HomeMake our own Walter Benjamin's “Experience and Poverty” ?

Make our own Walter Benjamin's “Experience and Poverty” ?

Faire nôtre « Expérience et pauvreté » de Walter Benjamin ?

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Published on Monday, December 09, 2019 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

We are not in 1933, nor are we threatened, here in Europe, as Walter Benjamin was when, between two apocalypses and already in exile, in an indifference due to historical circumstances, he published his short and incisive text « Experience and Poverty » in a Prague’s newspaper with short-lived existence. However, isn’t the assessment he made of an alliance, by the great creators, between « a total disenchantment about the age » and, nevertheless, « an unlimited commitment to it » also ours ? Not still ours (the Shoah and other catastrophes have shaken up, since then, the order of the thinkable), but again ours, as if we were at the point where, undertaking our poverty today or, disarming voluntarily, would be the lifeline, the way out to escape the inertia promised by a dark future.

Announcement

International Conference from October 15 to 17, 2020 at Rennes 2 University

Organisation

  • Florent Perrier - maître de conférences en esthétique et théorie de l’art EA 7472 Pratiques et théories de l’art contemporain (PTAC)
  • Christophe David - maître de conférences en philosophie EA 1279 Histoire et Critique des Arts (HCA)

Argument

The scene has often been described in our illustrated children’s books : surrounded by its enemies, already sinking for part, a ship has no other choice, if it hopes to escape and sail away, than to sacrifice its heaviest cannons, to throw them overboard in order to gain speed, this ship has no other choice than to disarm itself and thus to lose any recourse in order to force its luck, to sail to the deep sea, to free itself.

We are not in 1933, nor are we threatened, here in Europe, as Walter Benjamin was when, between two apocalypses and already in exile, in an indifference due to historical circumstances, he published his short and incisive text « Experience and Poverty » in a Prague’s newspaper with short-lived existence. However, isn’t the assessment he made of an alliance, by the great creators, between « a total disenchantment about the age » and, nevertheless, « an unlimited commitment to it » also ours ? Not still ours (the Shoah and other catastrophes have shaken up, since then, the order of the thinkable), but again ours, as if we were at the point where, undertaking our poverty today or, disarming voluntarily, would be the lifeline, the way out to escape the inertia promised by a dark future.

If this « our » or this « we » is obviously problematic and has to be questioned, even more so as we are faced with the disappearance of natural resources knowingly caused by man, it remains that this « we » could be that of communism defined in the 1930s by Brecht as the just sharing of our poverty, collectively recognized when capitalism persists in being only the mask of the sharing of an illusory wealth just pre-empted by a few.

It remains that this « we » could be that of a poverty of our trajectory finally accepted, of a full recognition of this poverty when the capitalization of the traces, their accumulation is reflected in nostalgic complaints and identity tensions over a fictitious past for which no one can claim ownership.

It remains that this « we » could be an attempt to be indigestible by the time, to assert itself irrecoverable by the impoverishment of any effect when the mirrors of the myth that second the aestheticization of politics win again according to the ways of a levelling of consciousness too much widespread, — « To silence a rhetoric of beauty, distinction and power, and thus to denounce it as the instrument of a misrepresentation or a denial of what is and a repression of what might be » [« Faire taire une rhétorique de la beauté, de la distinction et du pouvoir, ainsi dénoncée comme l’instrument d’un travestissement ou d’une dénégation de ce qui est et d’une répression de ce qui pourrait être »] (Daniel Payot, Après l'harmonie).

