Letters / Farben statt Formen / Coloration replacing formalisation / Farben verschlüsseln / Karl Gerstner / Vilém Flusser und die Farben
Vilém Flusser and Karl Gerstner got to know each other in February 1987 at the 2nd Latin American Seminar on Alternatives for the teaching of the history of science and technology. Their letter exchange covers a period of about two years (1987-1989). Flusser and Gerstner were united by an intellectual and emotional friendship, read each other’s works, and dedicated a very personal text to one another: “Karl Gerstner” and “Vilém Flusser und die Farben” published in 1992 after Flusser‘s death. Flusser wrote two other texts “Farben verschlüsseln“ and “Farben statt Formen“, together with its English version „Coloration replacing formalisation“ in early 1988, as a discussion proposal for Gerstner. He dedicated “Farben verschlüsseln“ to Gerstner and sent the text with a letter, dated March 4, 1988. While Flusser wrote all his texts with a typewriter, Gerstner’s letters are practically all handwritten and in some cases in colour. To emphasize this difference the letters have been published separately and in different formats: Flusser’s letters are PDF-files and Gerstner’s JPEG and JPG-files.
Reading Flusser is not easy. One can easily get lost in his nomadic thought. Flusser’s writing must be understood as a game, with its own rules: the reader needs to play with those rules, by following or transgressing them. In this short essay, an excerpt from my doctoral dissertation, I try to detect some of Flusser’s habits as a writer that any reader should take into account. His anti-academicism, his plurilingualism, and his interdisciplinary approach demand extra work but can also be very fruitful.
Im Spielraum der Ironie. Wie Vilém Flusser über Design schrieb
Flusser’s writings on design are mainly characterized by an essayistic and ironic style. In my text, I highlight Flusser’s use of these two styles, since he considered that the conventional approaches of established discourses could not adequately address the existing realities, and their complexities. For Flusser, essays are phenomenological narrations concerned with arbitrary objects, in which the distinction between common and high culture becomes blurred. That explains why his writings on design and ethics, or on design and war, are described as being difficult to access, and are even provocative. But it is not only the content of Flusser’s essays that provokes. His ironic and parodist style of writing is used to make a caricature of the complacency of the design debates of his time, and to point to the evasive question of responsibility in design. He noted that ethical issues were never raised in relation to the designed objects, and thus he portrayed the design of common or mundane objects as being irresponsible, given that designers focused their attention solely on the object, rather than on the people who use it, or on the cultural contexts in which they were used. Accordingly, Flusser identified design as a tool by which culture betrayed itself. To emphasize this point, he employed images and exaggerations in his essays, which he called “karikaturale Vereinfachungen.” Flusser uses an elaborate etymological juggling of words and caricatures, which is key to his writings on design. I argue that without his etymological caricatures and the irony in his writings, Flusser could not have expressed his philosophy of design with precision.
Writing Philosophy. On Vilém Flusser’s Multilingual Dialogical Style
Flusser’s brilliant multilingual essayistic style is not only based on his practice of constant translation and retranslation. In his texts, he also makes frequent use of challenging metaphors, and even annoying comparisons, through an array of rhetorical devices including, etymologies, puns based on homophones (paronomasia), and polysemy, in order to draw the reader’s attention to the fundamental constructed ways of our looking at the world. His philosophical rhetoric of breaking up, multiplying, mixing, comparing, combining, linking and connecting is a strategy used to create novelty and surprise, that is, new information through recombination. Flusser’s philosophy operates on a meta-communicative level: language is a model, a network that captures meaning, given that all languages are artificial, and words do not primarily mean objects but other words of the same language or different languages. Languages are not primarily representational but interconnected systems of signs. Flusser calls our attention to the material side of the medium he is using, to the diversified opacity of the different languages he writes with. In sum, Flusser wants to achieve these different goals by having us embark with him as dialogical partners on an ironical journey.
