Sensing the night between us
Benjamin’s amourous wanderings through dark space.
It is remarkable that in fundamental and inspiring texts about the experience of the interior, the perspective is often that of a solitary dweller, as in in Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (1958) or Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows (1933). However compelling their accounts are, they run the risk of forgetting the kind of spatial encounters that disrupt the distinction between one body and another, between the self and its environment.
This article considers the erotic effect of the night-time as a metaphor for understanding and exploring (interior) space. By using the works of Lakoff and Johnson, Handelman, and Kristeva as a constructed theoretical framework, the article sketches the outlines of a phenomenology of darkness, a skotology, that allows us to explore ‘dark space,’ a conceptualisation of space that confronts us with other subjective modes of perception, sensation, and cognition.
We will follow the wanderings of an amorous Walter Benjamin through different ‘dark spaces’ in Capri, Berlin, Moscow, and of course Paris. Benjamin’s sensual writing about these intimate spaces provides us with some key elements of a possible skotology of space: a subjective process of gaining knowledge, based on a fusion with some of the bodies, spaces and cultural intertexts that surround us, a form of spatial research that also takes into account fictionality and non-linear temporality as important aspects of the experience of dark space.
‘Wears not everything that inspires us
the color of the Night?’
Novalis, Hymns to the Night (1800)
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