New Criticals

Professor Boym had the ability to conjure such Benjaminian flashes. I remember her telling us about the announcement of Lenin’s 1920 plan to bring electricity to all of Moscow and beyond. On the Bolshoy Theater stage, once host to ballet and opera, an electrified "map of the future" was carted out. Light bulbs indicated the locations of Lenin's soon-to-be-built power plants. As the event reached its climax, the great map’s light bulbs were triumphantly illuminated – and lights all over the city went dark. The map of the power plants used too much electrcity, and caused a power outage. In what was, in this case, a literal flash light, previously unlinked fragments of history came together to formed a new constellation of meaning: a glimpse of the Soviet Union's doomed future. Professor Boym was an archivist of moments like this. “I collect computer errors,” she wrote in her Off-Modern Manifesto, “An error has an aura.”