Flussers In the Universe of Technical Images was published in 1985, and was part of a surge of speculative, science-fiction like books and films about the information age that was slowly but surely emerging. Related titles include William Gibsons Neuromancer (1984), Jean Baudrillards Fatal Strategies (1983), Paul Virilio’s Negative Horizon (1984), and James Camerons The Terminator (1984). In the book Flusser tries to speculatively come up with a set of concepts that would allow him to enter into the Universe of technical images that is slowly but surely coming about in the 1980’s. In Chapter 11 he makes a fundamental shift in his writing strategy, and decides to go beyond the philosophical project of inventing new concepts for new situations, and actually enter the Universe of Technical Images in order to become the future ‘telematic man’. The next 10 chapters are among the best ever written by Flusser and describe what he sees and experiences as telematic philosopher in UTI. He makes a distinction between traditional or handmade images, technical or machinic images and dialogical, digital images. This last category is interactive, democratic, open, divine, as is the corresponding telematic man.
Por um método flusseriano / For a Flusserian Method
In academic circles, Flusser has been traditionally considered to be a “minor” thinker, an author who lacks scholarly rigor and systematicity. If a text can be understood as a testimony of how thought operates, this article follows and explores in Flusser’s texts, his process of writing-thinking, as a particular method. To this end, three procedures will be invoked to systematize a methodological trinity: a form of affirmative writing that implies a certain economy of words; a paradoxical way of writing that creates, and afterwards dilutes dichotomies; and a textuality that is experiential, that is, an aesthetic of existence. The purpose of this endeavor is to create new methodological procedures inspired by Flusser’s processes of writing-action and thought-movement.
Drafting the Techno-Imagination: A Future for Literary Writing?
Vilém Flusser paints a dire picture for the future of literary writing. He contests that it is doomed to be replaced by automated language games. In that sense, one can see literature and the image-culture as antagonistic forces. Drawing on examples from contemporary German literature, however, I show in which ways the literary imagination may contribute to the formation of the techno-imagination. The authors Ulrike Draesner and Thomas Lehr scrutinize the impact that visual media has on conceptual thinking and identity. Core ideas from Flusser’s media theory, such as the photographer as homo ludens, communication as resistance to natural entropy, and the re-conceptualization of space and time, feature prominently in the two 2005 novels Spiele (Games) and 42. In these texts, the imaginative capacity of fictional literature provides a conceptual space in which a new awareness towards technical images is drafted, tested, and reviewed.
Vilém Flussers Bild-Theorie. Zur Philosophie des technischen Bildes ausgehend von der Fotografie
Towards a Philosophy of Photography presents all aspects of Flusser’s theory of technical images as well as the images’ ambivalence and paradoxes: the relation of writing and image from a historical and a post-historical perspective, the definition of technical images as images of concepts and as products of the (here: photographic) apparatus. The starting point of this approach to the photographic image is meta-theoretical: Flusser’s philosophical method oscillates between ‘telling stories’, a philosophical argumentation in the tradition of phenomenology, language philosophy and structuralism, a specific use of metaphors – and often together with Flusser’s own reflections of his ‘stories’, of ‘method’ and ‘metaphors’. This article explores Flusser’s philosophy as a field of intertwined ‘layers’ of argumentation that overlap in Flusser’s search for a new philosophy, corresponding with the new kind of images he proposes: a new philosophy in or through images. From this perspective, the shift from writing to image is accomplished by a shift from meta-theory to a ‘dia’ philosophy (Dieter Mersch), referring to the ‘metaphorological’ dimension of Flusser’s texts and his ‘gestures’.
Meu bem, você não entendeu nada: a generosidade cética de Vilém Flusser
The sentence “My dear, you didn’t understand nothing” was one of the preferred sentences of Vilém Flusser in his dialogs with scholars and visitors. But this judgment was not used as a vain statement of superiority. On the contrary: Flusser wanted to demonstrate the impossibility of any final truth, underlining the necessity of doubt and of the fictional structure of all our perception. Flusser’s famous sentence, apparently destructive, was not less than an unsuspected generosity, giving the scholars and visitors back what most kinds of opinion eliminate, that is, the doubt and the phenomenological view to see things from more than one perspective.
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?