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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)

Ménage à trois: Riflessioni sulle nozioni di diafanità e trasparenza nell’opera di Mira Schendel, Jean Gebser e Vilém Flusser

This paper deals with the difficult friendship between Mira Schendel and Vilém Flusser, as well as the role, which the life and work of the German philosopher, writer, and translator Jean Gebser (1905-1973) played in their dialogue. In the late 1960s, Schendel and Flusser studied and discussed Gebser’s Ursprung und Gegenwart. Schendel, who visited Gebser in Switzerland in 1968, was profoundly influenced by his spiritual view of reality and used his notion of Diaphanität (transparency) to interpret her own early work. In a few essays and in the Bodenlos’ chapter dedicated to Schendel, Flusser reinterpreted the work of the Brazilian artist in terms of his own philosophy, transforming the religious notion of Diaphanität into the sole ability to see beyond the surface of things. This, however, is only one aspect of the complex relationship between the three thinkers. The paper also deals with the impact the text in Bodenlos had on the Flusser-Schendel relationship and with the pervasive influence of Gebser’s work upon Flusser’s thought between the 1950s and the 1980s. Gebser’s model of the four different and succeeding Bewußtseinsmutationen, mutations of conscience, proposes five different dimensions (Bewußtseinsstrukturen), which move from zero to the fourth dimension. This notion can also be found in Flusser’s model of code evolution, which he developed in Into the Universe of Technical Images. Flusser proposed five stages, which move, however, in reverse, from four to zero dimensionality.

Ménage à trois (PDF 531.78 KB)