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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.

Selbst-Übersetzung und mehrsprachiges Schreiben

In this e-mail exchange, Christen focuses on his career as a bilingual writer. He started out with German poetry, but is now writing in both German and French moving back and forth between the two languages. Christen defines self-translation as a form of recreation. Differences between languages are not a drawback but activate the artist’s creativity.

Selbst-Übersetzung (PDF 260.13 KB)

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.

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.”

Post-History, technical images and freedom in times of barbarism

Amongst the various media theorists who emerged in the last century, Walter Benjamin and Vilém Flusser are unquestionable references in regard to issues related to the narratives and the world of images. In addition to thinking about media devices and apparatuses beyond technical objects, both Benjamin and Flusser considered media images as concepts that articulate new epistemological and ontological views of the world.

On the other hand, it is possible to identify in both theorists thought processes that engage the concept of history with different perspectives. In line with critiques of a universal and hegemonic history, and without falling into an apologetic discourse about a presumed end of history, these authors offer us fresh perspectives in relation to historicism through a fruitful dialogue with the realm of technical images.

Post-history, technical images, and freedom in times of barbarism focuses not only upon contributions by Walter Benjamin and Vilém Flusser, but the article also examines the curatorial perspective of Arquivo Vivo, showcased at the Paço das Artes, in São Paulo, in 2013. This exhibition highlights the central position of art in the production of knowledge about images, history, and narratives within the framework of contemporaneity.

Post-History (PDF 228.26 KB)

Creativity with Apparatuses: from Chamber Music to Telematic Dialog

This article examines Flusser’s ideas on creativity with apparatus as a model for communication in a telematic society. By placing Flusser’s thinking in the post World War II context, it explores relations to Walter Benjamin’s criticism of technical reproduction and Katherine Hayles’ notion of the post-human. By focusing on Flusser’s suggestion of chamber music as a prototype of telematic dialog, it proposes an analysis of chamber music, electroacoustic music and digital audio technology aiming to critically illuminate Flusser’s utopian vision of telematics dialog from the perspective of music.