Esther Leslie | Elective Affinities: The Hunched Man, the Old Man and B.B.

  Meshwork The relationship between Benjamin and Brecht has often been assessed, including, most notoriously, the charge from both Adorno and Scholem that Brecht’s »exotic« influence was »disastrous« or »catastrophic« for Benjamin’s theorizing. Somewhat more rarely have Trotsky and Benjamin been brought together. Victor Serge in ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary’, written in Mexico in 1942-1943, brings the two names into a constellation, suggesting the connection between Trotsky and Benjamin to be something more than coincidence, and rather more epochal: »… the poets Walter Hasenclever and Walter Benjamin commit suicide. Rudolf Hilferding and Breitscheid are carried off out of our midst…

Sean Bonney | Anna Mendelssohn—”Minds do exist to agitate and provoke / this is the reason I do not conform”

  If you want to find good poetry written in Britain, you have to go looking for it: with very few exceptions, it is hidden away behind a poetry of more or less genteel self-expression, metrical sentimentalities and easily digested liberal homilies that are essentially reports on police reality. But there is a vast seem of artistically and politically complex poetry also being written here, and Anna Mendelssohn, who sometimes also published under the name Grace Lake, wrote some of the best. It is chaotic, at times manic and compulsive, by turns mocking and playful, hurt and exasperated, and always…

Jacques Rancière & Philippe Lafosse | Politics and Aesthetics in the Straubs’ Films

  Jacques Rancière, Philippe Lafosse and the public in conversation about Straub-Huillet after a screening of From the Clouds to the Resistance and Workers, Peasants Monday, February 16, 2004, Jean Vigo Cinema, Nice, France     PHILIPPE LAFOSSE: It seemed interesting to us, after having seen twelve films by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet and talked about them together, to ask another viewer, a philosopher and cinephile, to talk to us about these filmmakers. Jacques Rancière is with us this evening to tackle a subject that we’ve entitled “Politics and Aesthetics in the Straubs’ Films,” knowing that we could then look into other…

Georges Didi-Huberman | Light against Light

    The disappearance of the fireflies—when the blinding glare of spotlights crushes the weak glimmer of glowworms in the night—is an excellent poetic allegory, a lovely “speaking image” on which to build something like a general poetics of light. This allegory has become familiar to us through the intervention of a great poet, Pier Paolo Pasolini.1 So we cannot be surprised that artists and thinkers have elevated this allegory in the field of aesthetics, and that it may lend itself as the title of an art exhibit. And yet its sole purpose is to ask, stubbornly, over and over…

[ACTION #1] HEINER MÜLLERS INSZENIERUNG DES ‘DER UNTERGANG DES EGOISTEN JOHANN FATZER’ VON BRECHT

  Ich mache keinen Krieg mehr, sondern ich gehe jetzt heim gradewegs, ich scheiße auf die Ordnung der Welt. Schwarmstrategien [Smart Mobs] unterhalb des Radars. Die Geschichte von vier Deserteuren im Jahr 1918 [der abgerissene Sehnerv der in seinem Versteck von Revolution träumt]. Etwas das sich innerhalb der Mauern ansammelt, sprechende Wände im »Toten Trakt« / ein diffuses Glühen. Projektion: Liebknecht Luxemburg Meinhof. Jetzt kehrt sich das Leben gegen die alten Gewohnheiten. Niemand sieht jetzt / niemand kehrt zurück / als wäre der Sinn nie entfernt worden / das Gefühl die Schädeldecke müßte eigentlich zerreissen. Die bösartige Leugnung eines Virus…

Bertolt Brecht | A lesson in sabotage

    A lesson in sabotage Modifying a machine After the machine so that it won’t work without you So far improve it that you alone are good enough for it Give it a secret fault that you alone can repair Yes, alter it so that any other man will destroy it If the works it without you That’s what we call: modifying a machine. Modify your machine, saboteur!       A lesson in sabotage Sabotage, mother of the factory Just as a mother knows what she has given birth to Wakes in the night at the baby’s slightest…

The Power of Political, Militant, ‘Leftist’ Cinema. Interview with Jacques Rancière

  By Javier Bassa Vila Jacques Rancière’s thought is undisciplined, at least in two different but interlinked senses. On the one hand, in the 1970s Rancière suggested a reading of Marxism that broke with the dominant interpretations of the time, specially with the scientifist Marxism imposed by Althusser (see La leçon d’Althusser, originally published in 1976 and re-published in 2012 by La Fabrique – and due to come out soon in Spanish). On the other hand, the broad interest that his thought has triggered at an international level seems to be also the consequence of another in-discipline: his reflections are…

