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Messianic Nihilism: Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille with the Photography of Documents (1929-1930).

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posted on 29.09.2020, 02:18 authored by URSULA CORNELIA POWRIE DE LEEUW
In this thesis, I analyse a selection of photographs and essays from the journal Documents (1929-1930), alongside the philosophy of Walter Benjamin and Georges Bataille. Through this configuration, I propose a theory of messianic nihilism. I focus on Benjamin and Bataille’s analysis of modernity and its apparatus of technological reproduction. I address this through the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, Eli Lotar, and Jacques-André Boiffard as they interpenetrate with the texts published alongside them. Through the photography of Documents, I argue that ‘messianic nihilism’ emerges as a reconsidered relation to space, and time, that contests teleological notions of progress and the supremacy of language as a homogeneous form of communication.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Jan Patricia Bryant

Additional supervisor 1

Rex Butler

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Fine Art


Master of Arts

Degree Type