Walter Benjamin, New York

Walter Benjamin

The name I took for this conversation relates to the well-known early 20th-century philosopher, but it also relates to the Walter Benjamin who gave a lecture in Ljubljana in 1986 titled Mondrian ’63-’96, a lecture about Mondrian’s paintings from between 1963-1996. It is the same Benjamin whose statement “Copies are memories” is being used as a motto for the Americans 64 exhibit at the Arsenale in Venice [in 2005…] From the territory of certainty you enter the territory of uncertainty, and a familiar landscape is not familiar any more. The notion of the modern is somehow associated with the notion of frontier. Modern means looking outward. It is about pushing the boundaries, turning the unknown into the known in the process. You have something you call “known” as a place where you feel good and safe. And then, you have the »unknown« as some kind of dark and dangerous place on the other side of the border. The entire era of modernism could be understood as a process of pushing the boundaries and broadening the territory of brightness by turning this “unknown” into the “known”.


Excerpts from an interview whose original, unabridged version appears in the catalogue: Arns, Inke, Benjamin, Walter, eds. 2006. What is Modern Art? (Group Show). Frankfurt/Main: Revolver. Archiv für aktuelle Kunst.




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