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Translation as an Act of Freedom – Vilém Flusser’s Philosophy of Translation

In this text I want to define Flusser’s notion of translation. The basis for my essay are his writings on language and translation. Focussing on the power and strength of language I will relate these writings to Ernst Jünger’s book Lob der Vokale which Flusser mentions in the bibliography of Língua e Realidade. In the first part of my text I deal with the aspects of linguistic domination and submission that arise when Flusser uses a specific language. They are two sides of the same medal. In the second part I discuss Flusser’s methods of translation more precisely. At this point I will take up his concept of ‘fragrancy’ (fragrância) which points in the same direction as Walter Benjamin’s ‘way of meaning’ (Art des Meinens). Lastly I argue that Flusser’s translation activities have to be understood within his dialogical concept of freedom as an opening towards the other.

Imagens da Pós-História: um diálogo entre Flusser e Benjamin

This paper intends to establish a dialogue between Vilém Flusser and Walter Benjamin, considering their similarities and their differences. First, this approximation is inscribed in the philosophy of language, in which both authors take the category of “nomination” as a primordial act. Second, their common interest in technology and media, as determining elements in modern society, leads to a fertile and critical discussion towards the concepts of “technological reproducibility” and “technical image”. Finally, and no less important, is the philosophy of history, in which their positions contrast: their concepts of “history” and “post-history” are defined by the opposition between continuity and discontinuity. According to Flusser, history is essentially linear. It starts with the invention of writing and ends with the invention of technical images in post-history, which is essentially discontinuous. Benjamin, on the other hand, declines the concept of history as continuity, and develops a model based upon the principle of “assemblage”, in which history and post-history are simultaneously embraced. Flusser’s concept of post-history, nevertheless, is similar to Benjamin’s concept of history in some aspects, mainly in their common emphasis upon technical images. The crucial difference between them lies in the word “post-history” (Nachgeschichte), or “posterior history”, which in Benjamin does not have the same substantive meaning Flusser gives it, nor does it designate a specific period.

“To make music with visionary power”. On the Relationship of Music and Mathematics in Vilém Flusser’s Work

This essay deals with the relationship of mathematics and music in Vilém Flusser’s work, an aspect that has not received the attention it deserves. Related issues are the complex dialectics of sound, number, image and word as well as the relationship of hearing and seeing. The essay focuses on two texts written 22 years apart but closely connected to each other: The History of the Devil (1963) and Into the Universe of Technical Images (1985). This makes it possible to illustrate the inner coherence of the whole oeuvre and the persistence with which Flusser kept returning to the same central issues of his thinking and writing. In the context of the issue discussed here, this leads to an all-encompassing synthesis of several diverging aspects. In the new computerized technical images mathematics and music, the West and the East, art and science merge, the senses and the codes come together, the eye, the ear and the fingertips, the visual, the acoustic and the tactile converge and fuse creating a new unheard of and unseen multilingual, multi-mediatic and multi-discursive unity.

Visionary power (PDF 286.84 KB)

Palavras e Signos: as estéticas da significação em Deleuze e Flusser

The aim of this work is to investigate the process through which we can produce meaning. In order to achieve such a goal, it is our intent to compare - in such a way that can be described as the friction between two pieces of wood - the ideas of Flusser and Deleuze on the subject. Therefore, the results achieved by the texts Língua e Realidade and Proust et les signes will be characterized in their differences and similarities in order to describe the process of making sense as a poetic and an aesthetic gesture. Both of the authors found their reflection about word/sign in a space division between worlds of signs and cultural types of language. This contribution wants to journey through such worlds and countries not only to make a map of Flusser and Deleuze’s ideas, but also to find space divisions of our own. In this sense, the cities of Jerusalem and Athena were discovered as two different ways to think about language – and the possibility (or not) of a communication between these two tracks are the main opposition of the ideas studied here.

Palavras (PDF 289.94 KB)

Uma reinterpretação linguística da ontologia

This essay intends to explore the ontological consequences of Vilém Flusser’s philosophy of language that he introduced in his first works, written in Portuguese and published in Brazil. This paper will critically examine its main topics: his definition of speech as an act and language as an expanding human presence in the cosmos; linguistic performance as the most dignifying human characteristic and the identification of reality with language; and finally, the thesis that language creates, shapes and disseminates reality. Starting out from an instrumental definition of language, Flusser is compelled to define the world as secondary in relation to language. This paper tries to examine the underlying tensions or paradoxes of such a position as part of Flusser’s dramatic rhetoric strategy, exploring the dangers of an extremely idealistic position sustaining the project of a linguistic ontology.

Reinterpretação (PDF 225.65 KB)

O mundo novo da língua no itinerário de Vilém Flusser

When Vilém Flusser reached Brazil as a Jewish fugitive in the early 1940s, he didn´t know any Portuguese, and he faced a long and difficult path of nearly twenty years until he published his first article in the language of the new tropical world. From this painful experience with a new form of thinking, and by practicing a constant dialog between his Jewish-Czech-German culture rooted in Prague and the Portuguese language, he discovered that whatever he thought in Portuguese was informed by a specific Portugality or Brazilianness, that every language has its reality and that this new language and culture didn’t fit in with the categories of his youth. In this process, Flusser turned to one of the most important philosophers, including some of the most important intellectuals like Guimarães Rosa, who recognized the special character of the Portuguese language and who contributed fundamentally to the development of an authentic Luso-Brazilian philosophy.

Mundo novo (PDF 213.53 KB)

Invisible in plain sight, and as alive as you and I: An Interview with Eduardo Kac

Eduardo Kac’s visionary oeuvre shares with Vilém Flusser an exploration of language and communication without regard for the usual disciplinary boundaries, thus often combining art, science and technology with communication, philosophy and poetry. In this interview, Kac talks about his transgenic creations, which began in 1999, and include Alba, his famous and controversial GFP Bunny born in 2000. Kac also examines the different meanings of genetic manipulation in art, science and religion, and further points to the future of bio art as well as that of his own work.

Invisible in plain sight (PDF 105.51 KB)

A insustentável leveza de pensar: Jogos, joguinhos e jogaços de Vilém Flusser

This article seeks to disclose the strategies used by Vilém Flusser for writing his texts while living in Brazil. After presenting the basic elements of his Brazilian „performance“, we turn our attention to the controversies around him – why was he rejected by many contemporary scholars, why was he subjected to severely ironic criticism by professional critics and – at the same time – aroused great interest among a vast number of readers? Starting from the analysis of his book “Language and reality“ and from three essays, we try to show that the philosopher developed the practice of playing a particular kind of game as a clear and sophisticated strategy to get across an emotional and eloquent meaning through his work. In the last pages of his book “Brazilian Phenomenology," written shortly after leaving Brazil for good, he introduces the behavioral characteristics of a new man, the “homo ludens" whose involvement with society displays structure of a game: neither to win, nor to avoid defeat, but to play with the purpose of changing the rules of the game. Studying the works of Vilém Flusser, we reach the conclusion that he himself used this third type of action, crossing through the traditional discourse of western science, causing the indignation of professors, irritating journalists and fascinating readers.

A insustentável leveza (PDF 110.11 KB)