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[Xmca-l] Re: Garbage and Hope



Of course, David, the wind is blowing FROM Eden! I was mixing two different
thoughts.
Not for the first time!
more when I can narrow down to one thought at a time. :-)
mike

On Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 3:57 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:

> Thanks, Rod and Mike. I think the angel's gaze isn't really shifty, but
> strabismatic (that is, cross-eyed), something often seen in infants.
> Nevertheless, he's not gazing fixedly. According to Benjamin, though, he's
> facing the wind, with his back to the future--like a reporter in a
> hurricane.
>
> Benjamin gets a lot of things spectacularly wrong, especially things having
> to do with hope and facing the wrong way (you remember that he committed
> suicide just hours before the Spanish authorities opened the border to let
> his companions through). One of the first things he ever wrote for
> publication, upon arriving at the University of Berlin and being made
> president of the Freie Studentenschaft, was this:
>
> .“One of the most candidly mendacious pretexts for extracting science from
> all of its obligations is to suppose that it should permit X or Y to find a
> job. Now, a job follows so little from science that it (science—DK) might
> even be said to exclude it (a job—DK). For the essence of science will not
> suffer being separated from itself to the least degree: in one way or
> another, it obliges every researcher to make a teacher of himself, but it
> never imposes upon him the professional public forms of the doctor, the
> jurist or the university professor."
>
> So Benjamin thinks that science will make you a teacher, but not a
> professional, or even an academic. Very well. But perhaps this will happen
> anyway, when we make our schools into places of learning? Not so!
>
> “One accomplishes nothing good in referring to institutes that permit one
> to acquire titles, degrees, and opportunities in life and in work as places
> for science. We are not refuting this statement in the least by objecting
> that the State must today educate doctors and lawyers and teachers. We are
> only underlining the crushing immensity of the task which consists in
> substituting a community of knowing subjects for a corporation of
> functionaries and diploma holders.”
>
> So there’s a fundamental contradiction between producing a corporation of
> diploma holders and producing a community of knowers. Why so? Perhaps the
> problem is simply one of inner motivation: students who are motivated by
> diplomas are very different from students motivated by knowledge? Not so!
>
> “We are only underlining to what point, in the development of their
> professional apparatus, by knowledges and skills, the actual sciences have
> lost that unitary origin that they owed to the idea of knowledge, because
> this origin has become for them a mystery if not a fiction.”
>
> Aha! It has to do with the unitary origin of knowledge--something lost in
> the strongly classified disciplines today. In Quebec City, Carrie and I sat
> through a longish presentation by Mohammed Elhammoumi and two Brazilian
> Colleagues on keeping the integrity of Vygotsky's work in a conservative
> age (i.e. a strongly classified one). The Brazilian comrades were good (and
> of course Mohammed himself was spot on, as usual) but everybody seemed to
> think that the integrity of Vygotsky's work lies in its boundary-breaking
> theory.
>
> I think that's a professor's view rather than a practitioner's, and I worry
> that it just substitutes stratification for classification. I remarked that
> we need ways of getting our students to think critically about the music of
> Taylor Swift and Britney Spears.  Carrie thought it shouldn't be too hard
> to do this, but I think it's harder than it sounds, particularly for the
> kinetic arts. The music/video composite is designed not to be prized apart
> or thought about at all. In that sense it really is, like Benjamin, facing
> the wrong way. Development, after all, is not so much about growth as about
> differentiation.
>
> David Kellogg
>
> PS: Hi, Carrie--looking forward to reading from you!
>
> dk
>
>
>
>
> On Sat, Sep 16, 2017 at 4:37 AM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:
>
> > As you know David, I love to think with Angelus Novus and the erudition
> you
> > bring to us with your posts.
> >
> > There is a ton more to be said about Angelus Novus but here, too, the
> > picture is important to accompany the words, so I attach one. I knew the
> > text several years before I first saw the painting. I was really amazed
> at
> > how hard I would have found it to read Benjamin's text from the picture
> had
> > I not known about it before. I had a totally different mental image of
> the
> > painting from having initially intuited aspects of the text. My imagined
> > angel had more conventional wings stretched back to Eden and the wind
> > beating fiercely at its back.
> >
> > I imagined the wind was blowing that way in the late 1930's. Kinda windy
> > around here these days, now that I come to look up from my computer.
> >
