Art, play and image – the ramifications of Walter Benjamin’s thought

Nélio Conceição

Post-Doctoral Project sponsered by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) - SFRH/BPD/95752/2013

Focusing on Walter Benjamin’s thought and articulating it with central questions in aesthetics and art studies, the project deepens the relations between art, play and image. Observing the conditions of human experience in modernity, Benjamin’s thoughtgains form through several texts concerning painting, photography, cinema and literature. In these texts, he often evaluates the aesthetic and epistemological consequences brought by the historical, social and technological transformations. For instance, as stated in the second version of the “Work of art…” essay, photography and cinema are said to encompass transfigurations in art obliging us to rethink the relation between semblance (Schein) and play (Spiel). Commencing with the study of the notions of play and image in Benjamin’s texts, the project will subsequently unlock a series of articulations with other authors andtopics. Therefore, the project comprises two main and complementaryobjectives. On the one hand, it proposes an original reading of Benjamin’s thought, exploring his understanding of the dimension of play and his fertile developments on the concept of image; on the other hand, it expands this reading in order to describe the transformations occurring in modern and contemporary art. Taking these objectives into consideration, the investigation plan unfolds as follows: 1) to examine the various occurrences of the dimension of play in Benjamin’s thought; 2) to establish a framework of authors and themes within the aesthetical tradition developing the relation between art and play; 3) to explore the different shapes of the concept of image in Benjamin’s texts; 4) to deepen the benjaminian readings of Baudelaire, Proust and Kafka, as well as his conjectures regarding the role of photography and cinema in the transformation of the aesthetic values; 5) to expand the abovementioned examinations in order to better understand the creative processes in art; 6) to assess the pertinence of the research’s main concepts in the context of modern and contemporary art.

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Institutions

FCT
FCSH