Flusser Studies 07 - November 2008
Interview: Edith Flusser
Die Welt im Netz
This text is taken from Karen Joisten's monograph entitled Philosophie der Heimat - Heimat der Philosophie (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2003), more specifically from chapter 6, "Die Welt im Netz," 273-316. Flusser Studies is re-printing sections 6.3, 6.5, and 6.6 and publishing for the first time section 6.1. in English ("Vilém Flussers Trans-Anthropozentrismus und die Wende 'Vom Subjekt zum Projekt'"). The author's focus lies primarily on Flusser's late works in that she analyzes his vision of a "new human being" in a post-industrial age who is no longer bound by the limits of history and ready to enter into a creative autonomy.
2. Devil may care: Flusser’s Journey Into Exile and Beyond Reason
Vilém Flusser’s second book, A história do diabo (“History of the devil”), was published in Brazil in 1965 but has yet to be translated into more widely current languages. The present paper aims to summarize the major arguments contained in that early work, situating them in the cultural and intellectual context of the time. Taking Flusser’s personal history of exile as its point of departure, the paper suggests that the issues raised by the book are prescient of important changes in Western thinking over the past thirty years – in particular, the paradigm shift from the rational certainties of modernity to a more fluid notion of ‘reality’ in post-modernity. Flusser’s pioneering grasp of material appearances as “structures of virtuality”, elaborated through language, is indeed prophetic of things taken for granted in the digital era. For the student of Flusser, this important early work provides an insight into the profound unity underlying the multiple facets of his thought and writings.
The Brazilian Exile of Vilém Flusser and Stefan Zweig
In this article, I outline the history of Jewish exile to Brazil during the 1930s and 1940s, and I compare Vilém Flusser’s philosophy of immigration and Stefan Zweig’s last work of fiction, Schachnovelle. Flusser and Zweig shared a similar dialectical form of thinking, and yet Zweig’s novella expressed the failure of finding a synthesis due to exile while Flusser found the synthesis in the experience of immigration itself. Flusser’s philosophy of immigration is not clearly applicable to those who are not in his same situation, since he places awareness, disengagement, and transcendence at a key position. His emphasis may not be applicable to all refugees, transnational immigrants, and border crossers; however, Zweig was one of those in a similar situation as Flusser. Like many of Zweig’s novellas, the framework of Schachnovelle is constructed around a number of opposites and their possible reconciliations and yet these various attempts to bring together the opposites all fail. Flusser’s philosophy is a positive one that has incredibly strong features, yet its limitations show up in an analysis of Zweig’s work and point to the need for further work in the philosophy of immigration.
Postmodern Nomadism and the Beginnings of a Global Village
This paper comments on Vilém Flusser’s essay on new nomadism as an epochal change. The author takes a slightly critical viewpoint of Flusser’s definition of nomadism as a practice of archaic as well as of mediacentred life nowadays and discusses the rather traditional sedentary form Flusser adopts for his composition. The author bases his critique upon questions such as: is it really the Information Revolution and not the Industrial Revolution that leads to the end of the Neolithic Age? Is it only a virtual nomadism that came about in 1990 or does the epochal change concern also physical “nomadic” movement? In discussing Flusser’s essay the author points out the differences of meaning evident in Flusser’s original German text and the English translation. This leads to different possible interpretations of Flussers essay. The author closes by discussing the concepts of the idiot and the nomad. He clarifies how these concepts are relevant in a post-modern society and presents the possibility that the wisdom of idiocy is a survival strategy.
The Phantasm of the German Migrant Or The Invention of Brazil
This paper undertakes a fresh appraisal of German emigration to Brazil as an important but mainly overlooked component of nineteenth-century German identity construction and nationalism. It analyzes Brazil as a controversial political space of national imagination, colonial fantasy, and intercultural translation and evaluates the German emigrant community in Brazil as an invention that is, until today, a depiction heavily loaded with ideological and racial bias. Drawing on Flusser’s thoughts on “Heimat” and migration, this article outlines an intercultural and interdisciplinary approach that takes into consideration inventions in the German-language context and in the Portuguese-language context as well as the dynamics between languages and cultures.
Photographic Migrants: John Goto’s West End Blues
Treating Goto’s new images themselves as migrants--exotic, digital constructions uncomfortable in the land of “straight” art photography--the essay proposes that Flusser’s understanding of photography as projection, rather than record, offers a way of reconciling significant conflict in contemporary photography. Drawing on the writing of John Szarkowski to represent the “native” position, it argues that Goto’s “migrant” images bring the native’s strengths and limitations into focus. It draws on Flusser’s conviction about the migrant’s creativity to propose that an expanded understanding of “photography” does not damage or diminish any existing canon, and offers a structure in which the value of digitally
manipulated images can be considered in their rightful context, namely the entire history of photography.
Translating Multilingual Life
This essay reexamines the cultural implications of the act of translation through three quotations from Portuguese into English from Vilém Flusser’s 1992 philosophical autobiography Bodenlos. In retranslating this multilingual life, this act once again displaces preconceived notions not only of philosophical “groundedness,” as Flusser has called it, but also of the very possibility of cultural centrality, to say nothing of authenticity. Moreover, through the continued recirculation of such textual fragments beyond the strictly perceived boundaries of ‘the language in which they were written,’ such transcultural acts may well provoke yet another series of divergent interpretations, especially when read against the backdrop of a New Coast: a geographical zone mapped out by way of a new set of interconnected cultural experiences and markings of multilingual life.