Trade and traffic are the two components of the street. Now, in the arcades the second of these has effectively died out; the traffic there is rudimentary. The arcade is a street of lascivious commerce only; it is wholly adapted to arousing desires. Because in this street the juices slow to a standstill, the commodity proliferates along the margins and enters into fantastic combinations, like the tissue in ulcers. — The flâneur sabotages the traffic. Moreover, he is no buyer. He is merchandise.
In fetishism, sex does away with the boundaries separating the organic world from the inorganic. Clothing and jewelry are its allies. It is as much at home with what is dead as it is with living flesh. The latter, moreover, shows it the way to establish itself in the former. Hair is a frontier region lying between the two kingdoms of sexus. Something different is disclosed in the drunkenness of passion: the landscapes of the body. These are already no longer animated, yet are still accessible to the eye, which, of course, depends increasingly on touch and smell to be its guides through these realms of death. Not seldom in the dream, however, there are swelling breasts that, like the earth, are all appareled in woods and rocks, and gazes have sent their life to the bottom of glassy lakes that slumber in the valleys. These landscapes are traversed by paths which lead sexuality into the world of the inorganic. Fashion itself is only another medium enticing it still more deeply into the universe of matter.
“‘This year,' said Tristouse, 'fashions are bizarre and common, simple and full of fantasy. Any material from nature's domain can now be introduced into the composition of women's clothes. I saw a charming dress made of corks .... A major designer is thinking about launching tailor-made outfits made of old bookbindings done in calf .... Fish bones are being worn a lot on hats. One often sees delicious young girls dressed like pilgrims of Saint James of Compostella; their outfits, as is fitting, are studded with coquilles Saint-Jacques. Steel, wool, sandstone, and the file have suddenly entered the vestmentary arts .... Feathers now decorate not only hats but shoes and gloves, and next year they'll be on umbrellas. They're doing shoes in Venetian glass and hats in Baccarat crystal .... I forgot to tell you that last Wednesday I saw on the boulevards on old dowager dressed in mirrors stuck to fabric. The effect was sumptuous in the sunlight. You'd have thought it was a gold mine out for a walk. Later it started raining and the lady looked like a silver mine .... Fashion is becoming practical and no longer looks down on anything. It ennobles everything. It does for materials what the Romantics did for words.’” Guillaume Apollinaire, Le poète assassiné, new edition (Paris, 1927), pp. 75–77.
The crinoline is “the unmistakable symbol of reaction on the part of an imperialism that spreads out and puffs up ..., and that ... settles its dominion like a hoop skirt over all aspects, good and bad, justified and unjustified, of the revolution .... It seemed a caprice of the moment, and it has established itself as the emblem of a period, like the Second of December.” F. Th. Vischer, cited in Eduard Fuchs, Die Karikatur der europäischen Völker (Munich ‹1921›), vol. 2, p. 156.
There is hardly another article of dress that can give expression to such divergent erotic tendencies, and that has so much latitude to disguise them, as a woman's hat. Whereas the meaning of male headgear in its sphere (the political) is strictly tied to a few rigid patterns, the shades of erotic meaning in a woman's hat are virtually incalculable. It is not so much the various possibilities of symbolic reference to the sexual organs that is chiefly of interest here. More surprising is what a hat can say about the rest of the outfit. H‹elen› Grund has made the ingenious suggestion that the bonnet, which is contemporaneous with the crinoline, actually provides men with directions for managing the latter. The wide brim of the bonnet is turned up— thereby demonstrating how the crinoline must be turned up in order to make sexual access to the woman easier for the man.
