because i have to

elephants and frogs

“to eat an elephant you must first break it into little chunks”- teresa’s advice about approaching my thesis.

and i have since come across a website “eat that frog” with anti-procrastination techniques and advice about how to prioritise tasks and arrange my day to fit everything in. 

the following is an example from the page:

    ACTION EXERCISE = Make every minute count! Think continually of different ways that you can save, schedule, and consolidate large chunks of time. Use this chunk of time to work on important tasks with the most significant long-term consequences. Most of all, keep focused on the most important results for which you are responsible!
getting down to the pointy end of the thesis (and in fact going into the workforce) the advice seems sound. and even though i’ve heard most of it before, hopefully the repetition will help it stick!

weber, charisma

so i came across max weber’s term “charisma” and decided to investigate further to see whether it would compliment my use of benjamin’s term “aura”. not so much, charisma refers more to people. however i did come across this quote which sounds intriguing. magic is also based on potentially intangible, sometimes indescribable events/ qualities.

putting books onto e-readers seems to “disenchant” the book. 


The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental.

everyman’s library

just found the most FASCINATING website all about a particular publisher’s practice and book binding details. after searching for Aldus Manutius, i wanted images of his supposedly iconic and now considered admired bookcoverings. WELL they are gorgeous, and i must have admired many of his covers myself. i’m off to search my own book collection shortly because i’m SURE i must have at least one, if not more, of his books in my colllection already. not only this, but i’d love to go to a few old book stores with the website’s knowledge on hand and look for these particular books- knowing the back story just makes them so much more interesting than they already were. AND some of them were even put together in Melbourne- a rarity. this process, interestingly, was done to cut down on costs. what a suprise (not) and how interesting to note that such a process continued on well past the 16th century.


Time to get started once again. Three weeks off from it was a good amount of time to not have to be writing and thinking about it all the time. i did think about it a bit in NZ. There was a large second hand book store in Mt Eden (north auckland?) that i took lots of photos at. Also noted that Peter Alexander has large faux wall-paper bookcases as part of his visual merchandising at the moment. another store on chapel st (melb) have books scattered around in its front window, some splayed, others stacked. interesting to note! i cam across a great quote

“Houses without books are like people without curiosity. i find them unsettling”- Nikki Gemmel, 2006

i had my first meeting with linda already, regarding my lit review which turned out to be rather lengthy but a really good exercise. we’ve come up with three broad chapters, and in the next month i have to write the first one.

No rest for the wicked.

for Eira

i’m doing a journal search for commentary on benjamin’s piece and i came across this abstract which could be of some use to eira’s project about cinema. even if this particular article is not very useful it might help point her in a direction she wasn’t considering.

Visual Communication, Vol. 6, No. 2, 146-155 (2007)
DOI: 10.1177/1470357207077177
© 2007 SAGE Publications
Immersion, reflexivity and distraction: spatial strategies for digital cities
Scott McQuire

University of Melbourne, Australia

Commencing with the history of cinema and of communicative technology, this essay focuses on the ways the cinematic sensibility and urban existence have influenced the contemporary experience of surveillance and complexity. And vice versa.

Key Words: distraction • immersion • reflexivity • urbanism

ceci tuera cela?

Victor Hugo, reflecting on whether the book would destroy the beauty of churches to come.

some free writing i’ve copied over here….

this free writing was to try and explore in more detailwhat i like about books, what i get from books, where i see books going in the future….

i love books. i want to see the preservation of books in some form. if technology such as the kindle is the digitisation of books then books in their paper form is analogue technology. i want to prove/ make a case for the continued existence of analogue books even if only as a niche, luxury item.

the physical form of the book adds a sensuousness to the reading experience. leather bindings, embossed covers, boxes, dust jackets, hand cut pages are an experience for the fingers to behold. not only this, but the techniques used speak of the books intended purpose and also somthing if its design/ historical context.

added to this are the inscriptions of time. the story th book has to tell of its journey from the publisher to your eager hands.

for some, this experience of the book will become too dear, for them, they will sacrifice the weight of a book in their hand, the gleaming spines of a library, for the digital world of books. and that is not necessarily a bad thing. consider the world of school text books and the sheer weight of paper weighing down the shoulders of students.

