• How did Benjamin view the importance and role of ‘the collector’?
The role of the collector is that of someone who transfigures things from extinction into an extension of life from the past and utilize for the future, with an intention of an emotional release of the sentimental period and to capture the involuntary memory. Thus, their importance by pursuing this role is that they inject this reminiscent aroma into their interplay of values of material objects and glorifying them past a physical aspect and into an emotional or philosophical quest to further take delight in life. Furthermore, they create a revitalized art form or subjective idea from their treasure.
• What is a ‘flaneur’? What is its significance?
A flâneur is a person that doesn’t identify themselves as a busy, individual that attempts to be their own. However, this person becomes their own by observing and “strolling” amongst the worldly perspective to form a revolutionary idea. Yes they may stride at a slower pace in regards to achievements, however their impact is what refreshes the modern era to constantly stray away from anything stagnant. Overtime this term has shifted from the characteristic of a person, and encouraged as a lifestyle. The art of “dissociating from one’s surroundings, of taking a step back” is now what’s valued, therefore considered a significant action/choice to further the advancement of living as a whole.
• How do objects and the spaces they inhabit help us to see more closely and anew? How do they shape our idea of memory and collective histories?
Inhabiting in a space so eroded from its origin of time is what makes objects more prized, but also “changes the meaning of all the other pieces.” The relationship between space these objects are what channel and escape a person from the present day and into a whirl of the past due from the tactility of senses that the object can only do. As the surrounding space around the vortex into the past becomes more foreign, they stand as a materialistic history book as we learn to appreciate the evolution of technology and theological advancement. These objects also make their era seem reasonable and relatable to the new generation that never experienced it. They portray a practicality to assist in understanding the societal living of that era instead of words that doubtfully attempt to decorate the lively atmosphere.
• In what ways did Benjamin identify with the Surrealists and their anti-commodity, poetical strategy of data collection from everyday life, dreams, street life, and from the banal environments?
Benjamin, a self-proclaimed collector, understood the surrealist philosophy because he connected their attempt to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality” with their impact on the mass industrial society and thus collectively produced works of art that acted outside of the everyday life, but essentially needed the daily inspiration. These surrealists “picked up the trash” of the world to generate an interpretation, a voice. Benjamin “unfolded this methodology with the studies of the Parisian arcades and elsewhere” to appreciate the surrealistic thinking of the everyday life, and the exhilarating aspects to be inspired by instead of the overlooked boring rituals of the day. As a collector, he channels this “capturing of a day” with objects into the past to stimulate for the future.
• When photography and film were emerging visual technologies, Benjamin introduced the term ‘optical unconscious.’ What did he mean by this? How do photography and film reflect and construct the world around us?
He defined this term to “describe a mode of perception made visible on celluloid and initiated by cameras.” Through photography and film, they create a synthetic reality: a temporary and fragmented universe. They both scientifically explore a visual and verbal way of “seeing,” but mainly highlight the “natural and social life.” Conveniently, photography and film can inspect all aspects of the world: past, present, and future, therefore is significant towards bringing objects closer together. Esther Leslie also states that, “ through the optical unconscious, they can tap transformative potentials embedded in actuality.” Photography and film are the new modern composition of innovative thinking, and therefore are endowed to a revolving art form, in addition to the new-modern thinking, thus epitomizing the surrealist-thinking, optical unconscious.