sparse counted out coins
May 21, 2009, 5:05 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , ,

Again, from Naples, the essay by Benjamin, here is a story of ephemerality:  a man drawing in chalk on a pavement, people passing and gathering, a picture of Christ, coins dropping, people leaving.  Too, you could see it as a story of mystery – of negotiation, transaction, perhaps even transubstantiation.

In their materials too, the street decorations are closely related to those of the theatre.  Paper plays the main part.  Red, blue and yellow fly-catchers, altars of colored glossy paper on the walls, paper rosettes on the raw chunks of meat.  Then the virtuosity of the variety show.  Someone kneels on the asphalt, a little box beside him, and it is one of the busiest streets.  With colored chalk he draws the figure of Christ on the stone, below it perhaps the head of the Madonna.  Meanwhile a circle has formed around him, the artist gets up, and while he waits beside his work for fifteen minutes or half an hour, sparse counted-out coins fall from the onlookers onto the limbs, head and trunk of his portrait.  Until he gathers them up, everyone disperses, and in a few moments the picture is erased by feet.

Naples, Walter Benjamin


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