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The Mass Ornament Author(s): Siegfried Kracauer, Barbara Correll, Jack Zipes

The Mass Ornament Author(s): Siegfried Kracauer, Barbara Correll, Jack Zipes

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The Mass OrnamentAuthor(s): Siegfried Kracauer, Barbara Correll, Jack ZipesSource:
New German Critique,
No. 5 (Spring, 1975), pp. 67-76Published by: New German CritiqueStable URL:
Accessed: 19/09/2009 21:54
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TheMassOrnament
bySiegfriedKracauer
DieLiniendesLebenssindverschieden,WieWegesind,und wiederBergeGrenzenWashier wirsind,kanndorteinGotterganzenMitHarmonienundewigemLohnundFrieden.
-Holderlin
IAnanalysisof thesimplesurfacemanifestations of anepochcan contri-bute more todeterminingitsplaceinthe historicalprocessthanjudgmentsof theepochabout itself. Asexpressionsof the tendencies of agiventime,thesejudgmentscannotbeconsidered valid testimoniesabout itsoverallsituation. On the other hand theveryunconscious nature of surfacemani-festations allowsfordirectaccess to theunderlying meaningofexistingconditions.Conversely,theinterpretationof such manifestationsis tiedtoanunderstandingof these conditions. Theunderlying meaningof anepochandits less obviouspulsationsilluminateoneanotherreciprocally.IIAchangeintaste has beentakingplacequietlyinthefield ofphysicalculture,alwaysapopular subjectin illustratednewspapers.ItbeganwiththeTillerGirls.Theseproductsof American"distraction factories" arenolongerindividualgirls,but indissoluble female unitswhose movementsaremathematicaldemonstrations. Even asthey crystallizeintopatternsintherevues ofBerlin,performancesofthesamegeometricalexactitudearecccurringinsimilarlypackedstadiumsinAustralia andIndia,nottomention America.Throughweeklynewsreelsinmovie housestheyhavemanagedto reacheven the tiniestvillages.Oneglanceat the screenrevealsthatthe ornaments consistofthousands ofbodies,sexless bodies inbathingsuits.Theregularityof theirpatternsis acclaimedbythemasses,whothemselvesarearrangedin rowuponordered row.Thesespectacular pageants,which arebroughtintoexistencenotonly bythe Girlsand thespectatorsat thestadium,havelongsince taken onan
*FirstpublishedinFrankfurterZeitung,July9 and10,1927.Appearedlater inSiegfriedKracauer,DasOrnamentderMasse(FrankfurtamMain,1965).Theessayappearshereforthefirsttime inEnglishwiththepermissionofSuhrkampVerlag.
 
68NEWGERMANCRITIQUE
establishedform.Theyhaveachievedaninternationalstature andhaveattractedaestheticinterest.Thebearersof the ornaments are the masses. This is not the same as thepeople,for whenever thepeopleformpatterns,thesepatternsdo not hoverin mid-airbutemergefromcommunity.Acurrentoforganiclifeflows fromthesecommunalgroups,whoseshareddestinyconnects them with theirornaments.These ornamentsappearas amagicforceso ladenwithmeaningthattheycannot be reducedtoapurelylinearstructure.Eventhosewhohaveleftthecommunityand whoare consciousofthemselvesasindividualpersonalitieswithuniquesouls,cannotpartakeintheformingofnewpatterns.Shouldtheybe includedinsuchaperformance,these individualsdo notget incorporatedintotheornament.Forthe resultwould beacolorfulcompositionwhich could notbeworkedouttoitslogicalconclusion,since-likeprongsofa rake-itspointswouldsinkinto theremainingvestigesofthespiritualmiddlelayers, weighingitdown withitsresidue.Thepatternsseeninthe stadiumsand cabarets revealnothingofsuchorigins.Theyarecomposedof elements which aremerebuildingblocks,nothingmore. The constructionof anedificedependsonthe sizeofthe stonesand their number.It isthe masswhich makes theimpact.Onlyaspartsof amass,notas individualswhobelievethemselves tobeformed fromwithin,are humanbeings componentsof apattern.The ornament isanendinitself.In itsearlystagesthe balletalsoyieldedornamentswhich movedkaleidoscopically.Buteven aftertheyhaddiscardedtheir ritualmeaning, theyremainedstill theplasticformation oftheeroticlife whichgaveriseto them anddetermined their traits.Incontrast,thesynchronizedmovementof the Girls isdevoidofanysuchconnections;it is a linearsystemwhich nolongerhas eroticmeaningbut atbestpointstotheplacewhere the eroticresides.Nordo thelivingconstel-lationsinthe stadiums have themeaningofmilitarydemonstrations. Nomatterhoworderlythe latterappeared,that order was consideredameanstoanend;theparademarchevolvedout ofpatriotic feelingsandinturnaroused theminsoldiersandloyal subjects.TheconstellationsofGirls,however,have nomeaningoutsideofthemselves,and the masses arenotamoral unitlike acompanyofsoldiers. Thepatternscannot evenbedescribed as ornamentalaccessoriesforgymnasticdiscipline.Thetrainingofthe units ofGirlsisintendedinstead toproducean immense number ofparallellines,andthe desired effect is to train thegreatestnumber ofpeopleinorder tocreate apatternofunimaginabledimensions.Inthe end there istheclosedornament,whose lifecomponentshavebeen drained of theirsubstance.

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