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The Arcades
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The Arcades Project (1927-40), the monumental unfinished work of cultural criticism by Walter Benjamin, is the German philosopher's effort to comprehend urban modernity through the 19th-century Parisian shopping arcade. The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin combines artworks with archival materials and poetic interventions to form an original, multifaceted response to this collagelike cultural text. Jens Hoffmann astutely pairs works by thirty-six well-known and emerging artists, including Lee Friedlander, Andreas Gursky, Pierre Huyghe, and Cindy Sherman, with the thirty-six "Convolutes," or themes, in Benjamin's text. Bound into the main volume is a graphic novelette, from the imagination of Vito Manolo Roma, of Benjamin's dream the night before he committed suicide while fleeing the Nazis. Scholarly essays by Hoffmann and Caroline A. Jones, texts selected by the poet Kenneth Goldsmith, reproductions of Benjamin's handwritten notes, and a list of the main Paris arcades discussed by him round out this extraordinary publication.
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Jens Hoffmann is director of special exhibitions and public programs at the Jewish Museum.

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