Michael Benedikt gives this electronic experience a positively poetic glow and makes one question thie needy for jet fumes and logging trucks for the sake of their sensual, tangible experience. but for others, it will always be worth it….

Michael Benedikt: introduction to cyberspace, first steps, cambridge ma, mit press, 1993, p. 3

“‘Cyberspace,’ Benedikt writes, is ‘the realm of pure information, filling like a lake, siphoning the jangle of messages transfiguring the physical world, decontamination the natural and urban landscapes, redeeming them, saving them from the chaindragginf bulldozers of the paper industry, from the diesel smoke of courier and post office trucks, from the jet fumes and clogged airports…from all the inefficiencies, pollutions (chemical and informational), and corruptions attendant to the process of moving information attached to things- from paper to brains- across, over, and under the vast and bumpy surface of the earth rather than letting it fly free in the soft hail of electrons in cyberspace.’

this piece makes even me wonder what i’ve got against cyberpublishing!

metho/ framework and aura

Walter Benjamin’s essay, Art in the age… is potentially quite a useful framework (just had a brainwave the other day regarding the difference between framework and methadology- probably only important really if you’re doing a thesis. i imagine in something very practical like a report they might be one and the same. i see theoretical framework as the headspace for my project, how i’m going to define certain terms and whose definitions i might use etc. but the methodology is how to use that framework into motion to actually create a piece of work.)

…back to what i was saying about it being a useful framework. Benjamin’s discussion of the aura of objects and aura of art is something like what i’m trying to describe books as having. so i guess to use benjamin’s work i need to define books as art. and that fits in my head with how i see the future of books. and attfield’s metho relates to what i call the campbell’s soup can of books- the mass produced cheapies for the public to make books available for everybody to consume. these books are wild, these books are the real causes of consternation when it comes to disposing of them etc. so maybe books have two different categories, and that’s how to split them up.

ANYWAY- below are paragraphs and bits i’ve pulled from benjamin’s essay that i like/ relate to. the ….’s are where i’ve edited out whole pages and paragraphs. the below parts were highlighted in word, but seeing as that formatting disappeared when i copied it over you’re just going to have to imagine for yourselves which bits in particular i’m liking. have fun with that.

viewed 15/5/08 9pm


Walter Benjamin (1936)
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Source: UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden 1998; proofed and corrected Feb. 2005.

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931
Le Conquete de l’ubiquite

form this has taken. Certain prognostic requirements should be met by these statements. However, theses about the art of the proletariat after its assumption of power or about the art of a classless society would have less bearing on these demands than theses about the developmental tendencies of art under present conditions of production. Their dialectic is no less noticeable in the superstructure than in the economy. It would therefore be wrong to underestimate the value of such theses as a weapon. They brush aside a number of outmoded concepts, such as creativity and genius, eternal value and mystery – concepts whose uncontrolled (and at present almost uncontrollable) application would lead to a processing of data in the Fascist sense. The concepts which are introduced into the theory of art in what follows differ from the more familiar terms in that they are completely useless for the purposes of Fascism. They are, on the other hand, useful for the formulation of revolutionary demands in the politics of art.

