In Clockpunk Anthropology and the Ruins of Modernity, (2010) Shannon Lee Dawdy discusses Walter Benjamin’s view that the temporality of modernity, modernity’s “progress,” is an illusion. According to Dawdy, in Benjamin’s view “time was not a series of linear strings laid end to end but a Hegelian knot,” and that Benjamin “understood temporality as the past and the present constructing one another in an ongoing dialectic.”
We don’t move forward. We don’t evolve. We revolve toward an improved future by recycling the best ideas of the past rather than discarding them as obsolete as we move on to the next new thing. I’m working my way into and through this Hegelian mindscape but as a highly visual person I do best when I can concretize concepts in tangible applications. Setting aside for now the question of an origin for the best ideas of the past that are recycled (and relatedly therefore ignoring the fact that metals start with ore extracted from and originating in the ground), I find a touchstone for Benjamin’s dialectical notion of time in the scrapyard where metals are pulled from the manufactured state of finished goods and construction components and reused in a way that flattens and/or folds the temporality of the metal.