Ornaments of the Metropolis: Siegfried Kracauer and Modern Urban Culture

By Henrik Reeh

Embellishes of the Metropolis
Siegfried Kracauer and sleek city Culture
By Henrik Reeh
Translated by means of John Irons

For Siegfried Kracauer, the city decoration used to be not only a facet of layout; it was once the medium in which urban dwellers interpreted the city itself. In adorns of the city, Henrik Reeh lines adaptations at the subject matter of the decoration in Kracauer's writings on urbanism, from his early journalism in Germany among the wars to his "sociobiography" of Jacques Offenbach in Paris. Kracauer (1889-1966), usually linked to the Frankfurt tuition and the highbrow milieu of Walter Benjamin, is healthier identified for his writings on cinema and the philosophy of historical past. Reeh examines Kracauer's lesser-known early paintings, a lot of it written for the trendsetting newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung within the Nineteen Twenties and early Thirties, and analyzes Kracauer's carrying on with reflections on sleek city lifestyles, in the course of the pivotal thought of decoration. Kracauer deciphers the subjective event of town by way of viewing fragments of town as dynamic adorns; an employment alternate, an afternoon look after for the homeless, a film theater, and an enjoyment park turn into city microcosms.

Reeh makes a speciality of 3 titanic works written through Kracauer sooner than his emigration to the U.S. in 1940. within the early autobiographical novel Ginster, Written by means of Himself, a tender architect unearths aesthetic excitement within the decorative types which are principally unused within the career of the time. the gathering Streets of Berlin and somewhere else, with many essays from Kracauer's years in Berlin, files the subjectiveness of city lifestyles. eventually, Jacques Offenbach and the Paris of His Time indicates how the superficial—in a feeling, ornamental—milieu of the operetta developed right into a serious strength in the course of the moment Empire. Reeh argues that Kracauer's novel, essays, and historiography all recommend ways that the subjective can reappropriate city existence. The ebook additionally encompasses a sequence of pictures by means of the writer that mirror the decorative event of the city in Paris, Frankfurt, and different cities.

About the Author
Henrik Reeh is affiliate Professor within the division of Comparative Literature and sleek tradition on the college of Copenhagen.

"Henrik Reeh's embellishes of the city uncovers the formerly hidden heritage of Kracauer's highbrow improvement and offers a useful portrait of 1 of the most important critics of 20th-century Weimar Germany. during this transparent and intensely good written account, Reeh exhibits Kracauer in all his complexity and brilliance as he wrestles with the emergence of the fashionable city and smooth city mass culture."
—David Grahame Shane, Graduate institution of structure, upkeep and making plans, Columbia collage

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Their functionality is so robust that during their mix of visibility and shortage of which means, they produce spatial abstractions which turn into “monograms of an unknown language” (S, p. 136). Like a few “hieroglyph in a vacuum” (S, p. 137), those figures of city tradition remind one in all a ancient context, the knowledge of that is neither assured upfront nor continuously attainable. in addition, Kracauer has dealt in better intensity with the matter of old reminiscence in articles in Straßen in Berlin und anderswo: “Abschied von der Lindenpassage” (“A Farewell to the Linden Arcade”; FZ, December 21, 1930) and “Straße ohne Erinnerung” (“Street with no Memory”; FZ, December sixteen, 1932). either articles are in line with a Berlin global of expertise and take care of the destruction of cultural lines in city tradition. whereas decay in Mediterranean tradition was once the very foundation for improvisation and reminiscence, the speak is correct for Berlin. “Time’s” dynamic dissolution of the city’s spatial buildings effects right here in a newly developed, homogeneous house that, to the contrary, weakens the stipulations for subjective mirrored image. the 2 articles at the Linden Arcade and Berlin’s major highway, the Kurfürstendamm, either draw cognizance to a scientific attribute in Kracauer’s perception of Berlin. The Linden Arcade is during this example where for all that's repressed from the open buying and site visitors artery. whilst, even though, the smoothness of the 151 chapter eight significant urban road (exemplified through the Kurfürstendamm) presents the root for perceiving the heterogeneous area and actions of the passage in a releasing and consciousness-raising gentle. a undeniable nonsimultaneity among the passage and the road is hence the foundation for the next pages. reminiscence paintings and Repressed city Culture—The Arcade due to the main points of its historicizing structure and its a variety of outlets (postcards, cafés, billiards, stamps, waxworks, souvenirs, and so forth. ), the Linden Arcade, which— with a tumbler roof—was a 130-meter-long, 8-meter-wide, and thirteen. 5-meter-high house among Behrenstraße and Unter den Linden, had lengthy shaped a heterogeneous, untraditional house. 27 After having provided Berlin with foreign luxurious (e. g. , a Viennese café) in its early days (shortly after 1870), the passage had steadily decayed right into a “dark and uncanny” house. 28 within the past due Twenties, although, it underwent a face-lift, through between different issues a neusachlich eradication of exactly the information that for Kracauer have been the place’s attribute beneficial properties. That that's hence repressed via modernization is the topic of Kracauer’s article. The elimination of the numerous info in prefer of cool yet transparent surfaces has significant significance for a place’s cultural and social features. In Kracauer’s research, the passage is common in that what's already being belittled within the bourgeois commodity-based tradition of the city there unearths a habitat that's, really actually, shady yet available to the gaze of passersby.

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