The Paris Arcades(somewhat analogous, but more characterful, to our own malls), were the ancestors of the department store, to which they gave way. Lewis’s, and other independent department stores, have in turn given way to bigger, newer chains or chains that were more willing/able to modernize(eg. Debenhams, John Lewis), which co-exist, and are often integrated within, our own arcades(shopping malls).
Benjamin believed that the quirky oddities of the Arcades’ dying days represented a salvaging from capitalist commodification, a kind of redemption or transfiguring of them BEYOND their original capitalistic purpose. I FEEL, but cannot UNDERSTAND(ie. cerebrally) what he says, when I think of the medley of remmants that remained in Lewis’s final days: eg. cups were juxtaposed with packets of food(see some of the June images here, and I may add more of these pictures of these odd concatenations of objects later). He felt they could be redeemed from the relentless passing of time. But they have gone, or, at most, been sold off to individuals, or left to rot; so I see the only salvaging as being the photographic “capture”( in both the mechanical and metaphorical sense of the word) of these remnants: like looking at a photograph of yourself of twenty years ago; it is an IMAGE, it merely reproduces or “captures” how you were/looked then and are NOT/do NOT look now. They exist only in memory; and, whilst they MAY transcend their original sale/capital value,having become idiosyncratic objects of beauty, and outlast human life-spans, they too will rot or disappear, capitalist commodities or not.
This links to my next post which will be concerning how W G Sebald attempts to rescue PEOPLE, more than objects, from historical oblivion and decay and destruction, by writing( though circuitously, because he felt he could only appproach the Holocaust obliquely)the history of their obliteration(Jewish people); and, a concern I shall emphasise, because it has often been neglected in Sebald studies(though it was very obviously,from his texts and images, a fairly major pre-occupation), how he rewrites the history of another group of villified and often marginalised people:homosexuals.