Welcome to Konvolut K

A collaboration between Jo Law and Redmond Bridgeman

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Konvolut K: Dream City and Dream House, Dreams of the Future, Anthropological Nihilism

Weimar philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin’s Arcade Project is divided into 36 alphabetised sections or Konvolutes. This is a German term that refers to a bundle, an assemblage of printed material that belongs together. These Konvolutes consist mainly of citations Benjamin gleaned from research, conducted over a period of some thirteen years, on the Arcades and industrial culture of nineteenth-century Paris. Benjamin’s intention, write the translators of recent English edition of the Arcade Project, was

… to grasp such diverse material under the general category of Urgeschichte, signifying the “primal history” of the nineteenth century. This was something that could be realised only indirectly, through “cunning”: it was not the great men and celebrated events of traditional historiography but rather the “refuse” and “detritus” of history, the half-concealed, variegated traces of the daily life of the “collective,” that was to be the object of study, and with the aid of methods of the nineteenth-century collector of antiquities and curiosities, or indeed to the methods of the nineteenth-century ragpicker, than to those of the modern historian. Not conceptual analysis but something like dream interpretation was the model. The nineteenth century was the collective dream which we, it heirs, were obliged to re-enter, as patiently and minutely as possible, in order to follow out its ramifications and finally, awaken from it. This, at any rate, was how it looked at the outset of the project, which wore a good many faces over time.*

Adopting aspects of Benjamin’s methodology, this project, Konvolut K, presents a constellation of images and citations from, often random, research, into Perth, Western Australia. Konvolut K brings together visual, auditory, and textual threads with which visitors can construct their own vision of Perth, a vision, however, that can only be completed by a site visit.

If you wish to learn more about Benjamin and the Arcade Project the following three books are really great:

Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcade Project, MIT Press, Cambridge (MASS), 1991

Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience, Routledge, London, 1998

Andrew Benjamin and Peter Osborne (ed.), Destruction and Experience: Walter Benjamin’s Philosophy, Clinamen Press, Bolton, second edition 2000.

But most importantly:

Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MASS), 1999, Third Printing 2003


*Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MASS), 1999, Third Printing 2003p. ix.

last updated: November 1, 2006