Goethe Institut, Munich, Germany
Andreas Ströhl was born in Munich in 1962 and studied German Literature and Philosophy. From 1988 to 2003 he worked for the Goethe-Institute in Munich, Bremen, Atlanta, Bonn and Prague. From 1996 to 98 he was visiting professor for Media-Theory at the University of Innsbruck. In April 2003 he was appointed commercial manager of the International Munich Filmfestival for which he has served as a director since 2004. Publications about media-theory and film including Vilém Flusser Writings.
Articles of Andreas Ströhl
Mediengeschichtliche Strömungen: das vorgefundene Prag
The short section included in this issue of Flusser Studies is an excerpt from my dissertation. It is part of the first chapter, a biography of Flusser. The text attempts to sketch a few of the countless influences Prague and Central European cultural traditions have exerted on the young Vilém Flusser. It is preceded by a section on his Prague origins. The dissertation also includes a second, related, excursus titled “Currents of Media History II. – The Prague Flusser Left behind.” The dissertation was conceived as a general view on Flusser’s work and life that could also serve as an introduction to his thought. From my point of view, Flusser should be considered, above all, a phenomenologist of different forms of communication.
The dissertation begins with a biographical introduction followed by a study of various aspects central to his thinking: media, code, apparatus, and dialogue. Furthermore, the history of his reception is dealt with extensively. The phenomenology of media, the philosophy of communication, and questions of cultural anthropology are reinterpreted within a Czech-German and Jewish Habsburg-Austrian environment that proved to be a fertile ground for the development of Flusser’s interests. In fact, Flusser can be regarded as one of the last representatives of the short but amazingly rich intellectual blossoming of the Jewish-Czech-German culture that was abruptly truncated by the German invasion of Prague in the spring of 1939. Taking into account the massive impact these cultural traditions of Old Central Europe had on Flusser, I argue that, in the development of Flusser’s thinking, a projection of Prague’s past onto the Brazilian future is recognizable. The source of this projection also sheds light on the consequences Flusser drew from the failure of the “Brazil Project” in the early 1970s.
1. Flusser und der Dialog. Negentropische Klimmzüge über der Bodenlosigkeit
Flusser‘s concept of dialog cannot be comprehended from a media theoretical point of view only. A more fruitful approach emerges from within the context of Flusser’s own model of culture that forms an epicycle intended to lend meaning to human life by creating information. This approach also encompasses a consideration of the influence of Judaeo-Christian traditions. We need to understand the changes the concept of dialog has undergone on its way from Martin Buber, for example, to Vilém Flusser.
Life is absurd in the face of its bottomlessness. Therefore, strategies are developed to make it more livable. In celebration and play we tend to forget death as a menace. Most of all, however, human beings try to overcome the futility and loneliness of a life toward death by means of dialog with other human beings. Recognition of the other as a „Thou“ is both the condition of a dialog and its result. Flusser revives and secularizes the concept of relationships of mutual recognition, a motif at the core of Jewish-Christian thought. Buber allows two ways for the „I“ to realize itself, in experiencing the world or, alternatively, in relation to a „Thou“. Flusser, however, insists on the exclusivity of the creation of the „I“ in dialog. Another significant shift of the concept of dialog from Buber to Flusser is that Buber interprets dialogs among humans as merely metaphorical. To him, true meaning is only possible through a dialog with god. Flusser, however, rejects the necessity of a final transcendental rationale. Thus, he secularizes Jewish- Christian tradition: it becomes an immanent task to take over responsibility for other human beings by means of dialog.
Dialogs realize free relationships of recognition and appreciation. Today, we are threatened by discursive massification. Therefore, dialogs need to be technically and socially implemented. Discursive structures and their technical materialization ought to be changed into dialogical channels. Again, Flusser’s utopia proves to be profane: The only chance for survival and viability lies in the collective memory of culture set up by dialogical networks.