Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes, 10/19

Today’s quote is among my all-time favorites, and it comes from none other than Walter Benjamin, whom I’ve quoted many times during this blog’s brief existence because he just plain fascinates me. This particular passage is taken from Benjamin’s “The Author as Producer”, a very accessible transcribed lecture that can be found in his book Reflections.

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When I first read this lecture about a year ago, I took Benjamin’s thesis as axiomatic in the formation of my own aesthetics, and I still think awfully highly of it to this day. Here Benjamin articulates a position regarding the obligation of the artist (which just so happens to be one of the most historically contentious issues relating to artistic practice). In short, for Benjamin, an artist whose work fails to encourage or inspire spectators to try their own hand at artistic production is useless, worthless, borderline solipsistic, an individual who creates art for herself and no one else. Thus, the measure of a work’s greatness or effectiveness is its capacity to stimulate original production from others; to a certain extent, I treat this as a (but not the) golden rule when dealing with a film, a novel, a painting, a song, an installation, and so on. Hopefully this sheds a teensy bit of light—but not too much—on why I think and write about art as I do. It’s all about contagiousness, transmission, dissemination, circulation: “Shouting into the void” is for the birds.

An author who teaches writers nothing, teaches no one. What matters, therefore, is the exemplary character of production, which is able first to induce other producers to produce, and second to put an improved apparatus at their disposal. And this apparatus is better the more consumers it is able to turn into producers—that is, reader or spectators into collaborators.

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