Tafuri and the Age of Historical Representation
This essay considers how Waller Benjamin's Das Kumstwerk informs Manfredo Tafuri's thinking on the territory between 'the past' and its representation as 'history' It argues that in the mid-l960s Tafuri finds support for an argument advanced elsewhere: from 1968 and Teorie estoria dell'architettura he repositions it in Benjaminian terms. Tafuri's Benjamin at this time is the Italian Benjamin, best (though not exclusively) known through translated editions and interpretations found in Massimo Cacciari and Cesare De Michelis's Angelas Novus. From Das Kunstwerk (or more precisely L'opera d'arte). Tafuri applies Benjamin's analog of magician-surgeon. painter-operator to the culture of modern architecture: he offers a second reading, this essay shows, that he renders the analogy available to broader historical phenomena. He implies that just as modem architects might make an operative or mimetic (or undecided) response to the 'equipment' of modernity, so too might architects assume a programmatic stance towards the past that is either engaged or passive (or, again, undecided) In this setting, Tafuri frames as the 'age of historical representation' a period commencing with Brunelleschi and Alberti, extending into the later twentieth century. In this reconfiguration of Benjamin's basic argument, the question of architecture's loss of aura in the era of industrial production is replaced (for Tafuri) by one of architecture's own artifice in relation to its representation of the past with respect of artificially reinvigorated and codified traditions in the guise of architectural theory (for Tafuri. the classical 'inheritance'). In tracking Benjamin's presence in Tafuri's 쵶re this essay articulates this translation from the status of the art work in the mechanical era (Benjamin) to the status of historical knowledge in an age wherein architecture draws identity from precisely the abstractions afforded, Tafuri says, by historical fabrications.
Architectural Theory Review
Architectural History and Theory