After Walter: Act 1

In 2007, artist Leo Asemota wrote for radio, a performance interpretation of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936), the landmark essay by the German critical theorist Walter Benjamin (1892–1940). Titled After Walter: A transmission in 2 acts the production was broadcast on January 19, 2007 on Resonance 104.4FM, London’s premiere art radio station. Asemota’s staging of the work looked to Benjamin’s broadcasts on German radio between 1927 and 1933 and provided a platform for him to appraise the essay as central to his ongoing multipartite artwork The Ens Project (2005–present) which the broadcast was a part of.

The performance was a combined instrumentation, actions and readings in German and in English from select movements in the essay. Asemota’s intent with the After Walter performance was to engage radio transmission as central to key ideas in Benjamin’s essay, of the auditory aura, site-specificity, technology and language, at the same time integrating other Benjamin’s thinking on translation and the task of the translator.

The project After Walter: Act 1 is motivated by the 80th anniversary of Benjamin’s essay. Asemota’s production is possibly the only performance interpretation of this seminal text in a medium the cultural theorist regarded.

London-based artist Leo Asemota’s birthplace is in Benin City, Nigeria. His work has been engaged with widely in exhibitions, performances and symposia, some of which were held at Hangar Center for Artistic Research, Lisbon, Portugal, Tafeta+Partners, London, CCA Lagos, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, the British Museum, London, the Contemporary Rooms at EoTLA, Tate Modern, Justina Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, New Art Exchange, Nottingham, Centrum Beeldeende Kunst Zuidoost, Amsterdam, Metal, Liverpool, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Autocenter Berlin, Book Art Bookshop, London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Bodhi Art, New York and National Portrait Gallery, London.