> > I'll have to think about whether I interpret de Pisano's angel as sitting
> > to stretching upward in yearning, but either way, its very interesting to
> > have the different paintings
> > and texts to think about how he was caught between garbage and hope.
> >
> > In any event, very appropriate ideas to be thinking about.
> >
> > mike
> >
> > On Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 6:21 AM, Rod Parker-Rees <
> > R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk> wrote:
> >
> > > I  love the way you bring so many images into our discussions, David!
> > >
> > > The examples you give here seem to me to illustrate the degree to which
> > > what we see is what we feel - these images of angels work like
> Rorschach
> > > blots, triggering or resurrecting Benjamin's own concerns and providing
> > > hooks to hang them on (or Velcro to stick them to!). It is so easy to
> > > forget that seeing is a subjective process and to go along with the
> > > exaltation of the emperor's new clothes but this also highlights the
> > > importance of 'fact-checkers' who take the trouble, as you have, to
> > revisit
> > > what Benjamin was looking at and to ask whether what he saw is what
> > others
> > > might be expected to see.
> > >
> > > 'Nothing is more true' hangs here in a delightful ambiguity - who is to
> > > say that the 'objective' truth of the baptistery doors is MORE true
> than
> > > the subjective truth of what Benjamin experienced when he looked at the
> > > angel? The fit (or not) between the image and the response reveals much
> > > more about Benjamin than either alone.
> > >
> > > This is why we need the painstaking exegesis seen in so many posts in
> > this
> > > group.
> > >
> > > All the best,
> > >
> > > Rod
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@
> > > mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of David Kellogg
> > > Sent: 15 September 2017 07:32
> > > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> > > Subject: [Xmca-l] Garbage and Hope
> > >
> > > Mike wrote earlier about Benjamin's exegesis of Klee's Angelus Novus.
> > > Benjamin wrote:
> > >
> > > "A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though
> he
> > > is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His
> > eyes
> > > are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one
> > > pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past.
> Where
> > we
> > > perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps
> > > piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The
> > angel
> > > would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been
> > smashed.
> > > But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings
> with
> > > such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm
> > > irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned,
> > while
> > > the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call
> > > progress."
> > >
> > > You notice that Benjamin calls it a painting (it's actually a
> monoprint,
> > > that is, a drawing in oils on glass which is then used to produce a
> > single
> > > copy, because the original is destroyed in the process). While Klee
> gives
> > > the work a somewhat shifty gaze and calls it "new angel", Benjamin
> > insists
> > > that it is staring fixedly and calls it the "angel of history".
> Benjamin
> > > apparently conceives of progress more or less the way that Ulvi thinks
> of
> > > Stalin: an irresistible omelette rather than a heap of smashed
> eggshells.
> > >
> > > Or does he? In "One Way Street", Walter  Benjamin writes:
> > >
> > > "Florence, Baptistery. On the portal, the Spes [Hope], by Andrea de
> > Pisano.
> > > Sitting, she helplessly extends her arms toward a fruit that remains
> > > beyond her reach. And yet she is winged. Nothing is more true." (2016,
> > > Harvard Bellknap, pp. 68-69).
> > >
> > > Before you read on, have a look here:
> > >
> > > https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Baptisterium_San_
> > > Giovanni_(Florenz)_01.jpg
> > >
> > >
> > > So nothing could be less true. First of all, Benjamin has the name
> wrong:
> > > it's Andrea Pisano, sometimes called da Pontedera  Secondly, it's a
> crown
> > > and not a piece of fruit. Thirdly, the angel is in the process of
> > standing
> > > rather than sitting and even if she were not, the crown is within easy
> > > reach.
> > >
> > > Benjamin's friend Bertholt Brecht complained that the Greeks had only
> one
> > > theory about tragedy, and it was wrong at every point: Aristotle
> thought
> > > that tragedy happened to the mighty and not the lowly, that it was
> about
> > a
> > > flaw which was unique to the protagonist, and it was absolutely
> > inevitable.
> > > It has taken us only two thousand years to create a tragedy that was
> true
> > > to life: i.e. ordinary, common to everybody, and above all avoidable.
> > >
> > > Maybe Benjamin's exegesis of Spes (and Angelus Novus) is supposed to
> work
> > > the same way; it's hard to believe that Benjamin could have gotten
> > > everything so wrong by accident.
> > >
> > > David Kellogg
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