Kirill Medvedev | Brecht Is Not Your Aunt [Action]

    One-Man Picket Under the Slogan, “Mr. Kalyagin, Brecht Is Not Your Aunt!”   On January 24, a one-man picket from the socialist movement Vpered, in the person of myself, took place in front of the Et Cetera Theater in Moscow. The picket was staged in connection with the premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s play, “Drums in the Night.” Not long after the start of my picket, a security guard from the theater approached me and asked what I was doing there and by whose permission I was doing it. I explained that I had every right to hold a…

Jacques Rancière | Identifications of the People

The people has always been a double figure. At the time of the French revolution, it emerged in the opposition between subject of sovereignty and actual population: miserable people or ignorant and fanatic populace. But this duality is still much older. Aforetime the demos in Athens referred to both the sovereign people of the Assembly and the clutter of common people. Democracy is first of all a sobriquet invented by the Athenian elites to designate this inconceivable government of common people. Each time the people is declared sovereign, the same fundamental paradox, under diverse forms, makes the scene. […]

Walter Benjamin | The Author as Producer

    II s’agit de gagner les intellectuels “la classe ouvriere, en leur faisant prendre conscience de l’identité de leurs de-marches spirituelles et de leurs conditions de producteur. – Ramon Fernandez   You recall how Plato treats the poets in his projected State. In the interest of the community, he does not allow them to live there. He had a high idea of the power of poetry. But he considered it destructive, superfluous – in a perfect community, needless to say. Since then, the question of the poet’s right to exist has not often been stated with the same insistence;…

Esther Leslie | Fear Eats the Soul: Walter Benjamin & Baader Meinhof

Neither of the figures in my title – Walter Benjamin and The Baader Meinhof Group – are in any direct way associated with 1968 – indeed each brackets it in time. The one, Benjamin, was long dead by the time of the student and worker revolts, that would undoubtedly have thrilled him, even if they did not thrill his old friend Adorno, who called in the police on his revolting students. Benjamin’s adult thought emerges in the years of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and it reaches its final formulation in the dark days of Nazi rule, his death occurring…

Disruptions — An interview with Jacques Rancière

  Dwaipayan Chowdhury with Jacques Rancière (Spring 2019) LATERAL | JOURNAL OF THE CULTURAL STUDIES ASSOCIATION   I Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence W. B. Yeats With this reference from Sailing to Byzantium the art historian Clement Greenberg takes us to a quandary.1 This quandary pertains to the efficacy of (western) art in general with regard to the operations of artistic systems. With “of its own” Yeats takes us to the magnificence of the monuments. For Greenberg, what is at stake in this journey to magnificence is the establishment of the cleavage, within the integrity of…

Esther Leslie | Walter Benjamin

Esther Leslie | Walter Benjamin  ⇒   PDF (Full book)       For a Marxist Poetics of Science: An Interview with Esther Leslie First published in Historical Materialism Can you tell us a bit about your intellectual and political formation? I come from a political family — my parents were Trotskyists, my grandparents on one side were anarchists and, on the other, one grandfather had been involved in unemployment marches. There was a strong sense of class consciousness and political engagement at home. My anarchist grandfather, who was German, was a book publisher and bookseller in London and so we were…

Sergio Raimondi | Poems

  When the world changes, literature must as well. This is the credo motivating the thinking and writing of Argentine poet Sergio Raimondi, born in 1968 in Bahia Blanca. A somewhat gruff genius loci inhabits this place: the nearby port of Ingeniero White is one of Argentina’s main seaports; the nation’s most important petrochemical complexes is also located here. But Sergio Raimondi draws his very inspiration from this genius loci: even in his early work Poesía civil (published in German as Zivilpoesie in 2005), Raimondi—who teaches contemporary literature at the Universidad del Sur in Bahia Blanca—examines in depth Argentina’s changing…

DIE AFFÄRE LEBOVICI | PSYCHOGEOGRAPHIE [ACTE XVIII]