It remains that this « we » could be that of a prior silence facing the disasters of the world, the painful realization of a withering of experience when the universal commentary mimics the adulterated authority of the sentencious and drapes its inaction with murderous virtues — « The reality of suffering [...] cannot be expressed in communicable experiences, [...] it cannot conform to the assembly, to the syntax of our sentences» [« La réalité de la souffrance [...] ne peut se déposer en expériences communicables, [...] elle ne peut se plier à l’assemblement, à la syntaxe de nos phrases »] (Jeanne-Marie Gagnebin, Histoire et narration chez Walter Benjamin)

It remains that this « we » could be that of a persistent search for the elementary, the widened gap with our assignment to a certain culture when it is precisely the emblem primed with an impossibility of experiencing its richness, that of its sedimentation — « We have never seen a spectacle more repugnant than that of a generation of adults who, after destroying all possibility of authentic experience, impute their own misery to a youth now unable to experiment » (Giorgio Agamben, Children and History [Infanzia e storia]).

It remains that this « we » could be the one given to the child, this inescapable figure of our possibilities, of a utopia not yet disavowed and keeping its virtualities even when our education persists in configuring the ways we feel by the addition of adjustments and of forcing in all kinds.

It remains that this « we » could be that of barbarians who try to « survive » joyfully to the culture when the others, civilized, polite and exhausted by their lying docility and so many renunciations, sink deeper and deeper, wrapped in their individualism, towards the loss of looks offered to the outside, to what may come.

To mix these possible « we » with other arrangements of the common, to bring their discordances or their ajointements to the forefront in counterpoint of « Experience and Poverty », to try to say (considering who could be for « us » today the great creators) to what impoverishments « we » are ready to consent to maintain the hope of collectively sail away — such is the desire associated with the organization of this international conference that, over three days, will alternate thematic sessions with « Experience and Poverty » crossing spaces offered to guests. Six thematic sessions will refer to the following words: GESTURES, VOICES, STORIES, IMAGES, BOOKS, SPACES. The intended purpose will not be to interpret « Erfahrung und Armut » in the light of these words, but to try to say, with what gestures, what voices or what stories, with what images or what books, with what spaces « we » could make our own Walter Benjamin’s « Experience and Poverty » ?

Submission guidelines

The papers proposals for 30-minutes oral interventions should be sent, in French, English, Spanish or German to Florent Perrier (florent.perrier@univ-rennes2.fr) and Christophe David (christophe.david@univ-rennes2.fr)

by January 15, 2020.

To submit a paper proposal, please email a 15 to 20 lines abstract, plus a 5 to 6 lines biographical note on the author.

A scientific committee will review the proposals before end of March 2020.

Papers will be given in French whenever possible or they will be made available to the public with a French translation, for which we offer to collaborate if necessary.

Please note that the conference is unable to provide financial assistance for travel or accommodation, except for exceptional cases.

Scientific Committee

  • Marc Berdet (Brasilia University - Brazil), Marianne Dautrey (INHA - Paris),
  • Henri Lonitz (co-director of the critical edition of the Works and unpublished Works of Walter Benjamin - Frankfurt/Main),
  • Patrick Vassort (head of the International Critical Theory Research Programme – Caen University),
  • Esther Leslie (Birkbeck University - London),
  • Bernd Stiegler (Konstanz University),
  • Florent Perrier (Rennes 2 University)
  • Christophe David (Rennes 2 University)

In october 2017, Florent Perrier and Christophe David organized at Rennes 2 University, the conference « What is the relevance of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory today ? » from which came the collective volume with the same name now published by Pontcerq (http://www.pontcerq.fr/livres/ou-en-sommes-nous-avec-la-theorie-esthetique-dadorno/).

Places

  • Université Rennes 2 - Campus Villejean
    Rennes, France (35)

Date(s)

  • Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Keywords

  • Walter Benjamin, expérience, pauvreté, esthétique, utopie, commun

Contact(s)

  • Florent Perrier
    courriel : florent [dot] perrier [at] univ-rennes2 [dot] fr

Information source

  • Florent Perrier
    courriel : florent [dot] perrier [at] univ-rennes2 [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Make our own Walter Benjamin's “Experience and Poverty” ? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, December 09, 2019, https://calenda.org/716123

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