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"Für eine Phänomenologie des Fernsehens" III: Nam June Paik und eine künstlerische Phänomenologie

When Vilém Flusser arrived at the conference held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in January 1974 he did not know that an artist was responsible both for the conception and the title of the meeting. Flusser aspired to develop his media theory differently and in front of a completely different philosophical background as McLuhan. Nam June Paik, at that time in his zenith, most likely influenced Flusser philosophically as well as in terms of art examples and much more than Flusser was ready to admit in his short reference to one of Paik’s early non-electronic pre-video films. It is a bit strange that Flusser shied away from the confrontation with art in and with television. It is all the more important to determine the theoretical space that Nam June Paik must have opened to Flusser and others. Against this background it becomes clear that Flusser was able to approach the heritage of phenomenology in a more open und artistic, that is, in a more literary and essayistic way.

"Für eine Phänomenologie des Fernsehens" II: das Schicksal eines Texts und der Wechsel zur Fotografie

Although Vilém Flusser’s text „Für eine Phänomenologie des Fernsehens“ is only 21 pages long there is no other text in his oeuvre that shows the same concern  for philosophical and methodological reflection. A first, incompletely elaborated version for the New York symposium in January 1974 was published with a four years delay. However, the definitive version Flusser provided has not been published. A new object of research is superimposed onto the unlucky old enterprise of a theory of television.

"Für eine Phänomenologie des Fernsehens" I: Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Immanuel Kant und Günther Anders

Although Flusser does not explain and develop his philosophical and methodological claims on the first three pages of his mini treatise „Für eine Phänomenologie des Fernsehens“ (1997 <1974>), there is enough evidence for Flusser’s fundamentally phenomenological credo. The philosophers of Flusser’s implicit references can be unmistakably detected: Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Immanuel Kant and Günther Anders. On the one hand, Flusser appears to be strongly rooted in the phenomenological tradition. On the other, in a text on Husserl’s (late) philosophy written in 1986/87, Flusser reveals that he had changed his mind in the meantime turning to a sociology of media that dispenses with the phenomenological stance that was the main aim of his thinking on media in the 1970ies.

Naturalmente artificiale. Natura e cultura a volo d’uccello

What can still be defined as ‘authentic’ in our world today? Is it true that we are interested only in the ‘authentic’ nature (or what we think it is)? What does ‘authentic’ mean in relation to nature? In the essays of Vogelflüge, published for the first time in São Paulo in 1979 under the title Natural: mente, Vilém Flusser investigates the paradoxical connection between the concepts of authenticity and artificiality, proposing the cultural form of nature as a model of the natural form of culture. As occasional philosophy from a bird’s-eye perspective, the volume is the expression of an experimental method of thought and writing, which corresponds to the essentially utopian nature of the human being. The full postmodern consciousness of the difference between the need for authenticity and the impossibility of satisfying it, explains Flusser’s phenomenologically distanced, yet poetic approach to the natural simulacra of his own culture.

Naturalmente artificiale (PDF 246.94 KB)

What Can Arnheim Learn from Flusser (and Vice Versa)?

This paper fills a gap in Flusser scholarship by conducting an initial comparison of Flusser with Rudolf Arnheim. After noting their similar approaches – open both to science and phenomenology – it looks closely at each theorist’s respective theory of photography. They differ in that Flusser believes that the photography as a technical apparatus is not objective. However, with some contextualization each can be seen to say complementary things. Reflecting on each theorist’s cautiously optimistic or pessimistic approach to evolving media, the paper concludes with thoughts on how they give helpful ideas on how to flesh out aspects of the other’s thought.

Arnheim and Flusser (PDF 169.37 KB)

Fotografieren als phänomenologische Tätigkeit. Zur Husserl-Rezeption bei Flusser

Vilém Flusser not only defines his theoretical work as phenomenology, he considers the act of photography itself a phenomenological act. For this reason this contribution seeks to answer the question how much Flusser’s conception of phenomenology owes to Edmund Husserl and in what ways he has transformed Husserl’s own philosophical tenets. The main idea of this essay is that Flusser has reduced Husserl’s phenomenology to the concept of phenomenography. Nowhere in Flusser, in fact, can we trace any mention of Husserl’s idea of phenomenology as an aprioristic science of essentials. On the basis of this reduced understanding of phenomenology as a cultural science, however, Flusser discovers a remarkable structural affinity between philosophy and photography.

Fotografieren (PDF 188.67 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?

A perturbante estranheza do Novo: o Brasil de Vilém Flusser

Is Flusser’s Phenomenology of the Brazilian a Brazilian utopia or does it contain just the depiction of an alienated underdeveloped country? The article tries to demonstrate that it is neither. Surely, there is a utopian tradition to “thinking” Brazil. Right from its “discovery,” Brazil was a utopia. In some way, even the utopian genre as such is Brazilian, as Utopia (1516) was (vaguely) written within the context of the debate over the “discovery” of Brazil. But, of course, a utopia is not about the other but about the self. Nevertheless, Brazil also inaugurated a rather distinct tradition of discourse: the discourse about the New. Brazil, in the sixteenth century, was the “New World” (Vespucci). The idea of a “New World” requires a conceptual revolution as it necessarily alters what was the world before: one’s own world ages. Flusser continues this tradition. He thinks Brazil neither as a better nor as a worse complement to the European self but as something which, from a European/“occidental” point of view, is unimaginable, absurd, even abject. His book is about the strangeness of Brazil and its disproportionate difference. To think the New is almost impossible (and, occasionally, Flusser cannot avoid slipping into the utopian trap). It seeks to overcome the categories of thinking of the self as it emerges, however, the self can only find absence and even perversion of meaning. So, to the “occidental” eye, and as an underdeveloped country, Brazil appears principally as a country of alienation. This means that the Brazilians degenerated from the human way of being perceived as “true” to the “occidental” eye. Now, Flussers asks: what is the true human way of being? It is teleological concept. The Brazilians never had a “true” being to lose. The concepts of alienation and underdevelopment, therefore, are not only inappropriate for “thinking” Brazil, they hinder the conception of the profound alterity of the country. What is unthinkable and inadmissible for these categories is the place of the New. The New, in conclusion, only appears if the self changes and becomes other. In this sense, to think the New which Brazil represents means to become Brazilian, which is what happens with the narrator-immigrant of the book.

Estranheza do Novo (PDF 150.1 KB)

No-nada. Formas brasileiras do niilismo

In his notes from 1887-1888 Nietzsche wrote that “European Nihilism," the “uncanniest all of guests” [unheimlichste aller Gäste], is already waiting at the door. He tried to show that there will be several ways of nihilism in history. The present essay investigates the question, starting out from Vilem Flusser's “Fenomenologia do Brasileiro," whether there are specific “brazilian ways of being-in-nothing” [estar-no-nada].

No-nada (PDF 134.14 KB)

Verwurzelung und Bodenlosigkeit – Strukturelle Fremdheit bei Vilém Flusser

The paper delivers a reading of Flusser’s Concept ‘Bodenlosigkeit’ (groundlessness) with respect to the Husserlian concept of ‘Lebenswelt’ (life-world). By examining the connection between ‘Bodenlosigkeit’ with its complementary term ‘Verwurzelung’ (rootage), ‘Bodenlosigkeit’ is illustrated as Flusser’s idea for what current phenomenological approaches call ‘structural foreignness.’ ‘Structural foreignness’ functions as an important premise for Flusser’s subsequent philosophy of dialogue and communication.