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Art as Acting Against the Program of the Apparatus

Vilém Flusser is one of the first scholars to address the systems of technical media, as well as the biotechnological manipulation of the living world, in relation to the issue of programmability. In this regard Flusser questioned the position of the actor, the operator or perhaps the creator in these systems. If the functionary and the apparatus merge into a unit and apparatus has its program, what is the role the artist if he or she is not just anyone who is exhausting the options offered by the program? In the paper the functionary of the apparatus of the camera and the “creator” in the field of biotechnics are compared in order to establish the similarities in both “creative” practices of an (artistic) photographer and of a biotechnological artist, as well as discuss the similarities with other artistic practices discussed by Flusser. The apparatus functions as “intelligent machine” thus it has certain power. The subject involved in the game of the apparatus is subjected to its structure. The question is, how to establish the critical stance, how to act against the apparatus. This transposes the notion of an artist as a supposed creator to the notion of an artist as the one who resists the structures of power.

Between Representation and Projection: Music in Vilém Flusser’s Work

According to Vilém Flusser, music has a logical-mathematical structure that corresponds to the basis of human thought in general. “Pure music,” supposedly free of language in the strict sense, exemplifies this point. By being independent of representation and figuration, “pure music” reveals the development of Western thought, which Flusser would also theorize through the decoding of letters into numbers. For Flusser, the mathematical structure of thought represented by the concept of “pure music” also leads to the advent of machines and apparatus, similar to the way the decoding of words into numbers brings forth the abstraction of calculation. Computers, for instance, can project worlds onto the human senses with equally creative possibilities. The proximity between music and calculation allows for an understanding of music in contrast with musicological or historical approaches. In this sense, music is an element of Flusser's thought which anticipates some of his themes. Flusser's understanding of music as a mathematical concept independent of representation is further exemplified by his formulation of a telematic society based upon the model of chamber music.

Fluss/er. Circle – Spiral – Cloud

This text is an attempt to capture Flusser’s thinking and its evolution over the years by focusing on three interrelated images: the circle, the spiral and the cloud. The first two are based on Flusser’s translation and retranslation theory, which negates the notions of simple progress, linearity and hierarchy. The third one is related to the last phase of Flusser’s thinking organized around the notions of calculation and the dot-like structure of digital images. Clouds are seen as swarms of free-floating points of view created by calculatory combination, as fields of possibility. The text begins with a short reflection on Flusser’s own name suggesting a direct link between it and some central tenets of his philosophy. The proper name Flusser is an image that can be used to interpret Vilém Flusser’s own thinking.

Fluss/er (PDF 596.64 KB)

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.

Creativity (PDF 204.36 KB)

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