Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany

By Janet Ward | Go to book overview

4
The Display Window
Designs and Desires
of Weimar Consumerism

Kniefrei und Sportfrisur

Radio und Film Auto und Flugzeug Bananenspezialhaus und Warenhauskonzern. Denk nicht das sind Äußerlichkeiten.

Die Innerlichkeiten stehen dahinter.

Erich Mendelsohn


THE PHANTASMAGORIA OF SELLING

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ” 1It has been a Platonic-monotheistic article of faith that our material lives are spent in the realm of mediated shadows, removed from beholding the incorporeal immediacy of essential truth. 2This structure of epistemological dispossession clearly originates in an age Before Consumerism. For industrial modernity transformed human perception; the growth of capitalism has been predicated on creating at least the promise of a definitive selfempowerment for the consumer, who simply has to consume in order to attain insight. In order to combat such surface intoxication, Karl Marx sought to redefine the production process away from the magical, emancipatory fiat implied by the commodity fetishism of glass-covered display. In the hope of deconstructing the aestheticized field of vision, Marx applied the metaphor of phantasmagoria—a term invoking both feverish, fantastic, associative dreams as well as the magic-lantern sequences of the beginning of the nineteenth century, which hid the technique of their art using back projection—to represent consumerism's hold over us in our cavelike

“mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. ” 3

Marx's analysis of the “fetishism of commodities” in Capital(1867) refers to how, under capitalism, commodities are made mysterious and their use value, or origins of production, are obscured by their exchange value. 4This act of phantasmagorical veiling-over constitutes for Marx an

-191-

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Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction - A Retrospective Retrieval 1
  • 1 - The Reformation of Weimar Architecture 45
  • 2 - The Shock of the New Objectivity in Weimar Advertising 92
  • 3 - Weimar Surface Culture Goes to the Movies 142
  • 4 - Designs and Desires of Weimar Consumerism 191
  • Appendix - Selected Weimar Periodicals and Newspapers 241
  • Notes 245
  • Illustration Sources 321
  • Index 325
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