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Martha Schwendener

Martha Schwendener is an art critic for The New York Times, a visiting professor at New York University, a critic in photography at the Yale University School of Art, and a Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her criticism has been published in Artforum, Bookforum, Afterimage, October, Art in America, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, The Brooklyn Rail, Art Papers, Artforum.com, New Art Examiner, CAA.reviews, Time Out New York, Flash Art, Paper Monument, and other publications. She has taught at Hunter College, the School of Visual Arts, Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY), the University of Texas at Austin, Rhode Island School of Design, and the Pratt Institute.

Articles of Martha Schwendener

Vilém Flusser’s Theories of Photography and Technical Images in a U.S. Art Historical Context

In the field of U.S. art history, the photography specialization is fairly new and the discourse is dominated by a handful of voices like Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes, while Vilém Flusser has been virtually ignored. This essay examines the trilogy of “technical image” texts Flusser wrote in the 1980s—Towards  a Philosophy of Photography (1983), Into the Universe of Technical Images (1985), and Does Writing Have a Future? (1987)—and beyond these, locating the seeds of Flusser’s “photophilosophy” in his use of information and communications theory to develop concepts like “image,” “apparatus,” “program,” and “information.” It considers the U.S. art historical bias toward writers like Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, and the “control society” ethos of Gilles Deleuze and Flusser’s proposal that technical images and photography criticism could provide models for creative disruption of apparatus and finally, “human freedom.” Placed in the current moment, with its crises of environment, technology, economy, and geopolitics, this essay considers Flusser’s writing as a form of ethics and politics in which photography serves as a model for thinking about history, culture, revolution, and consciousness.

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