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Art and Language in Vilém Flusser’s Brazil: Concrete Art and Poetry

Paradoxically, Flusser felt exiled to the periphery of intellectual life and culture by his forced migration to Brazil in 1940, but he was actually arriving at a center of innovation in art and writing. The Museu de Arte Moderna opened in São Paulo in 1948, the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro in 1949, and the inaugural São Paulo Biennial in 1951. Concrete art intersected with Concrete poetry and Flusser was profoundly impacted by these developments. Flusser was impressed by the formal layout of Concrete art and poetry and their approaches to space, color, and typography. Concrete painting and poetry served as proto- interfaces or screens and offered what poet and theorist Haroldo de Campos called a “new dialogical relationship” with “imperial” languages. These developments caught the attention of Max Bense, the information-aesthetics theorist who served as an early and important model for Flusser, and who exhibited Concrete poetry, as well as computer-generated drawings and the work of Flusser’s friend Mira Schendel, in the Study Gallery at the University of Stuttgart. Flusser translated a fragment of Haroldo de Campos’ Galáxias for Bense’s and Elisabeth Walther’s experimental journal rot, and the enduring impact of Concrete art and poetry can be glimpsed in Flusser’s later concepts: the “superficial” reading of technical images, non-linear “post-historical” thinking, and the idea that philosophy itself would be practiced in images rather than written words.

Art and Language (PDF 424.1 KB)