“The Paris stone quarries are all interconnected ... In several places pillars have been set up so that the roof does not cave in. In other places the walls have been reinforced. These walls form long passages under the earth, like narrow streets. On several of them, at the end, numbers have been inscribed to prevent wrong turns, but without a guide one is not ... likely to venture into these exhausted seams of limestone ... if one does not wish ... to risk starvation. ”—“The legend according to which one can see the stars by day from the tunnels of the Paris quarries” originated in an old mine shaft “which was covered over on the surface by a stone slab in which there is a small hole some six millimeters in diameter. Through this hole the daylight shines into the gloom below like a pale star.” J. F. Benzenberg, Briefe geschrieben auf einer Reise nach Paris (Dortmund, 1805), vol. 1, pp. 207–208
Child with its mother in the panorama. The panorama is presenting the Battle of Sedan. The child finds it all very lovely: “Only, it's too bad the sky is so dreary.”— “That's what the weather is like in war,” answers the mother. ■ Dioramas ■
Thus, the panoramas too are in fundamental complicity with this world of mist, this cloud-world: the light of their images breaks as through curtains of rain.
Boredom is a warm gray fabric lined on the inside with the most lustrous and colorful of silks. In this fabric we wrap ourselves when we dream. We are at home then in the arabesques of its lining. But the sleeper looks bored and gray within his sheath. And when he later wakes and wants to tell of what he dreamed, he communicates by and large only this boredom. For who would be able at one stroke to turn the lining of time to the outside? Yet to narrate dreams signifies nothing else. And in no other way can one deal with the arcades–structures in which we relive, as in a dream, the life of our parents and grandparents, as the embryo in the womb relives the life of animals. Existence in these spaces flows then without accent, like the events in dreams. Flânerie is the rhythmics of this slumber. In 1839, a rage for tortoises overcame Paris. One can well imagine the elegant set mimicking the pace of this creature more easily in the arcades than on the boulevards.
■ Flâneur ■
Perspectival character of the crinoline, with its manifold flounces. At least five to six petticoats were worn underneath.
The widening of the streets, it was said, was necessitated by the crinoline.
“The most important step toward industrialization: mechanical prefabrication of specific forms (sections) out of wrought iron or steel. The fields interpenetrate: ... in 1832, railroad workers began, not with building components, but with rails. Here is the point of departure for sectional iron, which is the basis of iron construction. [Note to this passage: The new methods of construction penetrate slowly into industry. Double-T iron was used in flooring for the first time in Paris in 1845, when the masons were out on strike and the price of wood had risen due to increased construction and larger spans.]” Giedion, Bauen in Frankreich, p. 26.
Grandville's masking of nature with the fashions of midcentury—nature understood as the cosmos, as well as the world of animals and plants—lets history, in the guise of fashion, be derived from the eternal cycle of nature. When Grandville presents a new fan as the “fan of Iris,” when the Milky Way appears as an “avenue” illuminated at night by gas lamps, when "the moon (a self-portrait)," reposes on fashionable velvet cushions instead of on clouds, then history is being secularized and drawn into a natural context as relentlessly as it was three hundred years earlier with allegory.
Du Camp on Baudelaire's voyage “to the Indies”: “He arranged provisions of livestock for the English army ..., and rode about on elephants while composing verse.” He adds in a note: “I have been told that this anecdote is spurious; I have it from Baudelaire himself, and I have no reason to doubt its veracity, though it may perhaps be faulted for a surplus of imagination.” Maxime Du Camp , Souvenirs littéraires, vol. 2 (Paris, 1906), p. 60.
From Schaunard, Souvenirs (Paris, 1887): “‘I detest the countryside,’ says Baudelaire in explanation of his hasty departure from Honfleur, ‘particularly in good weather. The persistent sunshine oppresses me .... Ah! speak to me of those everchanging Parisian skies that laugh or cry according to the wind, and that never, in their variable heat and humidity, have any effect on the stupid crops .... I am perhaps affronting your convictions as a landscape painter, but I must tell you further that an open body of water is a monstrous thing to me; I want it incarcerated, contained within the geometric partitions of a quay. My favorite walking place is the embankment along the Canal de l’Ourcq’” (cited in Crépet, p. 160).
