Benjamin on Kafka: failure

“To do justice to the figure of Kafka in its purity and its peculiar beauty, one must never lose sight of the one thing: it is the figure of a failure. The circumstances of this failure are manifold. One is tempted to say: once he was certain of eventual failure, everything worked out for him en route as in a dream. There is nothing more memorable than the fervor with which Kafka emphasized his failure” (Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, pg 566, Letter to Gerhard Scholem, June 12, 1938)

Angelus Novus

Angelus Novus by Paul Klee

“A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” (Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History)

Ordinary domestic labor

“In the same way that you face the questions of painting like you would face dirty laundry or dirty dishes we might actually be forced to think that the really courageous way of encountering the basic structural questions of art are not in this big Hegelian picture of art history as this big machine that constantly works towards the next higher level but its more like the time of domestic affective labor where you clean away that damn dust and you deal with the dirty dishes every day.” (Jan Verwoert, Why are conceptual artists painting again? Because they think it’s a good idea, 2010)