AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

15 August 2016

Ragpicker.


Here we have a man whose job it is to gather the day's refuse in the capital. Everything that the big city has thrown away, everything it has lost, everything it has scorned, everything it has crushed underfoot he catalogues and collects. He collates the annals of intemperance, the capharnaum of waste. He sorts things out and selects judiciously: he collects like a miser like a miser guarding a treasure, refuse which will assume the shape of useful or gratifying objects between the jaws of the goddess of Industry." This description is one extended metaphor for the poetic method, as Baudelaire practiced it. Ragpicker and poet: the refuse concerns both.

Method of this project: literary montage. I needn't say anything. Merely show. I shall purloin no valuables, appropriate no ingenious formulations. But the rags, the refuse-these I will not inventory but allow, in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them.

The Arcades project wishes to pick up the refuse of history. Like a poor and burdened man cleverly picking through the rubbish of the previous day, the materialist historian selects from amongst all that is disregarded and from the residues of history. At the library he is unconcerned with what has been accredited as precious and valuable, but rather is drawn towards historical refuse. Waste materials are to enter into significant connections and fragments are used to gain a new perspective on history.

Walter Benjamin

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