The description of the labor process in its relation to nature will necessarily bear the imprint of its social structure as well. If the human being were not authentically exploited, we would be spared the inauthentic talk of an exploitation of nature. This talk reinforces the semblance of “value,” which accrues to raw materials only by virtue of an order of production founded on the exploitation of human labor. Were this exploitation to come to a halt, work, in turn, could no longer be characterized as the exploitation of nature by man. It would henceforth be conducted on the model of children's play, which in Fourier forms the basis of the "impassioned work" of the Harmonians. To have instituted play as the canon of a labor no longer rooted in exploitation is one of the great merits of Fourier. Such work inspirited by play aims not at the propagation of values but at the amelioration of nature. For it, too, the Fourierist utopia furnishes a model, of a sort to be found realized in the games of children. It is the image of an earth on which every place has become an inn. The double meaning of the word ‹Wirtschaft› blossoms here: all places are worked by human hands, made useful and beautiful thereby; all, however, stand, like a roadside inn, open to all.
An earth that was cultivated according to such an image would cease to be part of “a world where action is never the sister of dream” [Baudelaire]. On that earth, the act would be kin to the dream.
On the doctrine of the ideological superstructure. It seems, at first sight, that here Marx wanted to establish only a causal relation between superstructure and infrastructure. But already the observation that the ideologies of the superstructure reflect relations falsely and invidiously goes beyond this. The question, in effect, is the following: if the infrastructure in a certain way (in the materials of thought and experience) determines the superstructure, but if such determination is not reducible to simple reflection, how is it then—entirely apart from any question about the originating cause —to be characterized? As its expression. The superstructure is the expression of the infrastructure. The economic conditions under which society exists are expressed in the superstructure—precisely as, with the sleeper, an overfull stomach finds not its reflection but its expression in the contents of the dream, which, from a causal point of view, it may be said to “condition. ” The collective, from the first, expresses the conditions of its life. These find their expression in the dream and their interpretation in the awakening.
One can characterize the problem of the form of the new art straight on: When and how will the worlds of form which, without our assistance, have arisen, for example, in mechanics, in film, in machine construction, in the new physics, and which have subjugated us, make it clear for us what manner of nature they contain? When will we reach a state of society in which these forms, or those arising from them, reveal themselves to us as natural forms? Of course, this brings to light only one moment in the dialectical essence of technology. (Which moment, is hard to say: antithesis if not synthesis.) In any case, there lives in technology another impulse as well: to bring about objectives strange to nature, along with means that are alien and inimical to nature—measures that emancipate themselves from nature and master it.
Linking of Proust’s oeuvre to the work of Baudelaire: “One of the masterpieces of French literature–Sylvie, by Gérard de Nerval--like the Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe ‹of Chateaubriand› ..., contains a sensation of the same character as the savor of the madeleine .... And finally, in Baudelaire, these reminiscences are still more frequent and obviously less incidental and therefore, in my opinion, decisive. Here it is the poet himself who, with more variety and more indolence, purposely seeks in the odor of a woman’s hair or her breast, for example, inspiring resemblances which shall evoke for him ‘the canopy of overarching sky’ and ‘a harbor filled with masts and sails.’ I was going to endeavor to recall the poems of Baudelaire which are based in similar manner on a transferred sensation, in order definitely to place myself again in line with such a noble literary heritage and reassure myself that the work I was now about to undertake without any further hesitation was worth the effort I was going to devote to it, when I reached the foot of the stairs ... and suddenly found myself ... in the midst of a fête.” Marcel Proust, Le Temps retrouvé (Paris ‹1927›), vol. 2, pp. 82–83.
The appearances of superposition, of overlap, which come with hashish are to be grasped under the concept of similitude. When we say that one face is similar to another, we mean that certain features of this second face appear to us in the first, without the latter’s ceasing to be what it has been. Nevertheless, the possibilities of entering into appearance in this way are not subject to any criterion and are therefore boundless. The category of similarity, which for the waking consciousness has only minimal relevance, attains unlimited relevance in the world of hashish. There, we may say, everything is face: each thing has the degree of bodily presence that allows it to be searched—as one searches a face—for such traits as appear. Under these conditions even a sentence (to say nothing of the single word) puts on a face, and this face resembles that of the sentence standing opposed to it. In this way every truth points manifestly to its opposite, and this state of affairs explains the existence of doubt. Truth becomes something living; it lives solely in the rhythm by which statement and counterstatement displace each other in order to think each other.
