Call for Papers

Call for statements of interest for contributions to a series of thematic pamphlets on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project

17th Apr 2017

Call for statements of interest for contributions to a series of thematic pamphlets on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project

To be edited by Sam Dolbear and Hannah Proctor, & designed by Sophie Carapetian

In 1927 Walter Benjamin began taking notes for an essay entitled “Paris Arcades: A Dialectical Fairyland”. Soon the material became unwieldy, his note cards and papers piled up, and he began arranging his sheaves of notes into ‘Convolutes’ on various themes, episodes and figures. The project was never finished. Bundles of fragmentary citations, images and reflections were gathered together and published posthumously – the resulting book remains unsynthesised, labyrinthine, contradictory, open-ended.

We are looking for writing or visual responses to The Arcades Project that magnify overlooked fragments, reshuffle material to create new constellations, highlight absences, excavate forgotten figures and movements, explore marginalised and muted histories; that collide with the present moment ‘to ignite the explosive materials that are latent in what has been’ (Convolute K).

Irreverent, experimental, politically-engaged and critical of hagiography, contributions could be short or long form, scholarly or impressionistic, philosophical or subjective, dense essays or sketchy diagrams, vignettes or drawings, somber tracts or playful polemics. We hope to include work by writers and artists from different fields and disciplines; pieces by those new to Benjamin’s work alongside work by established Benjaminians.

We are proposing to design each pamphlet around a different colour, to print 100 copies of each, and to post PDFs online, releasing them intermittently so that they might eventually form a kind of ‘magical encyclopaedia’ (Convolute H), or a ‘library where the books have melted into one another and the titles have faded away’ (Convolute K).

Potential themes:

TEXT/FORM: filing, archiving, symbols, montage, rearrangements, etc.

HISTORY/HISTORIOGRAPHY: primal history, fashion, progress, catastrophe, dreams, etc.

OBJECTS: coins, shells, umbrellas, fountains, maps, etc.

ECONOMY: money, value, infrastructure, crisis, profit, commodity, labour, etc.

FIGURES: Historical figures including those central to The Arcades Projects (Charles Baudelaire, Charles Fourier, Baron Haussmann, Victor Hugo, etc), those who Benjamin mentions but whose significance he does not fully explore and those who he overlooks completely.

TYPES: Either the most prominent (the prostitute, the gambler, the flâneur, the rag-picker, etc.) or the more marginal (the woman on the barricades, the slave, the factory worker, etc.)

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: the Vésuviennes, Saint-Simonians, Blanquists, etc.

MATERIALS: asphalt, glass, iron, velvet, etc.

TECHNOLOGIES: photography, electric lights, barricades, clocks, compasses, etc.

The first pamphlet will focus on SPACES, including contributions from Yanik Avila on the Bibliothèque Nationale and its ceiling, Sean Bonney on the entrance to the subterranean labyrinth, Rebecca Comay on streets and street names, and Sam Dolbear on aquariums. More proposals however would be welcome on this theme. Esther Leslie on Urformen will be among the contributions for the second edition on HISTORY/HISTORIOGRAPHY.

Please contact and/or if you are interested in contributing with a short abstract or idea by 30th June 2017 (and please feel free to suggest other themes). Also, if you know anyone who might be interested, please share this call with them.