the detective a hunter; the flâneur a detective

“Owing to the influence of Cooper, it becomes possible for the novelist in an urban setting to give scope to the experiences of the hunter. This has a bearing on the rise of the detective story.” [Benjamin The Arcades Project M11a,6]

“Performed in the figure of the flâneur is that of the detective. The flâneur required a social legitimation of his habitus. It suited him very well to see his indolence presented as a plausible front, behind which, in reality, hides the riveted attention of an observer who will not let the unsuspecting malefactor out of his sight.” [Benjamin The Arcades Project M13a,2]


the retrograde petrochemical circus

the british grand prix at silverstone is a kind of grand and ugly petro-mechanical potlatch. the whole event concerns the massive competitive consumption of race cars, fossil fuels, and the surrounding ecology. this extends beyond the race itself to the modes of transport used to arrive at the event. With public transport essentially absent cars dominate excepting the significant number of individuals who arrive by helicopter (with helicopter pleasure flights available to us hoi poloi to replicate that status effect). the overall effect is grotesque.

it is also the spectacle as circus par excellence. the action on the track is incomprehensible if experienced live because one can gaze on so very little of the race from any vantage point. indeed most of the spectators turn away from the track in front of them to view the ‘big screens’ installed at the circuit or the ‘small screens’ of their phones (and ipads…) that convey the information necessary to understand what is happening right in front of them. the mediating technology of our material culture is the most effective means of understanding this live event.

the ferocious volume of the races renders all conversation impossible and even though we sit in a crowd were are utterly alone in the cacophony. this sonic destruction of the social link echoes the social-isolation inherent in all use of the automobile. this necessity of objects/goods to the comprehension of the live event in front of us generates an impulse to photograph the instants and moments that are available to the spectators. there is almost a cult of the long lens amongst the spectators (although this image capturing impulse is, seemingly, a uniquely male practice) and in a sense this collection of images for later reflection is a rational response to the incomprehensible thing in front of us.

the city an archive

“The most heterogeneous temporal elements thus coexist in the city. If we step form an eighteenth-century house into one from the sixteenth century, we tumble down the slope of time. Right next door stands a Gothic church, and we sink to the depths. A few steps farther, we are in a street from out of the early years of Bismarck’s rule … , and once again climbing the mountain of time. Whoever sets foot in a city feels caught up as in a web of dreams, where the most remote past is linked to the events of today. One house allies with another, no matter what period they come from, and a street is born.” Ferdinand Lion, Geschichte Biologisch Gesehen, (Zurich and Leipzig 1935. Benjamin The Arcades Project [M9,4]