Aberturas / Opening
“Openings” is the first of four essays written by Vilém Flusser regarding the work of Russian-Brazilian painter Samson Flexor (1907-1971). Published in “Suplemento Literário do Estado de São Paulo”, the article is marked by a heideggerian-existentialist style and presents what is probably Flusser's first concrete dive into a monstrous imaginary during his years in Brazil, where the philosopher lived between 1940 and 1973. Flusser's essays on Flexor are dated between 1967 and 71 and cover the “Bipeds” phase and the so-called “white” phase from the painter’s work. Later he would write one last essay, called “Flexor: in memoriam”, for the painter’s biography, written by Alice Brill in 1990. This Portuguese-English translation of “Aberturas” includes one photograph of Flexor with some of his "Bipeds" at the IX Bienal de São Paulo, in 1967.
Slouching Towards the Abyss
Design theory is a somewhat new sub-discipline in which Flusser’s legacy remains largely unnoticed or perhaps overlooked. This is especially disappointing since his theoretical musings on design and applied theory are of extreme relevance to design scholars and practitioners alike. Flusser’s ability to perceive theoretical vistas of our material surroundings add an interesting layer to his overall perception of the human condition. What’s more, his tendency to navigate between etymology, socio-cultural aspects and everyday phenomena represents an almost exact definition of contemporary design. In this paper we tackle two major issues. Firstly, Flusser’s ability to cut back and forth between languages as a means to discuss various types of subject-matter, which we term the “linguistic chameleon” ability. Secondly the unique trait of sleep - its inability to “be designed”, leaving each of us to fend for ourselves, navigating the night’s terrors. The two issues are bound together, or perhaps navigated through, in discussion on Hebrew which, despite its frugality, is arguably the most suitable language to tackle the physiological (and psychological) process of sleep.
Für eine Mythographie der Photographie
The Mythography of Photography is written as a dialog with the Philosophy of Photography of Vilém Flusser, considering the Myths not simply as a primitive state of thinking, but as the dark residuum of all kinds of modern experience. Therefore, the present Mythography of Photography tries to reveal the main Myths which we cite when we are following the gesture of Photography and which we can find hidden in the photographical apparatus. This Mythography is strictly focused on the ancient Greek Gods and shows a specified genealogy of photography initiated by the Titan Cronus – who has been confused since antiquity with Chronos – and ending with the monster Chimera, the symbol for all illusions and phantasms. Not only can we trace a genealogic connection between these two individual figures but within the mythical tale as a whole: a trace that illuminates the inner sense and some of the main concepts of Photography.
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.
Cartas Flusserianas: diagnóstico sobre correspondência com Sérgio Paulo Rouanet
The purpose of this essay is to comment on the reading of a set of letters exchanged by Vilém Flusser (1920 - 1991) and Sérgio Paulo Rouanet (1934). The exchang e comprising 56 letters altogether – 30 by Flusser himself – took place between 1980 and 1991. It focuse d on some of Flusser’s most important concepts: the relationship of discourse and dialogue, the idea of ‘Apparat’, the existential dimension of writing, as well as the meaning of death and entropy for a theory of communication. Rouanet’s pertinent criticism reveals also some unexpected sides of Flusser’s theoretical assumptions.