A true masquerade of space—that is what the ball must have been which the British embassy organized on May 17, 1839. “In addition to the glorious flowers from gardens and greenhouses, one thousand to twelve hundred rosebushes were ordered as part of the decoration for the festivities. It was said that only eight hundred of them could fit in the rooms of the embassy, but that will give you an idea of the downright mythologic magnificence. The garden, covered by a pavilion, was turned into a salon de conversation. But what a salon! The buoyant flower beds, full of flowers, were huge jardinières which everyone came over to admire; the gravel on the walks was covered with fresh linen out of consideration for the white satin shoes; large sofas of lampas and of damask replaced the wrought iron benches; and on a round table there were books and albums. It was a pleasure to come take the air in this immense boudoir, where one could hear, like a magic chant, the sounds of the orchestra, and where one could see passing like happy shadows, in the three surrounding flower-lined galleries, both the fun-loving girls who came to dance and the more serious girls who came to sup…” H. D’Almeras, La Vie parisienne sous ‹le règne de› Louis-Philippe ‹Paris, 1925›, pp. 446-447. The account derives from Madame de Girardin. ■ Interior ■ Today, the watchword is not entanglement but transparency. (Corbusier!)
We know that, in the course of flânerie, far-off times and places interpenetrate the landscape and the present moment. When the authentically intoxicated phase of this condition announces itself, the blood is pounding in the veins of the happy flâneur, his heart ticks like a clock, and inwardly as well as outwardly things go on as we would imagine them to do in one of those “mechanical pictures” which in the 19th century (and of course earlier too) enjoyed great popularity, and which depicts in the foreground a shepherd playing on a pipe, by his side two children swaying in time to the music, further back a pair of hunters in pursuit of a lion, and very much in the background a train crossing over a trestle bridge. (Chapuis and Gélis, Le Monde des automates [Paris, 1928], vol. 1, p. 330.)
The intoxicated interpenetration of street and residence such as comes about in the Paris of the 19th century—and especially in the experience of the flâneur—has prophetic value. For the new architecture lets this interpenetration become sober reality. Giedion on occasion draws attention to this: “A detail of the anonymous engineering, a grade crossing, becomes an element in the architecture” (that is, of a villa). S. Giedion, Bauen in Frankreich ‹Berlin, 1928›, p. 89.
On the detective novel: “We must take as an established fact that this metamorphosis of the city comes from the transposition of its décor, from the savannah and forest of Fenimore Cooper, where every broken branch signifies a worry or a hope, where every tree trunk hides an enemy rifle or the bow of an invisible and silent avenger. All of the writers, beginning with Balzac, have clearly recorded this debt and faithfully rendered to Cooper what they owed him. Works like the Mohicans of Paris by Alexander Dumas, works where the title says all, are by far the most common.” Roger Caillois, “Paris, mythe moderne,” Nouvelle Revue Française, 25, no. 284 (May 1, 1937), pp. 685–686.
“For the perfect flâneur, … it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow … To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the center of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—such are a few of the slightest pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial [!!] natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito … The lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electric energy. We might also liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope endowed with consciousness, which, with each one of its movements, represents the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life.” Baudelaire, L’Art romantique (Paris), pp. 64-65 (“The Painter of Modern Life”).
The masses in Baudelaire. They stretch before the flâneur as a veil: they are the newest drug for the solitary.—Second, they efface all traces of the individual: they are the newest asylum for the reprobate and the proscript.—Finally, within the labyrinth of the city, the masses are the newest and most inscrutable labyrinth. Through them, previously unknown chthonic traits are imprinted on the image of the city.
In the fields with which we are concerned, knowledge comes only in lightning flashes. The text is the long roll of thunder that follows.
Say something about the method of composition itself: how everything one is thinking at a specific moment in time must at all costs be incorporated into the project then at hand. Assume that the intensity of the project is thereby attested, or that one’s thoughts, from the very beginning, bear this project within them as their telos. So it is with the present portion of the work, which aims to characterize and to preserve the intervals of reflection, the distances lying between the most essential parts of this work, which are turned most intensively to the outside.
