Sunday, November 20, 2011

TC: Walter Benjamin: A Map of Hell (1938)


Paradise and Hell
: Hieronymus Bosch, c. 1510 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

March 6. On recent nights I've had dreams that remained deeply engraved in my day. Last night I dreamed I had company. Friendly things came my way; I believe they consisted primarily in women taking an interest in me -- indeed, even commenting favorably upon my appearance. I think I remember remarking aloud that now I probably wouldn't live much longer -- as if this were the last display of friendship among people bidding one another farewell.

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Plique-à-jour enamel setting, cloisonné enamel on gold: Guillaume Julien [?], Paris, late 13th/early 14th century: Musée National du Moyen Age, Paris (image by Jastrow, 2006)

Later, just before I awoke, I was in the company of a lady in Adrienne Monnier's rooms. They were the setting for an exhibition of objects which I can't quite recall. Among them were books with miniatures, as well as plates and intricately wrought arabesques which were colorfully overlaid as if with enamel. The rooms were on the ground floor facing the street, from which one could look in through a large windowpane. I was on the inside. My lady had obviously already treated her teeth according to the technique that the exhibition was advertising.


Front of dental office "Next Appointment" notice, advertising Chlorodont toothpaste:
VEB Elbe-Chemie, 1969 (Archiv der Firma Dental-Kosmetik GmbH und Co KG, Nachfolgerin der Leowerke und späteren VEB Elbe-Chemie; image by Freak1972, 2010)

She had polished them to an opalescent shine. The color of her teeth ran to dull green and blue. I took pains to make her understand most politely that this was not the correct use of the product. Anticipating my thoughts, she pointed out that the inner surfaces of her teeth were inlaid in red. I had indeed meant to say that, for teeth, the brightest colors are scarcely bright enough.

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Toothpaste with wood-texturing: Blender3D image by SoylentGreen, 2006

I've been suffering greatly from the noise in my room.

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Wood-Texture, Band type: Blender3D image by SoylentGreen, 2006

Last night my dream recorded this.

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Looping Particle Fire: Blender3D image by SoylentGreen, 2006

I found myself standing in front of a map and, simultaneously, standing in the landscape which it depicted. The landscape was terrifyingly dreary and bare; I couldn't have said whether its desolation was that of a rocky wasteland or that on an empty ground populated only by capital letters. These letters writhed and curved upon their terrain as if following mountain ranges; I knew or learned that I was in the labyrinth of my auditory canal. But the map was, at the same time, a map of hell.

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The Hollywood Sign, shot from an aircraft
: photo by Jelson, 2009

Walter Benjamin: Diary Entries, 1938 (excerpt), translated by Gerhard Richter and Michael W. Jennings in Selected Writings, Volume 3 (1935-1938), 2002

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