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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.

Der maskierte Mensch (PDF 491.39 KB)

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.

To Save Philosophy (PDF 217.35 KB)

Autotelic Digital Play: Flusser and the Gesture of Smoking a Pipe

This essay takes the form of a slide show that juxtaposes selected quotes from various authors and primarily from Vilém Flusser’s essay “The Gesture of Smoking a Pipe.” These excerpts are accompanied by a selection of short video documentaries of interactive installations created by some of my former students. This juxtaposition of quotes and videos, places side-by-side Flusser’s description of ritualistic, impractical everyday gestures, and the playfulness of interactive art experiences. As Ian Bogost argues in his essay “The Cigarette of this Century,” our 21st century smartphone addiction is comparable to the 20th century cigarette addiction. By contrast, could interactive art provide the same kind of magical, autotelic experience, away from our production and communication concerns, as pipe smoking has provided Flusser?

A slide show

Verso una teoria dei gesti

In his work “Gesten. Versuch einer Phänomenologie,” Flusser investigates the concept of gestures. Starting from a first definition of gestures, which explores the “causality” of movements, Flusser then discusses the meaning of the concept “gesture” in the broader context of culture as a symbolic expression. In this essay, we discuss Flusser’s view on gestures by studying them with respect to their function and meaning in communicative processes, both obvious and hidden. From a semiotic point of view, we analyse Flusser’s thoughts on the function and the properties of gestures and provide a definition of “gesture”, which reflects its cultural, symbolic, and significant aspects. Particular emphasis is given to the role of gestures in communicative processes and their imbedding in the cultural environment.

X: The Gesture of Essaying

Drawing upon Flusser’s sketch of “being-in-the-skin”, this essay explores the significance of the dialogical form of chiasmus for Flusser’s conception of gesture, arguing for an understanding of his “gesture of writing”, as a gesture of essaying, wherein a “poetic subject” is manifested – one who is born to understanding, gestated, in the process of conversing in-between, where “meaning” is organised through rhythm. The essay itself sets up this argument through a gesture of essaying, placing Flusser into conversation with a broader discourse on writing and gesture.

The Gesture (PDF 259.43 KB)

Das Strahlen in der Black Box. – Sprechen und Hören in der Medienphilosophie Vilém Flussers

This essay explores the rather rare studies on the subjects of speaking and hearing in the works of Vilém Flusser. It begins by identifying the historical and systematical modes of speaking and hearing in Flusser’s media philosophy. The phenomenology of the body (Leib) plays a central role in the discussion of these particular modes of communication. Significant for Flusser’s interpretation of these modes is the relation they have to a notion of political space. In this regard the essay asks: what is the impact of “the end of politics” on speaking and hearing?

Das handlungsfähige Projekt? oder: Die Frage nach der Subjekthaftigkeit des Projekts in der Menschwerdung. Zwischen Geste, Projektion und Verantwortung

In the thinking of Vilém Flusser, the question of subjectivity is linked to the question of being human (Mensch-Sein) or becoming human (Mensch-Werden). The human subject should be considered as dependent on media’s cultural and anthropological conditions. In this context, changes in media conditions lead to changes of the human subject. Flusser calls this process a media-cultureanthropological evolution. According to this thesis, the human being is no longer defined as a subject in relation to an object but rather as a “project in a (second) incarnation” (Menschwerdung). The human subject is progressively freed from its dependency on an objective world. Therefore, the dichotomy of subject and object disappears and our existential condition of being in the world (In-der-Welt-Sein) change. We give up the idea of a given and still standing world in favor of an inter-subjective construction, in which the “I”, “You,” and “It” turn out to be projections. The question is: are we still able to talk about the ability to act (Handlungsfähigkeit) in the context of a post-historical project? Isn’t acting a genuine gesture/expression of the understanding of the “subject of objects,” and of agency in the “objective world”?

Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Postscriptum

Vampyroteuthis infernalis is perhaps the most important, certainly the most public, result of Bec’s and Flusser’s collaboration that lasted for more than fifteen years. Bec here presents the starting points of the publication and what the different zoosystemic plates included were supposed to signal. Each one of the abysmal creatures invented by Bec is supposed to mirror a different aspect of Flusser’s thinking.

Postscriptum (PDF 853.8 KB)

Les gestes prolongés. Postface

Bec explores the significance of gestures in Flusser’s work, linking them to Flusser’s writing activity as well as to Flusser himself. Through his gestures, his gesticulating, he moved to move others. The world manifests itself in gestures. New gestures may appear, influencing and changing how we relate to reality. The new gestures of photographing, filming, and videotaping will alter our ways of existence in that they anticipate a new cybernetic form of life.

Les gestes prolongés (PDF 105.36 KB)

3. Vilém Flusser 1920 / 1991

This text tells the story of a long and productive friendship: the first encounters between Flusser and Bec, their ritualized Saturday afternoon conversations, their common interests. It also tells the story of their trip to Prague in 1986. The text ends with a description of Bec’s and Flusser’s most important project – Vampyroteuthis infernalis (1987) – thereby introducing the reader to the following two essays.

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