To cultivate fields where, until now, only madness has reigned. Forge ahead with the whetted axe of reason, looking neither right nor left so as not to succumb to the horror that beckons from deep in the primeval forest. Every ground must at some point have been made arable by reason, must have been cleared of the undergrowth of delusion and myth. This is to be accomplished here for the terrain of the 19th century.
How this work was written: rung by rung, according as chance would offer a narrow foothold, and always like someone who scales dangerous heights and never allows himself a moment to look around, for fear of becoming dizzy (but also because he would save for the end the full force of the panorama opening out to him).
In studying Simmel’s presentation of Goethe’s concept of truth, I came to see very clearly that my concept of origin in the Trauerspiel book is a rigorous and decisive transposition of this basic Goethean concept from the domain of nature to that of history. Origin—it is, in effect, the concept of Ur-phenomenon extracted from the pagan context of nature and brought into the Jewish contexts of history. Now, in my work on the arcades I am equally concerned with fathoming an origin. To be specific, I pursue the origin of the forms and mutations of the Paris arcades from their beginning to their decline, and I locate this origin in the economic facts. Seen from the standpoint of causality, however, and that means considered as causes, these facts would not be primal phenomena; they become such only insofar as in their own individual development—unfolding might be a better term—they give rise to the whole series of the arcade’s concrete historical forms, just as the leaf unfolds from itself all the riches of the empirical world of plants.
The fore-and after-history of an historical phenomenon show up in the phenomenon itself on the strength of its dialectical presentation. What is more: every dialectically presented historical circumstance polarizes itself and becomes a force field in which the confrontation between its fore-history and after-history is played out. It becomes such a field insofar as the present instant interpenetrates it. And thus the historical evidence polarizes into fore- and after-history always anew, never in the same way. And it does so at a distance from its own existence, in the present instant itself—like a line which, divided according to the Apollonian section, experiences its partition from outside itself.
The dialectical image is that form of the historical object which satisfies Goethe’s requirements for the object of analysis: to exhibit a genuine synthesis. It is the primal phenomenon of history.
For the materialist historian, every epoch with which he occupies himself is only prehistory for the epoch he himself must live in. And so for him there can be no appearance of repetition in history, since precisely those moments in the course of history which matter most to him, by virtue of their index as “fore-history,” become moments of the present day and change their specific character according to the catastrophic or triumphant nature of that day.
Excursus on the Place du Maroc. Not only city and interior but city and open air can become entwined, and this intertwining can occur much more concretely. There is the Place du Maroc in Belleville: that desolate heap of stones with its tenement rows became for me, as I happened on it one Sunday afternoon, not only a Moroccan desert but also, and at the same time, a monument of colonial imperialism; topographic vision was entwined with allegorical meaning in this square, and yet not for an instant did it lose its place in the heart of Belleville. But to awaken such a view is something ordinarily reserved for intoxicants. And in such cases, in fact, street names are like intoxicating substances that make our perceptions more stratified and richer in spaces. One could call the energy by which they transport us into such a state their vertu évocatrice, their evocative power—but that is saying too little; for what is decisive here is not the association but the interpenetration of images. This state of affairs may be adduced, as well, in connection with certain pathological phenomena: the patient who wanders the city at night for hours on end and forgets the way home is perhaps in the grip of this power.