In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man-made artifacts could always be imitated by men. Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing their works, and, finally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain. Mechanical reproduction of a work of art, however, represents something new. Historically, it advanced intermittently and in leaps at long intervals, but with accelerated intensity. The Greeks knew only two procedures of technically reproducing works of art: founding and stamping. Bronzes, terra cottas, and coins were the only art works which they could produce in quantity. All others were unique and could not be mechanically reproduced. With the woodcut graphic art became mechanically reproducible for the first time, long before script became reproducible by print. The enormous changes which printing, the mechanical reproduction of writing, has brought about in literature are a familiar story. However, within the phenomenon which we are here examining from the perspective of world history, print is merely a special, though particularly important, case. During the Middle Ages engraving and etching were added to the woodcut; at the beginning of the nineteenth century lithography made its appearance. With lithography the technique of reproduction reached an essentially new stage. This much more direct process was distinguished by the tracing of the design on a stone rather than its incision on a block of wood or its etching on a copperplate and permitted graphic art for the first time to put its products on the market, not only in large numbers as hitherto, but also in daily changing forms. Lithography enabled graphic art to illustrate everyday life, and it began to keep pace with printing. But only a few decades after its invention, lithography was surpassed by photography. For the first time in the process of pictorial reproduction, photography freed the hand of the most important artistic functions which henceforth devolved only upon the eye looking into a lens. Since the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was accelerated so enormously that it could keep pace with speech. A film operator shooting a scene in the studio captures the images at the speed of an actor’s speech. Just as lithography virtually implied the illustrated newspaper, so did photography foreshadow the sound film. The technical reproduction of sound was tackled at the end of the last century. These convergent endeavors made predictable a situation which Paul Valery pointed up in this sentence:

“Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.”

Around 1900 technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public; it also had captured a place of its own among the artistic processes. For the study of this standard nothing is more revealing than the nature of the repercussions that these two different manifestations – the reproduction of works of art and the art of the film – have had on art in its traditional form.

Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original.

The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity. Chemical analyses of the patina of a bronze can help to establish this, as does the proof that a given manuscript of the Middle Ages stems from an archive of the fifteenth century. The whole sphere of authenticity is outside technical – and, of course, not only technical – reproducibility. Confronted with its manual reproduction, which was usually branded as a forgery, the original preserved all its authority; not so vis-à-vis technical reproduction. The reason is twofold. First, process reproduction is more independent of the original than manual reproduction. For example, in photography, process reproduction can bring out those aspects of the original that are unattainable to the naked eye yet accessible to the lens, which is adjustable and chooses its angle at will. And photographic reproduction, with the aid of certain processes, such as enlargement or slow motion, can capture images which escape natural vision. Secondly, technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself. Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record. The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a lover of art; the choral production, performed in an auditorium or in the open air, resounds in the drawing room.

The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. This holds not only for the art work but also, for instance, for a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie. In the case of the art object, a most sensitive nucleus – namely, its authenticity – is interfered with whereas no natural object is vulnerable on that score. The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced. Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter. And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.

One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art. This is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art. One might generalize by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition which is the obverse of the contemporary crisis and renewal of mankind. Both processes are intimately connected with the contemporary mass movements.


The concept of aura which was proposed above with reference to historical objects may usefully be illustrated with reference to the aura of natural ones. We define the aura of the latter as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be. If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow over you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch. This image makes it easy to comprehend the social


unarmed eye. Uniqueness and permanence are as closely linked in the latter as are transitoriness and reproducibility in the former. To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose “sense of the universal equality of things” has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction. Thus is


The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition. This tradition itself is thoroughly alive and extremely changeable. An ancient statue of Venus, for example, stood in a different traditional context with the Greeks, who made it an object of veneration, than with the clerics of the Middle Ages, who viewed it as an ominous idol. Both of them, however, were equally confronted with its uniqueness, that is, its aura. Originally the contextual integration of art in tradition found its expression in the cult. We know that the earliest art works originated in the service of a ritual – first the magical, then the religious kind. It is significant that the existence of the work of art with reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its ritual function. In other words, the unique value of the “authentic” work of art has its basis in ritual, the location of its original use value. This ritualistic basis, however remote, is still recognizable as secularized ritual even in the most profane forms of the cult of beauty. The secular cult of beauty, developed during the Renaissance and prevailing for three centuries, clearly showed that ritualistic basis in its decline and the first deep crisis which befell it. With the advent of the first truly revolutionary means of reproduction, photography, simultaneously with the rise of socialism, art sensed the approaching crisis which has become evident a century later. At

An analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction must do justice to these relationships, for they lead us to an all-important insight: for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the “authentic” print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.

