The Organon of Experience: Mimesis and Aesthetics in Walter Benjamin

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


While discussing the relationship between mimesis and name, Walter Benjamin affirms that “similarity is the organon of experience” (The Arcades Project). My paper aims to explore how this constitutive quality of mimesis is developed in Benjamin’s own work and how it can enrich the debate on the mimetic turn. Firstly, I will focus on the texts and annotations, of philosophical and anthropological nature, where Benjamin elaborates his theory of mimesis, which is grounded on the ability to produce and perceive similarities (an ability that has changed throughout history). His theory can be connected with Fernando Gil’s conception of a “mimetic background/basis” in Mimēsis e Negação. Secondly, I will analyse the relation between mimesis and childhood as it is performed, both literarily and conceptually, in some “thought-images” of One-Way Street and Berliner Childhood around 1900. By describing exercises of identification, imitation or dissimulation, they also explore the ambivalent and intermediate states of mimetic experience. Finally, I will focus on mimesis and play, namely in the framework of the second version of “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility”, where mimesis is considered the original phenomenon of all artistic activity, unfolding through a dialectical tension between appearance and play. Beyond the notions of reproduction or representation, this framework provides interesting clues for current debates on aesthetics and the playful and experimental dimension of art. Thus, Benjamin understanding of mimesis is far from being reducible to an aesthetic “representation” or realistic “copy” of reality, and the threefold analysis of this paper is meant to draw its genealogy and to assess its contemporaneity.
Period21 Apr 2022
Event titleThe Mimetic Turn: Final International Conference on Homo Mimeticus
Event typeConference
LocationLeuven, BelgiumShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational