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The Zahir in Jorge Luis Borges’ story is an object by which men become obsessed and are no more able to see anything beyond it. The mystery: why does the Zahir has this attractor power? Borges questions himself the reason why Tennyson said that if we could understand one single flower, we could understand what the world is. “Perhaps he was trying to say that there is nothing, however humble, that does not imply the history of the world and its infinite concatenation of causes and effects.” And then the Zahir would also have this potency of revealing the nature of being and existence. I conciliate Deleuze’s object’s ontology and Flusser’s concept of virtuality with aspects of the Sufi philosophy in order to investigate how a single object manifests itself, what are its potencies of existence beyond the real and the relations this object maintains with other systems to comprehend the whole through it.

Al-Zahir (PDF 334.91 KB)

Notes on Antarctica Tempo

This article is the outcome of an audiovisual performance proposed for the Conference Vilém Flusser and His “Languages.” It presents the concept, aesthetic and technical choices on Antarctica Tempo, a Live Cinema work of art and science resulting from a 60-day expedition to Antarctica. The perception of this place and the pace of the trip are mixed with scientific research, my subjective view, and control within the military environment. It is a mixture of codes – software and language – that try to translate the experience lived in that distant place. The language I want to portray here is the technical image, the remix of this imagined place and tempo.

Notes (PDF 903.86 KB)

Reversing the vectors of meaning. The diagrammatic language of Vilém Flusser

According to his own cultural analysis, Flusser was a man of yesterday. He, who wrote nearly every day of his life, was himself subject to the “textolatry” of modernity. A modernity, though, which would soon shift into a new epoch which Flusser and others had given similar names: post-histoire, post- modernity, information or telematic society. In this new situation, according to Flusser, written text would become a marginal code, soon to be superseded by the “technical image” as universal means of communication and information storage. Thus, Flusser described authors like himself, which would stay engaged with text, as “the new illiterates” of the upcoming age. But although Flusser was a man of the written word, I will argue that there was at least one type of sign system with which he also operated frequently and which can be linked to his image heuristics: the diagram. Scattered over his manuscripts, letters and notes, over 160 diagrammatic sketches can be found in the Vilém Flusser Archive. Compared to the thousands of documents in the archive, this seems to be a small number. But his diagrammatic sketches are not only interesting considering the nearly exclusively textual character of Flusser’s legacy; they can also be described as Flusserian technical images. According to the semiotic definition of the diagram by Charles S. Peirce, diagrammatic signs constitute a specific subclass of the icon: A diagram resembles its object not by visual but structural similarity. By drawing a diagram, one proposes a hypothesis about the structure of its object, thus manifesting an abstract concept as a concrete sign. Here we come close to Flusser’s notion of technical images as projections of abstract models. Following up on this comparison, the paper pleas for a non-trivial relation between Flusser’s heuristic of the technical image and his diagrammatic practice.

Reversing (PDF 1.13 MB)

The Fourth Meaning of the Image: Flusser’s Invitation to Envision the World

This short essay is composed of excerpts from the doctoral thesis entitled Image as Articulation of Thought. It focuses on a few inputs by Vilém Flusser on the subject of the technical image and the necessity of becoming active participants in the illusory world we are now living in. For this to happen, we must step out of our condition of being functionaries and become (en)visionaries. That is, we must step out of a linear model of thinking into a superficial one, one that is based entirely on images.

Fourth Meaning (PDF 207.7 KB)

Can We Think Computation in Images or Numbers? Critical Remarks on Vilém Flusser’s Philosophy of Digital Technologies

The article questions Flusser’s concept of the computational universe based on technical images. Emphasizing the role of the calculative, formal consciousness the article suggests a non-representational, non-hermeneutical approach to “calculating machines” as machines that allow to mechanize a certain type of thinking (mathematical thinking). At the same time, the article reformulates Flusser’s search for a new philosophy as a critical intervention into the programmed universe, arguing that this philosophy must not follow its technical logic, but find a way to reflect how different techniques and practices shape the numerical, imaginative and textual consciousness.

Can we think (PDF 411.42 KB)

Raising the Temperature of the Conversation in the 21st Century

The main goal of this presentation was to connect our wireless culture populated by “smart objects” and Flusser’s predictions for a telematics society, as well as to examine the inversions he envisioned in the exchanges between art and science. Seven artists have been included in the slide presentation: Eduardo Kac, a pioneer of Bio Art eroding boundaries between subject and object; Paul Miller, who creates sound pieces from scientific data; Laura Poitras’s documentary films and exhibition about surveillance and the use of remote technologies in war as well as Andrea Fraser’s institutional critique; Giselle Beiguelman articulating the concept of techno-cannibalism; Lucas Bambozzi exploring the invisibility of electronic waves, issues of obsolescence and waste; and the work of Cuban artist Ernesto Oroza’s notion of “technological disobedience”.

The Unassimilable Image

This short essay considers Flusser’s thoughts concerning the relationship between image and language in light of Hubert Damisch’s Theory of /Cloud/. It explores the degrees to which the image—despite a flood of contemporary manifestations particularly of what Flusser called the ‘technical image’—remains resistant to textually based systems of communication and (scientific) knowledge. It proposes a necessary openness to the image where, given the nature of how sense is made regarding the multiple ways it can be approached or ‘read’, provisionality and indeterminacy are essential, positive attributes.

Considering linear perspective as a precursor to the technical image, the paper explores the sense in which the ineffable—seen as intrinsically related to Damisch’s notion of /cloud/—is inseparable from and perhaps essential to the representational systems signified by the camera or the computer. These emerge from a constantly developing ‘net’ of language through which knowledge about the world is defined and acquires its dizzying complexity. This net is regarded as intertwined with, yet of a different order to, the image. Flusser’s technical image locates this concept firmly within a linguistic system but such an image still has echoes of its origins, and is thus open to difference in terms of how it is approached and what can be drawn from it. This is a productive incompleteness. Some of the author’s visual works, which are thoroughly enmeshed with the thoughts that have led to such thinking, are represented and function as asides, responses, or counterbalances to the ideas explored in the text.

The Unassimilable Image (PDF 657.56 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.

Die Briefe zwischen Vilém Flusser und Felix Philipp Ingold, 1981–1990

This article examines the correspondence between Vilém Flusser and Felix Philipp Ingold, a professor of cultural and social history of Russia, besides being a well-known poet, writer, and translator. In this extensive correspondence (1981–1990), both scholars reflect upon and criticize each other’s work, in a very productive manner. Especially Flusser, who was challenged to be more precise about central terms of his cultural philosophy, and media/communication theory. The article gives an overview of the last topics discussed by them. However, because it could not equality examine all concepts in depth, it focus upon the correspondence that helped Flusser clarify his concept of technical/synthetic image – which remains, nevertheless, an ambivalent term.

Translations and Transcriptions from Bielicky’s Recordings with Flusser in Summer 1991

In August 1991, Michael Bielicky brought his video camera with him to spend a few days in Robion with Vilém Flusser and Edith Flusser. The resulting intimate video recordings would be among the last made with Flusser before he died. Beside formal interviews, Bielicky filmed Flusser giving an anthropological sightseeing tour of the area around his home, in addition to a somewhat awkward visit from some television producers. Though Bielicky’s trip was supported by the German television channel WDR, only one part of the video recordings was ever shown on television—the scenes in which Flusser speaks from a window of his house about the prospects for Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union. The rest of the footage was edited into “Vilém Flussers Fluss” (Vilém Flusser’s Flow) released on video by 235 Media Verlag Köln. 

Recordings (PDF 245.65 KB)