IKKM Lectures | Cranachstr. 47, Salon
27. June | 19:00 | Sigrid Weigel (Berlin)
»The time of the lightning flash.
Walter Benjamin’s image based epistemology and its preconditions in visual arts and media history«
»In the fields with which we are concerned, knowledge [Erkenntnis] comes only in lightning flashes. The text is the long roll of thunder that follows.« This sentence from his Arcades project belongs to the most frequently cited passages of Benjamin’s work. However, in contrast to many interpretations, the lecture argues that this should not be understood as a metaphor. Instead lightening flash and image function as words, which can be mutually exchanged in order to describe a type of sudden, simultaneous recognition or knowledge that is at the centre of his image-based epistemology.
The lecture argues that this epistemology is substantiated by (1) the intense study of paintings and other visual art pieces and (2) the examination of the development of media technology in modernity. Whereas the younger Benjamin studied the perceptive mode of visual art as a place of »afterlife« for an epiphanic mode of insight, he later, in the context of his project on modernity, turned this mode of knowledge into a modern epistemology thanks to the invention of electricity and technical media. Through the irruption of the technique into iconography many of its conventional figures were turned into epistemological constellations. Thus Benjamin was able to develop a theory of knowledge and history based on simultaneit