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FS1506 Lecture Four: Circulation I

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L Muir

on 16 February 2013

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Transcript of FS1506 Lecture Four: Circulation I

If all clocks and watches in Berlin would suddenly go wrong in different ways, even if only by one hour, all economic life and communication of the city would be disrupted for a long time. In addition an apparently mere external factor: long distances, would make all waiting and broken appointments result in an ill-afforded waste of time. Thus, the technique of metropolitan life is unimaginable without the most punctual integration of all activities and mutual relations into a stable and impersonal time schedule.
Georg Simmel, 'Metropolis and Mental Life', 1903 The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848 CIRCULATION I: CIRCULATION AS A WAY OF LIFE All That's Solid; Neurasthenia; Flaneur-euse; Visual Technologies; Commodities; Varda How do you respond to this work?
What feelings does it induce? Neurasthenia
Lasting impressions, impressions which differ only slightly from one another, impressions which take a regular and habitual course and show regular and habitual contrasts-all these use up, so to speak, less consciousness than does the rapid crowding of changing images, the sharp discontinuity in the grasp of a single glance, and the unexpectedness of onrushing impressions. These are the psychological conditions which the metropolis creates. With each crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational and social life, the city sets up a deep contrast with small town and rural life with reference to the sensory foundations of psychic life. The metropolis exacts from man as a discriminating creature a different amount of consciousness than does rural life. Georg Simmel: Metropolis and Mental Life The Flaneur / Flaneuse All that is solid .... There was the pedestrian who wedged himself into the crowd, but there was also the flâneur who demanded elbow room and was unwilling to forego the life of the gentleman of leisure. His leisurely appearance as a personality is his protest against the division of labour which makes people into specialists. It was also his protest against their industriousness. Around 1840 it was briefly fashionable to take turtles for a walk in the arcades. The flâneurs liked to have the turtles set the pace for them.

Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project, Visual Technologies of Seeing / Spectating The Circulation of Commodities ‘Commodities come into the world in the form of use-values or material goods, such as iron, linen, corn etc. This is their plain, homely, natural form. However, they are only commodities because they have a dual nature, because they are at the same time objects of utility and bearers of value. Therefore they only appear as commodities, in so far as they possess a double form, i.e. natural form and value form.’ (Marx, Capital, p.138) [...] a commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties … as soon as [the table] emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relations to all other commodities, it stand on its head and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will.’ (Marx, Capital, pp.163-4) World exhibitions are places of pilgramage to the commodity fetish. [...] World exhibitions glorify the exchange value of the commodity. They create a framework in which its use value recedes into the background. They open a phantasmagoria which a person enters in order to be distracted.
Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project, Expose of 1935 The Gleaners and I
(Agnes Varda) The method of this study: literary montage. I have nothing to say. Only to show. I will not appropriate any intellectual formulations, not steal anything valuable. But the rags, the refuse: I will not describe but rather exhibit them.
(Walter Benjamin, Arcades Project) Watch the clip from The Gleaners and I and answer the following questions:
What images are we offered of circulation (commodities / individuals)?
Does this clip offer possibilities for resisting circulation? If so, how does it achieve this: Visually? Discursively? ‘Global capitalism produces subjects who exist further from the centers of economic wealth and technological advancement than ever before due to globalization’s production of an ever wider economic divide yet who are nevertheless global, and it is their appropriative fashioning of materials at hand to make do and find a place that shows us the tensions of the modern, the postmodern, the postindustrial and the global at once.’
Sturken and Cartwright, p.343 From the Burgtheater to the Cabaret Fledermaus Kiesler: Railway-Theatre Commodity Fetishism
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