Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3) pp. 597–603.
Through an analysis of a critical engagement between Blanchot and Malraux over idea of the museé imaginaire, it becomes apparent that both were seeking to understand the relationship between the museum and experience within modernity. This short article seeks to develop these ideas and to understand the museum as a key institutional space of modernity implicated in addressing the changing character of experience in the present. Following Benjamin’s distinction between experience as Erfahrung and Erlebnis, the essay argues that the museum has always sought to offer a fabricated sense of Erfahrung through its narrative and display techniques but that this facilitates a distracted mode of reception that is now prominent within contemporary cultural life. Through this we can see that the idea of the museé imaginaire is still a prescient one but it has moved from the virtual space of the photographic art book to the simulated culture of the museumified city in general.
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