Brittle, too, are the mosaic thresholds that lead you, in the style of the old restaurants of the Palais-Royal, to a “Parisian dinner” for five francs; they mount boldly to a glass door, but you can hardly believe that behind this door is really a restaurant. The glass door adjacent promises a Petit Casino and allows a glimpse of a ticket booth and the prices of seats, but were you to open it—would it open into anything? Instead of entering the space of a theater, wouldn’t one be stepping down to the street? Where doors and walls are made of mirrors, there is no telling out from in, with all the equivocal illumination. Paris is the city of mirrors. The asphalt of its roadways smooth as glass, and at the entrance to all bistros glass partitions. A profusion of windowpanes and mirrors in cafés, so as to make the inside brighter and to give all the tiny nooks and crannies, into which Parisian taverns separate, a pleasing amplitude. Women here look at themselves more than elsewhere, and from this comes the distinctive beauty of the Parisienne. Before any man catches sight of her, she already sees herself ten times reflected. But the man, too, sees his own physiognomy flash by. He gains his image more quickly here than elsewhere and also sees himself more quickly merged with this his image. Even the eyes of passersby are veiled mirrors, and over that wide bed of the Seine, over Paris, the sky is spread out like the crystal mirror hanging over the drab beds in brothels.
The dreaming collective knows no history. Events pass before it as always identical and always new. The sensation of the newest, most modern is, in fact, just as much a dream formation of events as the eternal return of the same. The perception of space that corresponds to this perception of time is the interpenetrating and superposed transparency of the world of the flâneur. This feeling of space, this feeling of time presided at the birth of the modern feuilletonism. ■ Dream collective ■
“Fourier is so prodigal in his invention and his crazy descriptions that Lerminier justifiably compares him to Swedenborg ... Fourier, too, was at home in all skies and on all planets. After all, he calculated mathematically the transmigration of the soul and went on to prove that the human soul must assume 810 different forms until it completes the circuit of the planets and returns to earth, and that, in the course of these existences, 720 years must be happy, 45 years favorable, and 45 years unfavorable or unhappy. And has he not described what will happen to the soul after the demise of our planet, and prophesied, in fact, that certain privileged souls will retire to the sun. He reckons further that our souls would have to come to inhabit all other planets and worlds after spending 80,000 years on planet Earth. He calculates, in addition, that this termination of the human race will occur only after it has enjoyed the benefits of the boreal light for 70,000 years. He proves that by the influence, not of the boreal light to be sure, but of the gravitational force of labor, ... the climate of Senegal will become as moderate as summers in France are now. He describes how, once the sea has turned to lemonade, men will transport the fish from the great ocean to the inland seas, the Caspian, the Aral and the Black Sea, given that the boreal light reacts less potently with these salty seas; and so, in this way, the seafish will accustom themselves gradually to the lemonade, until finally they can be restored to the ocean. Fourier also says that, in its eighth ascending period, humanity will acquire the capacity to live like fish in the water and to fly like birds in the air, and that humans will have reached a height of 7 feet by then and a life span of at least 144 years. Everyone, at that point, will be able to transform himself into an amphibian, for he will have the power of opening or closing at will the valve that connects the two chambers of the heart, so as to bring the blood directly to the heart without having it pass through the lungs ... Nature will evolve in such fashion, he maintains, that a time will come when oranges blossom in Siberia and the most dangerous animals have been replaced by their opposites. Anti-lions, anti-whales will be at man’s service then, and the calm will drive his ships. In this way, according to Fourier, the lion will serve as the best of horses and the shark will be as useful in fishing as the dog in hunting. New stars will emerge to take the place of the moon, which already, by then, will have begun to rot.” Sigmund Engländer, Geschichte der französischen Arbeiter-Associationen (Hamburg, 1864), vo. 1, pp. 240-244.
Fourier’s conception of the propagation of the phalansteries through “explosions” may be compared to two articles of my “politics”: the idea of revolution as an innervation of the technical organs of the collective (analogy with the child who learns to grasp by trying to get hold of the moon), and the idea of the “cracking open of natural teleology.”
Fourierist pedagogy, like the pedagogy of Jean Paul, should be studied in the context of anthropological materialism. In this, the role of anthropological materialism in France should be compared with its role in Germany. It might turn out that there, in France, it was the human collective that stood at the center of interests, while here, in Germany, it was the human individual. We must note, as well, that anthropological materialism attained sharper definition in Germany because its opposite, idealism, was more clearly delineated over there. The history of anthropological materialism stretches, in Germany, from Jean Paul to Keller (passing through Georg Büchner and Gutzkow); in France, the socialist utopias and the physiologies are its precipitate.
