martes, febrero 03, 2009

Benjamin. The Flaneur

Benjamin. The Flaneur.
The task Benjamin wants to undertake is to develop a certain “physiology” of urban life where the “street becomes a dwelling for the flaneur” (37). Walter Benjamin takes the notion of the urban observer (“who goes bothanizing on the asphalt” [36]) both as an analytical tool and as a modern lifestyle. From his historical materialism, Benjamin portrays the flaneur as a result of modern/urban life and the capitalist and colonial development. The Arcades Project comes from Benjamin's analytical and philosophical obsession with the arcades, which he found were key to understand the social changes occurred in the 19th century. Benjamin is also aware of the predominance of the seeing over the rest of the senses, this ocular scopic order, the flaneur with a male gaze and modern mobility (where "respectable women" were dominated by male and recluded to the opposite: immobility; and the only mobile women were the prostitutes also very central to late 19-early 20 century masculinity/modernity).

Benjamin quotes Simmel who says, “Interpersonal relationships in the big cities are distinguished by a marked preponderance of the activity of the eye over the activity of the ear. The main reason for this is the public means of transportation. Before the development of the buses, railroads, and trams in the nineteenth century, people had never been in a position of having to look at one another for long minutes or even hours without speaking to one another” (38). This unpleasant situation is what became central to the modern life, the importance of seeing (and, of course, of being seen). And also the intoxication of commodities. But the movement of modernity is prefigured by technology or by desire and trascending? There is a big difference between the flaneur and the pedestrian in that the flaneur does not have any propose in his strolling, he is looking at the commodities and his own strolling becomes a commodity.

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