Works of art are received and valued on different planes. Two polar types stand out; with one, the accent is on the cult value; with the other, on the exhibition value of the work. Artistic production begins with ceremonial objects destined to serve in a cult. One may assume that what mattered was their existence, not their being on view. The elk portrayed by the man of the Stone Age on the walls of his cave was an instrument of magic. He did expose it to his fellow men, but in the main it was meant for the spirits. Today the cult value would seem to demand that the work of art remain hidden. Certain statues of gods are accessible only to the priest in the cella; certain Madonnas remain covered nearly all year round; certain sculptures on medieval cathedrals are invisible to the spectator on ground level. With the emancipation of the various art practices from ritual go increasing opportunities for the exhibition of their products. It is easier to exhibit a portrait bust that can be sent


transformation of its nature. This is comparable to the situation of the work of art in prehistoric times when, by the absolute emphasis on its cult value, it was, first and foremost, an instrument of magic. Only later did it come to be recognized as a work of art. In the same way today, by the absolute emphasis on its exhibition value the work of art becomes a creation with entirely new functions, among which the one we are conscious of, the artistic function, later may be recognized as incidental. This much is certain: today photography and the film are the


For centuries a small number of writers were confronted by many thousands of readers. This changed toward the end of the last century. With the increasing extension of the press, which kept placing new political, religious, scientific, professional, and local organs before the readers, an increasing number of readers became writers – at first, occasional ones. It began with the daily press opening to its readers space for “letters to the editor.” And today there is hardly a gainfully employed European who could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances, documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. The difference becomes merely functional; it may vary from case to case. At any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer. As expert, which he had to become willy-nilly in an extremely specialized work process, even if only in some minor respect, the reader gains access to authorship. In the Soviet Union work itself is given a voice. To present it verbally is part of a man’s ability to perform the work. Literary license is now founded on polytechnic rather than specialized training and thus becomes common property.


Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art. The reactionary attitude toward a Picasso painting changes into the progressive reaction toward a Chaplin movie. The progressive reaction is characterized by the direct, intimate fusion of visual and emotional enjoyment with the orientation of the expert. Such fusion is of great social significance. The greater the decrease in the social significance of an art form, the sharper the distinction between criticism and enjoyment by the public. The conventional is uncritically enjoyed, and the truly new is criticized with aversion. With regard to the screen, the critical and the receptive attitudes of the public coincide. The decisive reason for this is that individual reactions are predetermined by the mass audience response they are about to produce, and this is nowhere more pronounced than in the film. The moment these responses become manifest they control each other. Again, the comparison with painting is fruitful. A painting has always had an excellent chance to be viewed by one person or by a few. The simultaneous contemplation of paintings by a large public, such as developed in the nineteenth century, is an early symptom of the crisis of painting, a crisis which was by no means occasioned exclusively by photography but rather in a relatively independent manner by the appeal of art works to the masses.


One of the foremost tasks of art has always been the creation of a demand which could be fully satisfied only later. The history of every art form shows critical epochs in which a certain art form aspires to effects which could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard, that is to say, in a new art form. The


by Rilke. In the decline of middle-class society, contemplation became a school for asocial behavior; it was countered by distraction as a variant of social conduct. Dadaistic activities


The mass is a matrix from which all traditional behavior toward works of art issues today in a new form. Quantity has been transmuted into quality. The greatly increased mass of participants has produced a change in the mode of participation. The fact that the new mode of participation first appeared in a disreputable form must not confuse the spectator. Yet some people have launched spirited attacks against precisely this superficial aspect. Among these, Duhamel has expressed himself in the most radical manner. What he objects to most is the kind of participation which the movie elicits from the masses. Duhamel calls the movie “a pastime for helots, a diversion for uneducated, wretched, worn-out creatures who are consumed by their worries a spectacle which requires no concentration and presupposes no intelligence which kindles no light in the heart and awakens no hope other than the ridiculous one of someday becoming a ‘star’ in Los Angeles.” Clearly, this is at bottom the same ancient lament that the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator. That is a commonplace.

The question remains whether it provides a platform for the analysis of the film. A closer look is needed here. Distraction and concentration form polar opposites which may be stated as follows: A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. He enters into this work of art the way legend tells of the Chinese painter when he viewed his finished painting. In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art. This is most obvious with regard to buildings. Architecture has always represented the prototype of a work of art the reception of which


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