Fourier’s long-tailed men became the object of caricature, in 1849, with erotic drawings by Emy in Le Rire. For the purpose of elucidating the Fourierist extravagancies, we may adduce the figure of Mickey Mouse, in which we find carried out, entirely in the spirit of Fourier’s conceptions, the moral mobilization of nature. Humor, here, puts politics to the test. Mickey Mouse shows how right Marx was to see in Fourier, above all else, a great humorist. The cracking open of natural teleology proceeds in accordance with the plan of humor.
“The opera stands at the forefront of educational directives … The opera is a school of morality in outline: it is there that young people are imbued with a horror of anything prejudicial to truth, precision, and unity. At the opera, no favor can excuse the one whose note is false, whose timing, step or gesture is off. The prince’s child who has a part in the dance or the choir must endure the truth, must listen to the criticisms arising from the masses. It is at the opera that he learns, in every move he makes, to subordinate himself to unitary proprieties, to general accords.” Cited in F. Armand and R. Maublanc, Fourier (Paris, 1937), vol. 2, p. 232–233.
Town-Planning: “A man who wishes to have a brilliant drawing room is keenly aware that the beauty of the principal room cannot do without that of the avenues. What is one to think of an elegant salon that requires the visitor, on his way there, first to pass through a courtyard littered with refuse, a stairwell full of rubbish, and an antechamber provided with old and uncouth furnishings? … Why is it, then, that the good taste evinced by each individual in the decoration of his private abode is not met with as well in our architects responsible for those collective abodes known as cities? And why hasn’t one of the myriad princes and artists … ever had the idea of adorning, in appropriate degree, the three components: faubourgs, annexes and avenues …?” Charles Fourier, Cités ouvrières. Modifications à introduire dans l’architecture des villes (Paris, 1849), pp. 19–20. Among many other prescriptions for urban planning, Fourier imagines some that would allow one to recognize, from the increasing or decreasing decoration on the buildings, whether one were approaching or getting away from a city.
With the trace a new dimension accrues to “immediate experience.” It is no longer tied to the expectation of “adventure;” the one who undergoes an experience can follow the trace that leads there. Whoever follows traces must not only pay attention; he must, above all, have given heed already to a great many things. (The hunter must know about the hoof of the animal whose trail he is on; he must know the hour when it goes to drink; he must know the course of the river to which it turns, and the location of the ford by which he himself can get across.) In this way there comes into play the peculiar configuration by dint of which long experience appears translated into the language of immediate experience. Experiences can, in fact, prove invaluable to one who follows a trace—but experiences of a particular sort. The hunt is the one type of work in which they function intrinsically. And the hunt is, as work, very primitive. The experiences ‹Erfahrungen› of one who attends to a trace result only very remotely from any work activity, or are cut off from such a procedure altogether. (Not for nothing do we speak of “fortune-hunting.”) They have no sequence and no system. They are a product of chance, and have about them the essential interminability that distinguishes the preferred obligations of the idler. The fundamentally unfinishable collection of things worth knowing, whose utility depends on chance, has its prototype in study.
All this is the arcade in our eyes. And it was nothing of all this earlier. So long as the gas lamps, even the oil lamps were burning in them, the arcades were fairy palaces. But if we want to think of them at the height of their magic, we must call to mind the Passage des Panoramas around 1870 ‹?›: on one side, there was the gaslight, on the other, oil lamps still flickered. The decline sets in with electric lighting. Fundamentally, however, it was no decline but a reversal in the strict sense. As mutineers, after plotting for days on end, take possession of a fortified site, so the commodity by a lightning stroke seized power over the arcades. Only then came the epoch of commercial firms and figures. The inner radiance of the arcades faded with the blaze of electric lights and withdrew into their names. But their name was now like a filter which let through only the most intimate, the bitter essence of what had been. (This strange capacity for distilling the present, as inmost essence of what has been, is, for true travelers, what gives to the name its exciting and mysterious potency.)
Interpenetration as principle in film, in new architecture, in colportage.