse. Moving from the “Wardour and Soho Academy of English” to a swimming pool in Australia, from a rare book shop in Lewes to a gold-poor brook in Emory City, the narratives follow a trajectory that may at first glance look arbitrary, but has in fact been carefully planned. The voices you hear give the impression of having been selected with some degree of randomness — “a story worth telling”, the author says, can be found where you least expect it — but their arrangement is precise down to the last dropped aitch.

Anna Aslanyan on Will EavesThe Absent Therapist.

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After Revolution: A Review of Antoine Volodine’s Writers published

Like the fictitious novels penned by one of his writer-characters in the newly translated Writers, Volodine’s books consist of “dark scenes, oscillation between political and mystical spheres, biting humor, nested story lines, tangled interior worlds, portrayal of the drift towards madness or death.” And Volodine’s books present a further difficulty for summary: they belong to a fictional-yet-real literary movement named (by Volodine) “post-exoticism.”

Diana George on Antoine Volodine‘s Writers.

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Explanatory Models: The Migrant Poetry of Athena Farrokhzad and Yahya Hassan published 18/08/2014

It has been a long time since Western governments feared poets. Yet as antagonism toward immigrants grows all over Europe and extremist rhetoric merges disenchanted populism with outright racism, two immensely popular poetry collections – one Swedish and one Danish – have garnered significant controversy for their depictions of the immigrant experience, earning their authors the kind of publicity usually reserved for polemicists and politicians.

Agri Ismaïl on the migrant poetry of Athena Farrokhzad and Yahya Hassan.

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Outside in, inside out published 14/08/2014

Clark interposes a relationship between space and time (history) in Picasso’s work. His complex relationship to space is a physical manifestation of the time he lived in. The correlation between space and truth becomes concrete when very early on Clark casts Picasso as “Nietzsche’s painter”, one who painted the erosion of truth, who saw the movement beyond it yet still cleaved to its beguiling quest for certainty. Collapsing truth was, for Picasso, a collapse of physical, determinate space.

Daniel Fraser on TJ Clark’s Picasso and Truth.

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