ed. by Sam Dolbear and Hannah Proctor

London: Big Cartel, 2019

Arcades Materials is a series of three pamphlets inspired by the German-Jewish Marxist philosopher Walter Benjamin’s unfinished Arcades Project, a mammoth work centred on the shopping arcades of nineteenth-century Paris. Like the book, the pamphlets, edited by researcher Sam Dolbear and  Hannah Proctor deal with subjects including the Paris Commune, fashion, dust, pet tortoises, sex work, crystal palaces, compass cases, ecological disaster, trains and plants.

Insides designed by Sophie Carapetian
Cover designed by Sophie Carapetian and Lucy Killoran
Typeset by Sophie Carapetian, Sam Dolbear and Louis Hartnoll
Copy edited by Lizzie Homersham (RED), Ryan Eyers (YELLOW), and Erin Troseth and Daniel Neofetou (BLUE)



The complete set: RED, YELLOW, BLUE

RED: History and Temporality

This pamphlet explores primal history, natural history, formal methodologies, and (meta)histories of progress and catastrophe. It is prefaced with an email from Puerto Rico written in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a reminder of the politics of natural history. The pamphlet then moves to a discussion of the architectonics of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris where Benjamin worked on The Arcades Project, sheltering from the catastrophe of the world outside. It then turns to utopian plants, women in mirrors, obscure allegories and defamiliarised angels, locomotives with screaming brakes, ruffles on dresses and wrinkled hands. The pamphlet ends with an appendix of appendices.

Contributors: Noé J. García, Bruno Ferrer i Higueras, Yanik Avila, Esther Leslie, Christina Chalmers, Andrés Saenz De Sicilia, Mijael Jiménez, Bolívar Echeverría, Benjamin Noys, Mikkel Jørgensen, Sam Dolbear, Hannah Proctor, Anthony Iles

YELLOW: Subterranean to Street

This pamphlet starts underground. It moves through catacombs, subways and sewers up to the streets. The lava of the underworld erupts on to the pavements of the metropolis. Above ground gutters are blocked with bundles of rags, boulevards are interrupted by barricades, and streets echo with new kinds of rattling vehicles. Luxurious velvet curtains hang in the windows of bourgeois living rooms choked with dust. Benjaminian archetypes such as the flâneur and the prostitute are unravelled and these defamiliarised figures walk the city’s pavements alongside others: criminals, losettes, revolutionaries, detectives. These pieces shuttle from the prison cell to the cosmos. Eternity via the sewers.

Contributors: Danny Hayward, Emily Doucet, Sara Salih, Sam Dolbear, Andrew Witt, Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy Spencer, Sean Bonney, Patrizia Bach, Xenia Marinou, Kester Richardson, Hannah Proctor, Chryssa Marinou, Sharon Kivland, Amy Tobin, Luke Roberts

BLUE: Threshold to Cosmos

This pamphlet stands on the threshold of the city, of the arcade, of the dream. It hovers between the inside and the outside, protecting and marking transitions. It begins with the figure of the mechanical fortune-teller and lingers in the doorway before going inside to take a look around. The pieces in this pamphlet wander through bourgeois interiors, gaze at commodities in shop windows and at reflections in the glass, and visit the displays in museum vitrines and aquarium tanks. Buildings of capitalist modernity are linked to primal history; the arcade appears as an underwater kingdom cluttered with shells and coral. Rooms appear as places of conspiracy. Threshold experiences are experiences of transition, of passage but also of flight. The pamphlet ends with images of flying, rising up above the city (and the self) to survey from above.

Contributors: Susan Conte, Marie Louise Krogh, Louis Hartnoll, Sam Dolbear, Anne Malone Stillman, Jack Parlett, Tom Allen, Arild Linneberg, Janne Sund, Elizabeth Atherton, Jan-Peter Westad, Jeff O’Brien, Anna De Filippi