“One knew of places in ancient Greece where the way led down into the Underworld.Our waking existence likewise is a land which, at certain hidden points,leads down into the underworld- a land full of inconspicuous places from which dreams arise. All day long, suspecting nothing, we pass them by, but no sooner has sleep come than we are eagerly groping our way back to lose ourselves in the dark corridors. By day, the labyrinth of urban dwelllings resembles consciousness; the arcades(which are art galleries leading into the city’s past) issue unremarked onto the streets.At night, however,under the tenebrous mass of the houses, their denser darkness bursts forth like a threat, and the nocturnal pedestrian hurries past-unless, that is, we have emboldened him to turn into the narrow lane”(“Arcades Project”,3.2)
The Arcades had become dark hang-outs in their latter days, the abode of prostitutes and petty criminals; I love the way in which Benjamin uses the Arcades as an emblem and fulcrum for what we would now call psychogeography; our darkest(or lightest) desires mirrored in these symbols of mortality, with their remnants of past, failed capitalist endeavours: the hauntogy(ie ghostly vestiges)of this particular foray into capitalist enterprise. I was reminded of how I had started this blog: with the pictures/”captures”(a Benjamin word)of what is now lost: Lewis’s resembled, to a degree, that haunted Arcades landscape(and department stores were a further development of that opportunity to be peripatetic through the aisles of capitalism), but dying behemoth that it was, it succumbed to extinction, beyond even remnant status; odd to think when the following photographs were taken three years ago this month,the store was still (just ) open but in its death-throeshttps://decayetude.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/desuetudeimages-and-text-on-decay-and-memory-inspired-by-sebald-and-the-death-of-a-department-store/
The dummies are particuarly haunting and inhabit the classic liminal (threshold)of the un-dead.
At this time (May 2013) the Lewis’s building, beautifully restored(outwardly anyway)awaits it re-awakening; Benjamin’s Arcades did not, mainly, have that luxury