Associate Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature
Dept. of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, University of Connecticut
Would Vilém Flusser be a character?
Could the philosopher of virtuality become a virtual being? Would Vilém Flusser be a character? The life of a person is part of reality. However, in his first book, Flusser himself made a point of saying that language creates reality. Well, if language creates reality, what creates language? For the philosopher, poetry creates language, so that language can create reality. Again: if poetry creates language and language creates reality, who or what creates poetry? Poetry creates itself, Flusser answers. Poetry is a kind of causa sui, that is, a cause of itself. He compares poetry to none other than God. We can see a very important concept for Flusser: the concept of God. This God, however, is a poetical God. Would Flusser be religious? Not really. Actually, Flusser is part of the 20th century vast group of Jews without God. Despite, or even because of this, the notion and the necessity of God constitute the guideline of his life and work.
Humboldt University, Germany
The presentation re-examines Vilém Flussers philosophy of photography and its relation to what I will name the philosophical question of „image-thinking“. What is it? The question places his work on photography within the context of studies in visual culture and thus aims to reveal the depths of Flusser‘s approach to understanding media culture. As such, I argue for the significance and continuing relevance of his philosophy of photography.
New York University, United States
In this talk we will take a brief survey of the main thinkers that influenced Flusser. In an autobiographical note from 1969 he cited the “radical phenomenology” of Husserl and the “formalism” of Wittgenstein, but also Marx, Nietzsche, and Ortega y Gasset. Martin Buber and the Jewish intellectual tradition influenced him greatly. Flusser read widely and drew from several different sources. Everyone but the French: “My lack of contact with French civilization is one of my most serious shortcomings,” he confided. “Saussure did not impress me.” Who were Flusser’s philosophers? And how did they speak to him?
Università della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland
On Dimensions, Sins, Universes, Ladder Rungs and the Workings of (Re)Translation in Vilém Flusser’s Work
In my presentation I would like to focus on an important aspect of Vilém Flusser’s thinking that can be detected from the very beginning and keeps reappearing in various guises up to the very last texts, constantly changing form but retaining the same structural traits: the idea that the moral and biological history of man, the evolution of mankind as a whole, as well as media history have to be considered from an developmental point of view. This transformative unfolding, however, does not follow a linear logic of development but always implies a movement back to the origins and beyond. It is not a line but a spiral in which each stage contains all the previous ones. This notion combines and recombines the work of heterogeneous thinkers, ranging from the Russian esoteric P. D. Ouspenky and the German poet, philosopher and translator Jean Gebser, whom Flusser got to know through Mira Schendel, to the Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan.
Flusser’s Gesture: Some Thoughts on Atmosphere and Media
‘Atmosphere’ has lately become a key term in very divergent research fields from physics and meteorology to philosophy and media studies. Although different notions of atmosphere are developed in those fields, they share some characteristics: both, the physical atmosphere and the atmosphere which is experienced in social and multimedia environments, transcend traditional scientific models of subject/object-differentiation and of objects which can be described by their (unchangeable) characteristics. Instead, atmospheric phenomena demand procedural and non-dualistic approaches that are not yet thoroughly developed.
Some phenomenologists like Hermann Schmitz or Gernot Böhme introduced a non-dualistic atmospheric epistemology which is modeled as a pre-conscious, synaesthetic experience. This concept of an archaic, primary perception mode completely ignores the question of mediated experience. This is where Flusser’s media philosophy comes into play. Although Flusser does not operate with the term ‘atmosphere’, he adopts elements of a phenomenologically inspired holistic epistemology and combines it with media technologies: especially with his theory of gesture he constitutes a specific model of media-driven embodiment. My contribution aims to clarify his approach and to further develop it towards a media-theoretical foundation of ‘atmosphere’.
