The art of getting lost: reeling through Benjamin
This project asks why Walter Benjamin regarded film as a revolutionary technology. Through Picture House and Hansel & Gretel, two `digital objects' I have composed, and my text, the art of getting lost, I trace the obscure connections among memory, mimesis, embodied experience, communication, translation, forgotten futures, allegory, and the (neo)baroque, which Benjamin weaves together in his theory of film. In film's mimetic nature Benjamin saw a means to (re)educate our abilities to make connections, to stray from our usual ways of perceiving and to enter into an astonishment that can lead to new awareness. I argue that in his concept of innervation -an exchange between screen and skin- Benjamin sees film as producing a semblance of an oral society, one which privileges memory and embodied communication. Film, I posit, is a site which Benjamin understood as permitting a recuperation of the sensual; for him it is a time and place which sutured experience and representation, body and memory. Further, I argue that the aura Benjamin claimed was stripped away in technological reproduction is in film actually reproduced as an `afterlife' which is able to touch us in ways that are more than metaphorical. My own practice picks up on Benjamin's notion that within film there lies buried what paradoxically he called forgotten futures. My pieces play along one of these possible tangents, engaging in a baroque cinema of attractions which celebrates artifice and openendedness. Benjamin, I am arguing, saw the technology of film as performing a remembrance service, reminding us of the cost of uncritically accepting representations and misusing technologies. His theories prove as relevant to today, if not more so, as to the time he wrote them.