Benjamin’s Denkbilder were not only unforgettable sites of reminiscence; they were moments of inscription at which his discourse exercised its full palette of descriptive, analytical, allegorical, and performative potential. As a writing-technique, Denkbilder, as most fully elaborated in The Arcades Project, works much to facilitate a theoretical practice more oriented to ambient trends and phenomena than to a fixed canon of conceptual works and terms. In this sense, these visual/discursive ‘switches’ furnished the procedural as well as conceptual basis for a theory in more senses than one ‘on the fly’ – as cryptic, truncated, and shocking as the circumstances prompting it. This modality of intellectual work is in strong evidence to the present day, in sites of intellectual production all over the globe and throughout an atonishing array of media. This improvisation on the interstice between textual and visual processing is but one particularly vibrant instance of what the “Thinking Images/Critical Eye“ conference was all about.
Denkbilder—Thinking Images—Critical Eye