Images of the liminal


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Images of the liminal

  1. 1. James Kennell, University of Greenwich<br />&<br />Wesley Rykalski, Birkbeck College, University of London <br />Images of the liminal: seaside promenades through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project<br />
  2. 2. The Arcades Project<br />Incomplete, fragmentary work left by Benjamin in Paris<br />A collection of notes, photographs, observations, folders and quotations<br />Ostensibly ‘about’ the Parisian arcades, but also a methodological and conceptual experiment<br />A cultural materialist form of historical practice<br />
  3. 3. Parataxis as method<br />“Method of this project: literary montage. I needn't say anything. Merely show. I shall purloin no valuables, appropriate no ingenious formulations. But the rags, the refuse - these I will not inventory but allow, in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them.” [Benjamin AP N1a,8]<br />
  4. 4. Dialectical images<br />“It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation.  In other words, image is dialectics at a standstill.  For while the relation of the present to the past is a purely temporal one, continuous one, the relation of what-has-been to the now is dialectical: is not progression but image, suddenly emergent” (Benjamin AP N2a,3)<br />
  5. 5. Why Promenades?<br />Provides a focus for study of the development of and current context of the seaside as a cultural-political construct<br />Similarities to the Parisian arcades in terms of:<br />Class divides<br />Architectural forms<br />Development of leisure<br />Commodification of space<br />
  6. 6. Photography and the collective method<br />Key aspect of our method<br />Building on the missing archive of the Arcades Project<br />Using the possibilities of 2.0 technology to extend both collecting and parataxis<br />Random (ish) collection and random(ish) presentation using picassa<br />
  7. 7. Reading the Arcades / Reading the Promenades<br />
  8. 8. Reading the Arcades / Reading the Promenades<br /><br /><br />
  9. 9. The non-liminality of the shore<br />Liminality must be more than an edge<br />The concept needs to offer some form of ritual transformation<br />If ‘just’ topography then liminality is everywhere and of limited use<br />‘limits’ have been areas of control, fortification and transformation by force and coercion<br />Seaside tourism is not transformative, it is the relocation of the rituals of the every-day<br />
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  13. 13. The anti-carnivalesque of the promenades<br />Limanality is usually aligned with the carnivalesque in discussions of the seaside<br />The carnivalesque is not a zone of freedom, it is a temporo-spatial form of control<br />Fundamentally, what people get up to on the promenade shows very little evidence of liminal ambiguity or carnivalesque license<br />
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  15. 15. The promenade as a social space<br />What we did find was lots of evidence of the promenade as a managed and managing space<br />Key activities – regulation of behaviours; display; observation; commerce<br />Leads us to the idea of managed liminality- the frissons of the historic shore have now been effectively brought into the capitalist mode of production, including the production (and productivity) of leisure<br />
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  18. 18. If not liminality, then what?<br />Benjamin collapses the distinction between inside / outside and private / public by showing how ‘leisure’ works by transgressing these divisions<br />We find this too, in the architectural form of the promenade<br />Without these oppositions, liminality loses it’s use<br />A cultural materialist approach seeks to engage with the practices, forms and governmentality of space<br />Avoids a mythology of space, which can mask the power relations of capitalism<br />
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  20. 20. Flânerie as practice and method<br />“The crowd is the veil through which through which the familiar city is transformed for the flâneur into phantasmagoria. This phantasmagoria, in which the city appears now as landscape, now a room, seems later to have inspired the décor of department store, which thus puts flânerie to work for profits. In any case, department stores are the last precincts of flânerie.” (Benjamin 1939: 21)<br />