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Radio Benjamin: Theater Fire in Canton



Eruptions, floods, earthquakes, and fire: this menu of devastation leads German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin to a fanciful account of a 19th Century Chinese Theater and the disaster therein. What Benjamin misses in historical verity (he is side-tracked exploring the paranoia of the celebrity actors!), he makes up for in wonder at the, as it turns out, combustible stage on which ancient codes of conduct met public ritual. In the spring of 1845 a small fire in the Cantonese Theater spread quickly, sending 3000 people toward a single exit. Most were consumed by the flames. Listen as Benjamin narrates first hand accounts of this spontaneous inferno, in a radio piece broadcast in its original for children in German, and read here in English by artist Corey McCorkle. Walter Benjamin’s radio broadcasts (1929 - 1932) are a selection of children stories written and read by Benjamin during his colossal research project The Arcades Project, an allegorical look into the birth of modernity in 19th Century Paris. Though the series of broadcasts and the Arcades in general are decisively incomplete, the two enterprises echo one another in content, replete with provocative digressions, and unlikely connections (or "secret affinities"). Benjamin was an eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mysticism, he made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism.
 

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Radio Benjamin

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Walter Benjamin’s radio broadcasts (1929 - 1932) are a selection of children stories written and read by Benjamin during his colossal research project The Arcades Project, an allegorical look into the birth of modernity in 19th Century Paris. Though the series of broadcasts and the Arcades in general are decisively incomplete, the two enterprises echo one another in content, replete with provocative digressions, and unlikely connections (or "secret affinities"). The independent radical publishing house Verso Books has published a nuanced translation of Radio Benjamin, and Clocktower Radio is pleased to present the recorded version of the comprehensive project for the first time in English. Read by New York artist Corey McCorkle, the 29 extant transcriptions will also be annotated with linking principle themes explored in the Arcades Project with the wild variety of subjects Benjamin outlines in these 20 minute stories. The extended radio program is a priceless glimpse into the humor and methodology of one of the most important theorists of authenticity, progress, and the political implications of new media on the masses during the earlier part of the 20th Century.
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