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Street Scenes

Street Scenes: Brecht, Benjamin and Berlin

Nicolas Whybrow
Paperback 250 pages (2005)
Publisher: Intellect Books
ISBN: 184150114X

Always the focal point in modern times for momentous political, social and cultural upheaval, Berlin has continued, since the fall of the Wall in 1989, to be a city in transition. As the new capital of a reunified Germany it has embarked on a journey of rapid reconfiguration, involving issues of memory, nationhood and ownership.

Premised on an understanding of performance as the articulation of movement in space, Street Scenes interrogates what kind of ‘life’ is permitted to ‘flow’ in the ‘new Berlin’. Central to this method is the flâneur figure, a walker of streets who provides detached observations on the revealing ‘detritus of modern urban existence’. Walter Benjamin, himself a native of Berlin as well as friend and seminal critic of Brecht, exercised the practice in exemplary form in his portrait of the city One-Way Street. Bertolt Brecht, meanwhile, stands as one of the principal thinkers about art and politics in the 20th century. The ‘Street Scene’ model, which was the foundation for his theory of an epic theatre, relied precisely on establishing a connection between art's functioning and the practices of everyday life.

Street Scenes offers various points of entry for the reader, including those interested in: theatre, performance, visual art, architecture, theories of everyday life and culture, and the politics of identity. Ultimately, it is an interdisciplinary book, which strives to establish the ‘porosity’ of areas of theory and practice rather than hard boundaries.