Reading Group on Walter Benjamin

08 February, 2023 20:00 (London time)

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We’re going to discuss an essay by Walter Benjamin The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

After reading Caroline Lillian Schopp’s excellent text about Franz Walther and drowning in texts about Beuys. We talked a lot with David about Beuys and tried to go to the exhibitions in Berlin to see his work.

Right now I’m reading a text by Timothy O’Leary “Fat, Felt and Fascism: The Case of Joseph Beuys“. He quotes a famous text by Walter Benjamin on how to make art political without turning it into fascist (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). According to O’Leary’s interpretation of Benjamin’s text, one should avoid ritualizing objects, not create an aura for them. Timothy O’Leary also says that we can conclude that some of Beuys’ statements and works can be classified as so-called ritualized fascist art.

But I think  O’Leary is confused. It is not actually possible to exclude ritual from our lives, to de-ritualize human activity. What is possible is to create fluid participatory rituals in which no one (not the artist, not the chief priest, not the F├╝hrer) has a monopoly on the final version of the social sculpture. Such rituals exist. Think about Carnival. The opposite of Carnival would be clearly controlled and ritualized works of Franz Walther, from reading about whom I began my day today.

In fact, I wanted to use some of his ideas in our future Pirate Carnival, so I began reading about it. Here is more about it.

I propose that we make this a group reading so that there is not one facilitator, but everyone can do a short (3-5 minute) intervention and talk about the questions they are interested in or the answers they have found.

Here is Simona Ferlini’s notes of the reading group

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