Flaneurs, Fascists, and People Smugglers (Small Boats, Long Walks)

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Event details

2023-04-18 18:00
18:00 UTC
Free for supporting members!
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Note that this event was changed from April 4 to April 18.

Simon Cole always loved the film Casablanca. Then 2020s life began to imitate 1940s art. Now he thinks he has found Walter Benjamin‘s mythical missing briefcase…

In 2019, a chance remark sent Cole to Spain where he replicated the final walk of the great 1930s intellectual Walter Benjamin. He had heard Benjamin’s name often at talks on psychogeography but knew little about the man who is so closely associated with the arcades of Paris and with the Flaneur.

The walk became a portal into an ongoing illustrated journey into the world of refugees and the shadow of Europe and its borders. Querying the ‘refugee crisis’ in 2022, the other ambulatory angle to the story came from closer to home, on the clifftops of Kent.
Joining the threads as he trekked, he found himself in an ongoing story that runs from Kent to Calais and Kyiv – then back again.

Part art, part activism, the ensuing tale is an exploration of whether we are repeating history and a call to action. Europe is changing. Cole thinks we’re at a crossroads, in a particular historical moment that reminds him of Benjamin’s ‘Angel of History’.

What goes on at Europe’s borders, out of sight and out of mind? The dispatches that trickled back as he continued to explore this issue were deeply disturbing and asked difficult questions of our world. Following the threads of the Benjamin story, art and life merged along with past and present. Finally he found himself volunteering in Calais and then in Ukraine.
The connection was the lesser-told story of a people smuggler whose cross-border walks saved many lives.

How does Cole relate to the Arcades Project and how did this journey unfold? Is it psychogeography or something entirely different? He will tell some of the story then discuss the process (that he is still trying to figure out himself) of the core narrative appearing amid an Arcades-like spaghetti of potential meaning.

Cole hopes to take this talk on tour. Ahead of that, perhaps together we can tease out more treasure from the corridors of historical uncertainty?

Simon Cole

Simon Cole

Creative exploration, from East London to the world...

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