The Free Will Impasse
This essay discusses the concepts of entropy and negentropy used by Vilém Flusser in his philosophy of photography to delineate connections between science and art. If the act of finding order within chaos has always been a quality specific to human beings, the overwhelming role machines hold in our society casts shadows on human agency. Since the Enlightenment, humankind has carried on a regimentation of nature with the goal of finding a way of theorizing everything within it. In the same way, empirical sciences have studied and portrayed the world of phenomena according to the laws of the moment. Shifting from prejudice to prejudice, however, they have never succeeded in finding an all-inclusive theory. Their way of systematization was adapted to all other areas of life, imposing itself through the norms of capitalism and production, leaving little space for human beings. In this scenario, human beings become puppets or tools. In this context, the arts are called upon to develop viable strategies to counteract the overwhelming power of social and technological control.
To Save Philosophy in a Universe of Technical Images
Philosophy, origin and apotheosis of the Humanist project, seems to have been surpassed in a world of extreme and ubiquitous automated processes. Automation threatens to truly “taken control”, and subordinate all human activity to the functions inscribed in the machine. The kaleidoscopticon of contemporary culture seems to indicate a return to pre-literate “magical thinking” but it is in fact a product of highly literate scientific, technical literacy. Flusser urges us to encounter the persistent importance of causal, textual thinking at work inside every apparatus to help steer the transformations, which are taking place in ourselves and in our world. Flusser makes this plea alongside a contention that linear, causal, conventional textual practices are no longer adequate to convey our ideas and experience highly in-formed by the new technologies. He exhorts us to use “technical images”. It becomes evident that Flusser’s project is to save philosophy, or restate the importance of philosophical practices, in an age where literacy has gone sub rosa. Using examples from Flusser’s experimental collaborations with artists Louis Bec and Fred Forest, this short essay will attempt to elaborate what Flusser means with philosophical practice, which uses technical images.
"Für eine Phänomenologie des Fernsehens" III: Nam June Paik und eine künstlerische Phänomenologie
When Vilém Flusser arrived at the conference held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in January 1974 he did not know that an artist was responsible both for the conception and the title of the meeting. Flusser aspired to develop his media theory differently and in front of a completely different philosophical background as McLuhan. Nam June Paik, at that time in his zenith, most likely influenced Flusser philosophically as well as in terms of art examples and much more than Flusser was ready to admit in his short reference to one of Paik’s early non-electronic pre-video films. It is a bit strange that Flusser shied away from the confrontation with art in and with television. It is all the more important to determine the theoretical space that Nam June Paik must have opened to Flusser and others. Against this background it becomes clear that Flusser was able to approach the heritage of phenomenology in a more open und artistic, that is, in a more literary and essayistic way.
Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: l’alterità capovolta
The Vampyroteuthis Infernalis is a text that defies labels by layering scientific, philosophical, and anthropological perspectives. We should read it “lengthwise” in order to share the vision of this brilliant metaphorical story and post-human fairy tale. Flusser eradicates points of view that are rusty, ancient and anthropocentric. In this, he sheds a beam of light not only on the ideas but also on the method, and the point of view. Throughout the book, the literary device turns out to be a kind of powerful “antivirus” against the rhetoric and the morals of our “a priori”. The Vampyroteuthis emerges where we dive: it is the dark side, the sleep of reason and the monster of dreams; it is the common unconscious, the fear of the unknown, the repression of drives; it is what is submerged by science and religion; it is the black, the different, the other; it is what we would like to suppress in ourselves, but actually, if this emergence is slow and conscious, the subsequent integration will be healthy and productive. It will be the utopia of new humans who look out and see themselves.
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.
Aula em fluxo: arte, comunicação, educação
By exploring performance concepts, this article seeks to deepen and systematize epistemological, aesthetic, and technical matters related to the interfaces between communication, education and art. To this end, it calls upon transdisciplinary methodologies implicated in phenomenological research. It further seeks the ongoing integration between theoretical and technical experiences, as well as scientific methods and creative artistic processes.
On Creativity: Blue Dogs with Red Spots
Anke Finger’s short article addresses Flusser’s understanding and use of “creativity” and “art-making” and presents his writing for the US art journal artforum: 20 columns, published between 1986 and 1991. This excerpt is taken from the last chapter in the forthcoming, co-authored English-language introduction to Flusser, published by the University of Minnesota Press.
Dear Flusser – Dear Don. Letters from 1973 to 1983
The letter exchange between Vilém Flusser and Donald L. Stacy started in 1973 and ended in 1983. Intrigued by an article Flusser published in the US journal Main Currents of Modern Thoughts, Stacy started a conversation that proved influential for both participants. It lead to a friendship that was first only intellectually and later also emotionally engaging. By being a constant challenge to each other, the „author of words“ and the „painter of images“ enjoy disagreeing on art, knowledge, truth, reality, editing and friendship. Their discussion of the relationship between images and words is deeply intertwined and sometimes concurrent with a discussion of their personalities. Their self perception and perception of each other, together with their reflection on the friendship itself turn the whole conversation into a fascinating set of documents on personal and creative influences.
The Art of the Vampyroteuthis - Vilém Flusser, Vampyroteuthis infernalis: His Art
In this excerpt from his hybrid text of philosophical fiction, Vilém Flusser examines the history and future of human art and communication from the perspective of a giant deep-sea squid, the Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Fictionalizing some of the accepted biological details about the extant species of squid, Flusser oscillates between an encyclopedic description of the animal’s anatomical and behavioral characteristics and a cultural history of human art making. He proposes the world of the Vampyroteuthis as a model for human communication in the age of television, film and digital images. With his skill for de-familiarizing everyday aspects of human life, Flusser holds the molluscan creature up to his reader as a mirror in which human behavior can be considered from an opposing, almost inhuman perspective.
Dialogues Between Flusser and Young Media Artists: A Conversation with Mario Ramiro
This article focuses upon Flusser’s interest in the work of young media artists, largely based on the recollections of Mario Ramiro, a São Paulo artist who holds a master’s degree from the Kunsthochschule für Medien in Cologne. Ramiro talks about how he met Flusser in São Paulo in the late 1970s and was immediately taken by the philosopher’s ideas and style, which for him were that of an artist. He acknowledges Flusser’s influence and support for his career throughout the 1980s.