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floating through a room. Repeatedly, he lost himself.

Benjamin did not only get enveloped in matter and trapped in objects. When looking at photographs and paintings, he often found himself displaced into the picture.

Being a painting can make you strange, to yourself and to others. It has long been a means of exploring who we are and how we differ. Being a painting gives you an existence in both the inverted world and the familiar one. It displaces you through alienation and renewed attention.

It can be used to reveal one person from another, one culture from another. But it also has other functions that draw on the almost occult power of what Benjamin called ‘opaque resemblance’.

At dusk on the dock in La Rochelle, two objects draw me in. A stack of lumber and a pile of goods unloaded from an absent ship.

Men are cutting rough planks out of tree trunks. They stack the planks in a large square pattern that reaches twice their own height. On every other level of the stack, one plank protrudes. Together these protruding ends make a stairway spiraling around the pile, allow­ing the men to place a portable metal roof on top each night.


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