The other day I had what Walter Benjamin might call a “profane illumination” of minimization.
I read (or rather ‘saw”) an article, which appeared on the demilked website, on the New York Based artist Danny Evans. It addressed a series of photos in which Evans looked to portray the stars as (or photo-morph the stars into) “ordinary people.” I call this an act of miniaturization as it makes stars, larger than life beings, small. It makes cultural heroes into schlemiels. This act creates what Walter Benjamin would call a “double-image.” In these images we see stars who are not stars. And this creates a kind of schlemiel-effect.
Hollywood Stars live the dream while schlemiels dream the dream. These images put both together by what I would call a miniaturization technique.
The photoshopped images of Pitt and Jolie or West and Kardasian wake us from the dream, so to speak, by showing us “our” dream. To be sure, the way of miniaturization is the way of the schlemiel. They may dream big but they are small. Underlying all of this is the fact that a schlemiel is really a simpleton – a schlemiel is an ordinary person.
But these “double images” state something a little more complicated. Its not that Jay Z, Johnny Depp, et al thought that they were stars when they really weren’t (which is what these photos seem to be betraying). Rather, the joke is on us. Perhaps it is our dreams that don’t match up with reality and those dreams – the dreams of America – are the stars. Perhaps our schlemieldom consists in our desire for stardom and to believe we can be like them, larger than life, when we are all just ordinary people.
Perhaps this is what Walter Benjamin was thinking when he realized, in his Vestibule dream, that in Goethe’s house (the house of a literary and cultural hero), he was a schlemiel. His dream, a double image of sorts, was a miniaturization. And not only did he know it, he lived with it. Can we live with miniaturization? Can we live with being schlemiels? When we chuckle at these photos, are we laughing at them or ourselves?