Vilém Flusser’s contribution to Computer and Information Ethics
Those who are looking for a full-fledged interpretation of any ethical problems arising from the creation and the use of new media in Vilém Flusser’s work will be disappointed, especially if they expect something along the lines of Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics. Flusser did not develop any systematic ethical theory because he was blind to such questions, but because he fundamentally distrusted all well-rounded systematic theories. Theories, when they are formulated as “World views” [Weltanschauungen], are, most of the time, servants of unilateral positions and, in this sense, stand in utter contradiction to any relevant ethical foundation. Already in his early writings, Language and Reality (1963), The history of the devil (1965) and On Religiosity (1967), Flusser had started questioning the possible conflicts between the symbolical and the diabolical and, in his later work interpersonal relationships in the era of the technical images take center stage. His journey along the ethical horizon is comparable to the early European maritime discoveries, guided by single stars and by constellations of stars. Stars, as Walter Benjamin put it, are like concepts that enable the creation of new ideas, and a possible ethical attitude in the use of new digital navigation, communication and imagination. In my contribution I would like to explain the main concepts of his thinking: “groundlessness”, “black box”, “program”, “distance and proximity”, “home and homelessness”, “nomadism” and “Charity” [Nächstenliebe]. Furthermore, it will be necessary to investigate the importance of Flusser’s concepts for a computer and information ethics, showing how our “online existence” is getting increasinlgy relevant, overlapping our “real existence,” creating new ethical points-of-view. Flusser’s main concepts could be used to design and redesign an ethically interactive map, a relevant contribution to computer and information ethics in general.
Bauhaus Universität Weimar, Germany
Thinking in Gestures
The culture of writing, science and history are swept away by a flood of technical images – this is Flusser’s great narrative he himself seems to re-read again and again, reading it within the linear discourse that is changed by techno-imagination. He confronts his own linear, written thinking with ‘objects’ it cannot really grasp, writing itself, photographs, computer simulations. Inspired by Husserl’s phenomenology and its transformation in Heidegger’s thinking Flusser focuses on this ‘grasping’ (Begreifen), attempts to get hold of the new phenomena – not provided by a method, but performed in gestures. Thinking as ‘written’ or ‘linear’ and thinking as ‘imaginative’ are put forth only in gestures: gestures of writing e.g. in writing about writing and gestures of making photographs e.g. in deconstructing an ‘objective’ viewpoint, ‘standing above the phenomenon to be understood’.
Pennsylvania State University, United States
Flusser’s Post-History and Generative Practices in Contemporary Art and Digital Humanities
Immersed in the datacloud, we grow accustomed to high-resolution videos, fast downloads, and prosthetic eyes in the palm of our hands, without reflecting on the power, sanctity, and violence of images. In general, we are neither concerned with the relations between photomechanical images and their referents, nor with how we build evidence. In historical accounts we rarely consider “the nature of all archival materials as found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private”. This paper examines Flusser’s concept of post-history in light of contemporary art’s engagement with generalized translation, reenactments, use of archives, ethics of precariousness, and hybrids of human and non-human elements. What does it mean for artistic practice today to work with documents and to produce hetero-chronic visions of history? Examples include my own “Playing the Archive” research project.
 Hal Foster, “An Archival Impulse,” October, no. 110. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fall 2004.
University College Falmouth, Great Britain
In his Gestures essays, Flusser considers Painting, Photographing, Filming, Videoing—as well as the broad Gesture of Making, associating each gesture with a distinctive form of consciousness. The topics could be a list of artistic media. But they are not. In fact, the most extensive discussion of art occurs in “The Gesture of Smoking a Pipe,” in the context of a categorization of gesture—work, communication and ritual: pipe-smoking, like gestures of, say, piano-playing or drumming, are mainly ritual movements, articulating a unique way of being in the world. Most artists and art educators today would assure us that we live in a post-media age, that media no longer offer a productive way of analyzing art—if they ever did. With a concept of gesture that cuts across multiple conceptual and disciplinary boundaries, Flusser offers us the tools, as well as a reason, to think again.
Goethe Institute, Munich
University of Connecticut, United States
Code Convergence and Total Art in Flusser and in Digital Games: the Problem of Immersion
This paper considers the possibilities for digital games as an embodiment–or perhaps as a chimera–of Flusser’s ideal of code convergence in the technical image. The digital game seems to render its performer as a metaphor within a virtual space–on the face of it a kind of code convergence that Flusser would have embraced. What does the fundamental importance to the culture of digital games of the experience generally called “immersion” complicate or reinforce in Flusser’s claim that the technical image represents a convergence of codes of communication?