  Zum Umsturz aller bestehenden Ordnung aufzurufen / Scheint furchtbar. / Aber das Bestehende ist keine Ordnung. // Zur Gewalt seine Zuflucht zu nehmen / Scheint böse. Aber da, was ständig geübt wird, Gewalt ist / Ist es nichts Besonderes. Bertolt Brecht   Die ganze Affäre [wie auch der modus operandi] ist geprägt von einem Klima persönlichen Verrats und politischen Hinterhalts: Gérard Lebovici [Herausgeber der Editions Champ Libre, Produzent und Freund Guy Debords] in einer Tiefgarage in der Avenue Foch, Chaillot. Porte Dauphine mit vier Kugeln im Hinterkopf auf dem Vordersitz seines Wagens; Polizei, D.S.T. & Renseignements généraux zeichnen eine…

Bertolt Brecht | The Reader for City Dwellers

    1 Cover your tracks Split from your mate at the train station Go into town in the morning with your coat buttoned up Find a place And when your mate knocks, Don’t, oh, don’t open the door Instead Cover your tracks! If you bump into your parents in the city of Hamburg Or anywhere else (for that matter) Pass them like strangers, turn the corner, don’t acknowledge them Pull the hat, which they gave you, over your face Don’t, oh, don’t show your face Instead Cover your tracks! Eat the meat that’s there! Don’t save anything! Enter any…

Esther Leslie | Men of Doubt: Fortini, Benjamin, Brecht

I will present my ideas as theses, in recognition of the fragmented and poetic modes of the men I discuss. And, too, as reflection of the central idea here, that of ‘doubt’ – aiming at a certain non-definitive articulation, the wish to leave something uncompleted, unsealed, possible but yet to be made actual, if it can. I begin with a translation of a poem by Fortini.

Alain Badiou | The Century & Poetry and Communism

Alain Badiou | The Century  PDF   Everywhere, the twentieth century has been judged and condemned: the century of totalitarian terror, of utopian and criminal ideologies, of empty illusions, of genocides, of false avant-gardes, of democratic realism everywhere replaced by abstraction. It is not Badiou’s wish to plead for an accused that is perfectly capable of defending itself without the authors aid. Nor does he seek to proclaim, like Frantz, the hero of Sartre’s Prisoners of Altona, ‘I have taken the century on my shoulders and I have said: I will answer for it!’ The Century simply aims to examine what…

Jean-Luc Godard | What is to be done? // British Sounds, by J.-L. Godard [DVG]

  Written in January 1970 at the request of Simon Field and Peter Sainsbury for the magazine Afterimage, produced by Peter Whitehead. Published in Afterimage n°1, April 1970. Translated from French by Mo Teitelbaum. We must make political films. We must make films politically. 1 and 2 are antagonist to each other and belong to two opposing conceptions of the world. 1 belongs to the idealistic and metaphysical conception of the world. 2 belongs to the Marxist and dialectical conception of the world. Marxism struggles against idealism and the dialectical against the metaphysical. This struggle is the struggle between the…

Rote Fahne

Geschichten die man versteht, sind nur falsch erzählt. Bertolt Brecht;  Baal Ihr wißt genau, dass wir Ausbeuter sind. Jean-Paul Sartre, (Vorwort zu Die Verdammten dieser Erde; Frantz Fanon)      Es ist die mit Dreck und Tradition belegte Zunge die mir zum Hals heraushängt es ist eine kleine rote Fahne und ein schwarzer Mund voller Dämonen die morbide Symptomatik kotzfarbener Opferkrüge Erbrechen und Fluchen es sind die Gesetze, die mich mit ihrem Geschmack nach Rache verfolgen es sind die Vorgaben, was zu tun ist, die nerven, der moralisierende Dilettantismus — wartet nicht auf mich … ich bin keine Ratte, aber…

Bertolt Brecht; War Primer

Bertolt Brecht; War Primer (Full book) The Shipwreck of History: Bertolt Brecht’s “War Primer“ By Roy Scranton   “in the future it will perhaps be difficult to understand the impotence of the peoples in these wars of ours.” — Bertolt Brecht, journal, June 14, 1940 VERSO’S NEW EDITION of Bertolt Brecht’s War Primer is an artifact rich and strange. It comprises 85 photos Brecht collected between 1939 and 1945 while he was a refugee in exile from Nazi Germany, on the move from Denmark to Sweden to Finland and finally, by way of Moscow and the Trans-Siberian Railroad, to Los…

