Angelus Novus

Angelus Novus, 2012
42 ¼ × 34 ½ in.

Philosopher Walter Benjamin’s last essay, On the Concept of History, excoriates the notion of “progress.” For Benjamin, history is not a linear march led by great men towards a glorious future, but a circular series of endless catastrophe, where we repeat the same humanitarian, political, and economic crises over and over.

Benjamin illustrates this idea by way of a drawing he owned, Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus. For Benjamin, the drawing represented what he called an angel of history, watching us with outstretched wings, being thrown backwards into the future by the endless explosions of the present.

This is a photograph of that back of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, once owned by Walter Benjamin and now residing in the Israel Museum.

It is also the first photograph in The Last Pictures collection, currently in geostationary orbit, 36,000km over the Atlantic Ocean.