ISSUE 61 : SUMMER 2007
Allen explores Kracauer's phenomenological treatment of Weimar Berlin and its character, suggestive of contemporaneous cultural change and the progression toward emergent mass cultural forms, defining Kracauer's embrace of a world of 'surfaces'. Allen addresses Kracauer's view of the relationship between photography and the topography of urban life and evokes Kracauer's sensibility to explore Berlin today and its urban montage, underpinned by a new logic of superficiality and seduction.
Keywords: Siegfried Kracauer, phenomenology,
Weimar Berlin, Georg Simmel, topography, urban, superficiality.
The article focuses on the cityscapes of Berlin and Marseilles in the 1920s and 1930s, taking a Marxist perspective on Kracauer's analysis of the "mass ornament". Leslie reads these spaces as lines of geometry, rationalist abstractions concealing and fusing with the irrational myths of capitalist culture, particularly that of an irrational and unknowable human nature. Spaces of film and cinema are reconfigured into mass ornamental rationality.
Keywords: Siegfried Kracauer, Berlin, Marseilles,
geometry, rationalism, capitalism.
Examining Kracauer's 'The Mass Ornament', and its reading of popular dance troupe the Tiller Girls as a hieroglyphic representation of rational capitalism, Donalds suggests an alternative analysis of Josephine Baker's 'danse sauvage'. He suggests gaps in Kracauer's analysis, arguing that Baker's performance and 'star' status were the product of historical forces and events, imagining the responses of the cosmopolitan audiences of the time.
Keywords: Siegfried Kracauer, dance, the
Tiller Girls, rationalism, capitalism, Weimar culture.
Giles traces the aesthetics of photography in Kracauer's 'Die Photographie' (1927) - photography's mimetic realism suggests it cannot be art, but Kracauer implies that photography can be redeemed for the purposes of Art and History, making it a radically anti-mimetic medium. This almost contradictory position, Giles suggests, offers a Marxist aesthetics of photography, between Expressionism and Formalism, and similar to Adorno, anticipating Brecht and Benjamin.
Keywords: aesthetics, photography, Siegfried
Kracauer, mimesis, realism, anti-mimesis, Expressionism, Formalism, Marxism,
Theodor Adorno, Berthold Brecht, Walter Benjamin.
Gualtieri maps the development of Kracauer's thinking about photography, tracing an arc from critic of modernity in the 1920s to philosopher of utopia in the 1960s, suggesting Kracauer's trajectory and photography's shifting role as cultural and historical signifier. Kracauer draws on European modernist literary sources in his writing, suggests Gualtieri, thus rearticulating his understanding of photography, from modern mass ornament to trace of an immaterial world at the intersection between ideologies.
Keywords: Siegfried Kracauer, photography,
signification, literature, modernism, mass ornament
Harbord suggests that the tropes of the contingent and the accidental are central to Kracauer's thinking on cinema and modernism. The essay argues that in 'Theory of Film' (1960), Kracauer's use of contingency prises open the bodily encounter with the image as it undergoes transformation. Thus, according to Harbord, the contingent is a fundamental indeterminacy at the heart of film, threatening relations between image and viewer.
Keywords: contingent, accidental, Siegfried
Kracauer, cinema, modernism, image.
Langford explores Kracauer and Benjamin's mutual interest in urban landscape in film, and capitalist modernity's obscuring of historical reality. He examines the metaphor of the railway as suggestive of Kracauer's ambivalence toward film and modernity, via Walter Ruttman and Claude Lanzmann's documentaries. Examining 'Theory of Film' (1960), Langford suggests it avoids 'naive realism' in favour of a tragic poetics of the real, indicated by the analysis of film's concealed barbaric gaze.
Keywords: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin,
film, urban landscape, capitalism, modernity, railways, Walter Ruttman,
Claude Lanzmann, the real.
This article examines Siegfried Kracauer's and Walter Benjamin's writings on the relationship between the metropolis, the most modern human habitat, and film, the most modern cultural medium. Benjamin combines film and architecture in the notion of 'distraction', while Kracauer's 'improvisation' formulates a radical disjuncture between them. 'Improvisation' is central to Kracauer's ideas about film and the city as manifestations of the modern collective unconscious, despite his emphasis on 'camera reality'.
Keywords: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin,
film, metropolis, architecture, improvisation, collective unconscious.
Campbell explores Kracauer's concept of distracted experience as simultaneously hysterical dissociation and embodied active dreaming, via his historical account of the social imaginary. Kracauer's distracted cultural unconscious, suggests Campbell, links psychic experience with historical images and, through his analysis of the social psychology of cultural objects as hieroglyphs, counters the sociologising of the unconscious in the writing of Erich Fromm.
Keywords: social imaginary, distracted
experience, dissociation, cultural unconscious, psychoanalysis, Siegfried
Kracauer, history, Erich Fromm.
Graeme Gilloch and Jaeho Kang
Gilloch and Kang discuss 'Below the Surface', a 24-page screenplay dating from 1945 for a so-called test film of approximately 20 minutes duration, designed as a social psychology experiment to investigate anti-Semitism among US audiences. The authors examine Kracauer's involvement in the project and how it represents his theory of film as a dream image for the collective unconscious, suggesting that it is a fantasia of Critical Theory due to the motifs, concepts and figures that it contains.
Keywords: Siegfried Kracauer, anti-Semitism,
'Below the Surface', film, dream image, collective unconscious.
A selection of