Von Vilém Flusser’s Gesten ausgehend. Zur Phänomenologie des Entwerfens und seiner Werkzeuge
This essay draws on Vilém Flusser’s phenomenological approach and speculative thinking to envision a theory of architectural design. It focusses particularly on the last book he published during his lifetime, Gesten (Gestures) 1991. Based on a series of lectures held in São Paulo and in the mid-seventies in France, Gesten offers a sequence of 18 essays reflecting upon everyday activities as “movement(s) of the body or of a tool attached with the body, for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” (3-4). The book culminates in the call for a general theory of gestures. Starting from a close reading of some of these chapters, this essay examines the relation between gestures and thinking, between gestures and the future, with a particularly close look at the gesture of making. Gestures are discussed in terms of primary means of visual expression, which in many ways become starting points for design processes. Flusser's general theory of gestures facilitates a theory of architectural design based on a phenomenological analysis of its tools and processes. By going back to some of Flusser's writings on tools, machines and apparatuses and their unforeseen repercussions, new design practices and digital design tools can be understood as ways of simulating and anticipating the consequences of design decisions, permitting us to better understand and deal with them.
Towards no body – traces of Flusser’s psychology
Pivotal in Vilém Flusser’s language philosophy and fundamental for his media theory are his reflections on psychology. Rooted in his first unpublished work Das 20. Jahrhundert [The 20th Century] unfolding in Language and Reality and summarized in The History of the Devil Flusser’s thoughts on psychology meander from his early writings to his late articles. In the two articles “Wahrnehmung” [Perception] (1990) and “Das Universum der Technik als Spiegel und/oder als Verschleierung menschlicher Absicht” [The Universe of Technology as Mirror and/or Concealment of the Intention of Man] (1987), both published in the journal “Praktische Psychologie”, Flusser connects the linguistic ontology of perception to the psychological aspect of (digital) information. In Language and Reality Flusser says: “data are being compiled and compared in order to be computed. We are a generation of accountants who are in the process of becoming a line of computers” (2018:9). Flusser categorizes Western languages as fusional, logically organized and translatable. Through science and philosophy, they have the potential to be transformed into an universal, abstract, artificial language (2018: 37-39). In his article, Eckhard Geitz connects the psychological dots in Flusser’s thinking – from his early philosophical writings to his information philosophy and the call for a new anthropology in his late texts.
Gestural translations from within the (post)digital: a Flusserian analysis of phonic gestures
Bridging the gap between Vilém Flusser’s theorising around language and work on gesture, this paper will examine the collection of gestures that form a constituent ‘vocabulary’ of our mobile phone use. The presented research examines a wide array of gestural taxonomies that take the form of dictionaries and notations which have been used in attempts to define such developing vocabularies. However, the paper is critical of these taxonomies as it argues they reveal a central problematic at the heart of any gestural vocabularies: the reduction of the body into the biomechanical; an assortment of weighted pulleys and levers. As a result of this, these gestural taxonomies are shown to create technical images of the body reducing it further to nothing more than a functionary of an apparatus. In response to these limitations implicit within such taxonomies, the paper reconsiders today’s developing gestural language in terms of the writing of Flusser. It argues that his work allows for gesture to be examined as phenomena, and in viewing these gestures as situated and witnessed phenomena, it becomes possible to perceive of them not simply as symbolic movements of the body, but rather as a form of translation. The paper then argues that what is being translated through these phonic gestures can be understood as a postdigital condition that has emerged following the alleged end of the digital revolution. To evidence these claims, the paper performs a gestural analysis of Luke Collins’s short film, Swiped (2019) that demonstrates an interaction between two individuals attempting to navigate a peculiar (post)digital situation.
Biomedia and Anthropology of Gestures and Body
The essay is based on two central notions developed by Vilém Flusser: 1) life can be considered as a design project; 2) we are in need of a new anthropology of gestures. It moves from the modern understanding of technology, digital media and its cybernetic regime, to discover biomedia and their ability to invade and conquer bodies, senses and gestures. In the light of this new bio-techno-cultural constellation where media are used to design gestures, old questions about subjectivity, media and communication remain fundamental yet they ought to be reinterpreted.
Der maskierte Mensch: Vom Subjekt zum Projekt in der Stimmung des Orgasmus
This article starts from the assumption that Heidegger’s notion of Geworfenheit (Thrownness) can be overcome through alternative design or projection of human beings. Designing the body has so far received little attention within the research on Vilém Flusser. The essay begins with a discussion of bodily design moving on to an examination of sexual coitus and orgasm. Human re-invention is depicted in terms of sexual design, by assuming, in accordance with Flusser, a kind of sex, which is entirely independent of procreation or of any other biological consideration and exclusively directed towards orgasm as an intersubjective integration with the other person. This is not so much a form of surrender as an attempt at self-oblivion. The article also deals with the victory over death through orgasm, showing Flusser’s theoretical proximity to Wilhelm Reich’s psychoanalysis. The concept of orgasm will also be discussed in view of techno-imaginary charity as a gesture of love, addressing Flusser’s topos of masquerade, along with the possibilities of its overcoming.
Die Briefe zwischen Vilém Flusser und Felix Philipp Ingold, 1981–1990
This article examines the correspondence between Vilém Flusser and Felix Philipp Ingold, a professor of cultural and social history of Russia, besides being a well-known poet, writer, and translator. In this extensive correspondence (1981–1990), both scholars reflect upon and criticize each other’s work, in a very productive manner. Especially Flusser, who was challenged to be more precise about central terms of his cultural philosophy, and media/communication theory. The article gives an overview of the last topics discussed by them. However, because it could not equality examine all concepts in depth, it focus upon the correspondence that helped Flusser clarify his concept of technical/synthetic image – which remains, nevertheless, an ambivalent term.