Benjamin 1999

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Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Trans. by Howard Eland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.

"What is decisive in collecting is that the object is detached from all its original functions in order to enter into the closest conceivable relation to things of the same kind. This relation is the diametric opposite of any utility, and falls into the peculiar category of completeness. What is this 'completeness'? It is a grand attempt to overcome the wholly irrational character of the object's mere presence at hand through its integration into a new, expressly devised historical system: the collection. And for the true collector, every single thing in this system becomes an encyclopedia of all knowledge of the epoch, the landscape, the industry, and the owner from which it comes. It is the deepest enchantment of the collector to enclose the particular item within a magic circle, where, as a last shudder runs through it (the shudder of being acquired), it turns to stone. Everything remembered, everything thought, everything conscious becomes social, frame, pedestal, seal of his possession. It must not be assumed that the collector, in particular, would find anything strange in the topos hyperouranios -- that place beyond the heavens which, for Plato, shelters the unchangeable archetypes of things. He loses himself, assuredly. But he has the strength to pull himself up again by nothing more than a straw; and from out of the sea of fog that envelops his senses rises the newly acquired piece, like an island. -- Collecting is a form of practical memory, and of all the profane manifestations of 'nearness' it is the most binding. Thus, in certain sense, the smallest act of political reflection makes for an epoch in the antiques business. We construct here an alarm clock that rouses the kitsch of the previous century to 'assembly'." (2.4-5, H1a,2)
"It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather, image is that wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation." (N3,1)