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.
"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.
Che cosa legittima la fotografia? La produzione di un incontro tra Flusser e Vaccari
This paper describes the meeting between Flusser and the Italian artist and theorist Franco Vaccari in 1985 and 1987, and focuses on the philosophical, epistemological, and ethical basis of photography. The text is linked to the interview with Angelo Schwarz and the pictures at the end of this issue (Flusser in Italy). “What legitimates photography?” was a question proposed in the context of the symposium Torino Fotografia 1985. Today, the question is asked to address the “encounter” between Vilém Flusser and the artist Franco Vaccari. The latter is followed by a magnifying lens looking at the documentation of the real meeting between the two in 1985, but without the intention of finding the “proof.” While for Flusser, the invention of photography points to the beginning of a Post-Historical era in which he examines concepts of freedom and responsibility by combining the notion of the apparatus with the experience of exile, Vaccari activates the apparatus, and at the same time, lets his work be activated by it. In this way, the responsibility belongs to the apparatus itself, and the concept of freedom becomes a modus vivendi in which the photographer uses the apparatus to create meanings and “has a chance to discover what he didn’t know.” This process is weaved in the essay with interventions by Roberta Valtorta, who offers a socio-political overview of the photography context in Italy, and Franco Vaccari, who carefully thinks about an open answer for what can legitimize photography, as well as a related essay by Angelo Schwarz, the original author of the question which gives the title to this essay. The question of the legitimization of photography unravels through a methodology that explores what photography “becomes” by calling attention to the “subjects” of photography—or, as Ariella Azoulay defined, “the citizens of photography.”
Da soggetti a progetti. L'abbandono dell'Humanismus in Vilém Flusser
By focusing on two of Flusser’s last writings, this essay tries to address the question of the relationship between Flusserian thought and the tradition of humanism. Moving towards a form of intersubjectivity based on dialogue and mutual responsibility, Flusser succeeded in breaking the bonds that bind the contemporary subject to modernity’s unbearable burden. He described the meaning of a contemporary becoming human in a very distinctive way. Indeed, the trajectory drawn by Flusser is not entirely superimposable on the actual vernacular of post-humanism and I believe that its deepening could open us up to more responsible ways to deal with technological development and “post-humanist technologies”.
The Black Box and the Techno-Imagination of the Sublime: Flusser, Kant, and Iñarritu’s 11’09”01
Despite the possibility for “meta-programming,” the relationship that the photographer maintains to the apparatus in Flusser’s theory is one in which the latter not only conditions the processes of image making and viewing, but perpetuates the larger cultural framework of the technical image. Acting as a materialization of a larger discursive regime, the camera oversees and manages micro- and macro- distributions of the program of which it is a part. This essay attempts to draw out the larger implications of this model by engaging with disaster photography, specifically, the seeming ubiquitous impulse to take pictures in the context of 9/11. Rather than the ineffable of the sublime or unassimilable of trauma studies, Flusser’s ideas allow us to approach this scenario from a materialist framework, suggesting a unique camera consciousness of disaster which functions as a specific category within its larger program rather than its compromise or negation.
Vilém Flusser’s Theories of Photography and Technical Images in a U.S. Art Historical Context
In the field of U.S. art history, the photography specialization is fairly new and the discourse is dominated by a handful of voices like Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes, while Vilém Flusser has been virtually ignored. This essay examines the trilogy of “technical image” texts Flusser wrote in the 1980s—Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983), Into the Universe of Technical Images (1985), and Does Writing Have a Future? (1987)—and beyond these, locating the seeds of Flusser’s “photophilosophy” in his use of information and communications theory to develop concepts like “image,” “apparatus,” “program,” and “information.” It considers the U.S. art historical bias toward writers like Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, and the “control society” ethos of Gilles Deleuze and Flusser’s proposal that technical images and photography criticism could provide models for creative disruption of apparatus and finally, “human freedom.” Placed in the current moment, with its crises of environment, technology, economy, and geopolitics, this essay considers Flusser’s writing as a form of ethics and politics in which photography serves as a model for thinking about history, culture, revolution, and consciousness.
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.
Estética da Fotografia: um diálogo entre Benjamin e Flusser
This article seeks to establish a dialogue between the philosophical aesthetics of Walter Benjamin and Vilém Flusser, by pointing out the various intersections and resonances relating the two thinkers in their unique vision of the place and role of photography in contemporary culture. For both philosophers, the photographic apparatus in fact operates a fundamental cut, a paradigmatic rupture not only in the universe of images and in terms of a visual ontology, but in our own way of being and being-in-world. It is not just a new image (mechanical, reproducible, multipliable), but a new apparatus, a medium that brings into play a series of perceptual metamorphosis by introducing new ways of feeling and perceiving the world. Therefore, radically transforming our relationship with the visible and its invisible counterpart.
Bazin, Flusser y la Estética de la fotografia / Bazin, Flusser and the Aesthetics of Photography
Both the film theoretician Bazin and the philosopher of photography Flusser follow a well-known tradition according to which aesthetic experience belongs in the realm of the extraordinary. In this way, that which makes a photograph an aesthetic object is its link to the extraordinary. Nevertheless, Flusser deals with photography within the frame of a general theory concerning technical images. Such images have, according to him, a quantitative structure. Consequently, the extraordinary character of photography would vary in a quantitative way. Furthermore, again according to Flusser, there is a reversal of meaning taking place within the realm of technical images: the technical image is existentially meaningful in itself, not because of what it represents. So, in the case of photography the meaning vector does not point to the world but to the image itself: the image is real, not its object. Of course, this idea implies a complete break with Bazin’s ontology of the photographic image. According to Bazin the image and its object share the same nature, the way a fingerprint does. Photographs, furthermore, awaken our admiration for the object, and are mostly used only for that.
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.