Fredric Jameson; Brecht and Method

Fredric Jameson; Brecht and Method (Full book)   Each Scene for Itself David Edgar The major contribution of the English theatre to last year’s Brecht centenary was Lee Hall’s dazzling version of Mr Puntila and His Man Matti, presented by the Right Size, a touring company led by the comic actors Sean Foley and Hamish McColl. Their prologue goes some way to explaining why the Anglophone response to the Brechtfest was so muted. Announcing that ‘Before we start/this evening’s art/we’d like to take you through a bit of theory,’ Foley and McColl went on to outline the origins of Marxism, the…

Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht — The Story of a Friendship

Erdmut Wizisla Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht — the story of a friendship (Full book) Erdmut Wizisla-Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht_ The Story of a Friendship-Yale University Press (2009) Benjamin and Brecht: The Story of a Friendship By Nick Wright The diverse appropriations of Walter Benjamin – the cultural theorist and critic — of his life and work, inevitably bear the marks of Cold War polarities. Liberal sentiment regards his intimacy with Bertolt Brecht as a Stalinist disfiguring of his sensibility. Gerschom Scholem’s account has Benjamin more rooted in Jewish metaphysics. The not-so-New Left privileges his connections with the Frankfurt…

Walter Benjamin | A Critical Life

Howard Eiland & Michael W. Jennings Walter Benjamin_ A Critical Life ( PDF)     Living the Life of Allegory By Ian Balfour Why, ever since Adam, who has got to the meaning of this great allegory — the world? Melville to Hawthorne, Nov. 17, 1851 WHAT A LIFE. And what — though one shouldn’t rush to it — a death. It’s a rare thing when the life of a cultural or literary critic is compelling enough for a full-dress treatment in the guise of sprawling critical biography. No one would balk at the (literally) weighty life of a George…

Kirill Medvedev | My Fascism

“[…] and someone said “I’m always on strike, I’m a poet“ in his 2004 essay MY FASCISM Kirill Medvedev says you can see how a person can become kind of crazy from all the various ideological streams moving through his mind in impossibly quick succession […] MY FASCISM is an essay about the relation of politics and art in 2004 in Russia, how some artists on the far right had made a powerfully vital, syncretic, and dangerous art. Kirill argues against attachment to an idealized past, the old culture: In Russia right now we’re all frankensteins, pieced together from various dead traditions….

riots and/or poetics [6/2018]

“[…] But here: distillation, composition, narrow-mindedness; and the oppressive summers: the heat isn’t without respite, but given that good weather is in everyone’s interests, and that everyone is a pig, I hate how summer kills me when it appears even briefly. […] The worst is that all of this will bother you as much as it will. It seems for the best that you read and walk as much as possible. Reason enough not to remain confined to offices and homes. Mindlessnesses must be given free reign, far from confinement. I am not about to be selling balm, but I imagine…

Jacques Rancière; Politics and Aesthetics

Peter Hallward: Sometimes you present political practice as a sort of ex nihilo innovation, almost like the constitution of a new world, even if the world in question is extremely fragile, uncertain, ephemeral. Don’t you need to consider political innovation alongside the development of its conditions of possibility? I mean, for instance, on the political side of things, the role played by civic institutions and state organisations, the public space opened up, in Athens, in France, by the invention of democratic institutions (that is, the sort of factors you generally relegate to the sphere of the police, as opposed to…

Jacques Rancière; The Emancipated Spectator (5th International Summer Academy)

  I gave to this talk the title: « The Emancipated Spectator » . As I understand it, a title is always a challenge. It sets forth the presupposition that an expression makes sense, that there is a link between separate terms, which also means between concepts , problems and theories which seem at first sight to bear no direct relation on each other. In a sense, this title expresses the perplexity that was mine when Marten Spangberg invited me to deliver what is supposed to be the “keynote” lecture of this academy. He told me that he wanted me…

READING LIST [08/2017]

Atlantic Drift; An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics Francois Dosse; Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari Maurizio Lazzarato; Marcel Duchamp and The Refusal of Work Bertolt Brecht; Arbeitsjournal Étienne Balibar; The Philosophy Of Marx Pier Paolo Pasolini; The Selected Poetry Of Pier Paolo Pasolini Pier Paolo Pasolini; Unter freiem Himmel Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov Sean Bonney; Letter Against the Firmament MÜTZE # 16 URS ENGELER (Robert Kelly, Jerome Rothenberg, et al.) Georg Baselitz, Alexander Kluge; Weltverändernder Zorn Ellen Meiksins Wood; Das Imperium des Kapitals