Late Night With Walter Benjamin
Telling the “real story” of production, assembly operates in a world destabilized by the loss of “aura.” It replaces a “plurality of copies” with a unique “in-time experience.” As simultaneously form, reform, and perform, assembly deals a blow to tradition while staying close to human perception and history. For aura and distance, substitute in-time “contextual integration.”
Emancipated from a “parasitical dependence on ritual,” assembly art nonetheless banks on the regime of ritual recoding as a kind of spoiler tactic appropriated to resist a resurgent insistence on authenticity. The copyright infringement, as an instance of transgression, is commonly remediated (translated) and sold back as purified document, as clean text. The devices for purging the aberrant textual excursion are many (plagiarism detection algorithms, high school and college writing standards, stiff punishments for illicit copying, etc.). Assembly technicians embrace these and other devices of ritual recoding as promising opportunities for an embedded journalistic re-ritualizing of experience as part defiance or law-breaking and part desperate attempt to re-imagine aura in the age of digital distribution.
Assemblies exhibit the regime of ritual recoding. They push the point of recoding as a subtle reminder that parts (words, texts, sounds, codes, for example) cannot be owned but only put together and taken apart. The exhibit is a “fleeting expression,” to be sure, but resistance is a form of “remembrance” all the same. The cult of assembly reverses the polarity of artistic immersion: to make/use assembly is to “emerse” oneself in/from the regime of ritual recoding by supplanting “sales value” with document and distribution value.
An instrument of remedial ritual (and not “ballistics”), the cult of assembly seeks absorption in recoding. For now, this venture suggests the only available means of achieving a qualified stability and, perhaps, from that more stable vantage, a means to imagine something beyond assembly as an end in itself.
Since the practice of assembly is always on display, exhibited, exposed, an assembly cannot be anything but overexposed. Assemblies are “dromological,” to adapt Virilio’s term, and give off the light of arrival, of stepping in under the spotlight of ritual recoding. This takes us closer to the idea of assembly as a real-time flourish, for once under that light, the assembled document is real only to the extent that it offers up “discreet (implicit) information, a sort of illumination of the reality of facts.” Assembly is thus a “generalized arrival of data” on the cusp of which recodings appear instantly outdated and, as a result, powerless before the assembly technician who is quick to point out (dramatize) the departure of message, of content.
Data “arrives” in the recoded distribution of data. The real is thus assembled if not brokered in dromological spaces. Working before this “final relief of reality,” the assembly technician becomes more than a poet or an artist: she/he becomes the custodian of a new brand of critical care-taking, an educator in a true school without walls or perhaps a world without schools.