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The Secrets of the Darkened Chamber: Conflations of World and Apparatus in Henry Fox Talbot, Walter Benjamin, and Michael Schmidt

Event Details

The Secrets of the Darkened Chamber: Conflations of World and Apparatus in Henry Fox Talbot, Walter Benjamin, and Michael Schmidt

Time: February 9, 2012 from 4:30pm to 6pm
Location: Haldeman 041, Dartmouth College
City/Town: Hanover, NH 03755 USA
Website or Map: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~lhc…
Phone: (603) 646-1110
Event Type: talk
Organized By: Leslie Center for the Humanities
Latest Activity: Jan 3, 2012

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Event Description

In his remarkable photobook Berlin after 1945, the contemporary photographer Michael Schmidt represents the city as theatrum mundi. Just as the figure of the theatrum mundi conflates world and theater, Schmidt's photographs construct Berlin as a space that is at once a proscenium, an apparatus, and an empty world. Schmidt here draws on a long tradition in photography that begins with Henry Fox Talbot's The Pencil of Nature (1844-46)—the first commercially published photobook—and extends to Walter Benjamin's reflections on the photographic medium. Fox Talbot conceives of photography as a practice that captures an object that exists within the apparatus. In "The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility," Benjamin similarly conflates the world as obfuscatory apparatus—as phantasmagoria—and the photographic apparatus as something capable of making manifest elements of the "optical unconscious." In Schmidt's work, Berlin emerges as a deeply ambiguous space that is enclosed and infinitely open, overcrowded and empty, and at once hollowed by technology and the potential site of its emancipated revival.

Michael Jennings is the Class of 1900 of Professor of Modern Languages at Princeton University. He is the author of two books on the work of Walter Benjamin and serves as the General Editor of the standard English-language edition of his writings. His essays on photography have been published by the Museum of Modern Art and the journal October.

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