Rainer Guldin (Ph.D.) was Adjunct professor of German language and Culture (2003-2022) at the Faculty of Communication Sciences of the Università della Svizzera italiana in Lugano (Switzerland). He studied English and German Literature in Zurich and Birmingham (Great Britain). His diploma was dedicated to the American writer H. P. Lovecraft, and his Ph.D. thesis focused on the work of the German writer Hubert Fichte. He taught courses and held seminars at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) in Brazil (2001), the Bauhaus Universität in Weimar (Germany) (2003), and the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies of the University of Manchester (England) (2013). He was also visiting professor (Cathedra IEAT/Fundep) at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte (UFMG) Brazil (2012). In 2013 and 2015, he taught a master’s course on multilingual literature at the University of St. Gallen (HSG) (Switzerland). Publications: Philosophie des Windes. Versuch über das Unberechenbare, Bielefeld, 2023; Vilém Flusser – Hundert Zitate (together with Andreas Müller-Pohle), Berlin 2020; Metaphors of Multilingualism. Changing Attitudes towards Language Diversity in Literature, Linguistics and Philosophy, Routledge, New York, 2020; O homem sem chão: a biografia de Vilém Flusser, Annablume, Sāo Paulo (2017); and Vilém Flusser (1920-1991). Ein Leben in der Bodenlosigkeit. Biographie, transcript, Bielefeld 2017 (together with Gustavo Bernardo); Translation as Metaphor, Routledge, New York 2016 and 22018; Politische Landschaften. Zum Verhältnis von Raum und nationaler Identität, transcript, Bielefeld 2014; Spiegelgeschichten. Zu Hubert Fichtes und Hans Henny Jahnns Thomas Chatterton, Rimbaud Verlag, Aachen 2010; Wolkenformationen […] aus dem Dunst der Möglichkeiten. Zur nubigenen Einbildungskraft, Walther König, Cologne 2009; Vilém Flusser (together with Anke Finger and Gustavo Bernardo), W. Fink UTB, Paderborn 2009; Die Sprache des Himmels. Eine Geschichte der Wolken, Kadmos, Berlin 2006; Philosophieren zwischen den Sprachen. Vilém Flussers Werk, Wilhelm Fink, Munich 2005.
Articles of Rainer Guldin
A Modest Proposal for the Saponification of Fats: On the Role of Satire in Vilém Flusser’s Work
The starting point of this essay is an interview with Andreas Müller-Pohle and Volker Rapsch (August 1988), in which Flusser defined his writing style as satirical and Vampyroteuthis infernalis as a satirical text. In the interview, Flusser also speaks of academic seriousness as a role to be played, questioning simple notions of authorial objectivity. Flusser’s comment has far reaching consequences for the interpretation of his other writings and raises a series of questions: Was he trying to influence the reception of his new book Angenommen that would be published only one year later, or did he want to reorient the way his books were being read in Germany at the time? Is there an ironical, fabulatory undertone in all his writings even those considered to be straightforward comments on communication and media theory? The first part of the essay discusses some elements of Flusser’s use of satire and compares his short satirical text “Verseifung” (Saponification) with Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal”. The second part deals with Flusser’s satirical use of animal characters (ants, unicorns, the taenia solium, and the imaginary hybrid creature Bibliophagus convictus) in his philosophical fables and their relationship to the Vampyroteuthis infernalis.
Colorarium: The Exchange of Letters between Vilém Flusser, Karl Gerstner, Philippe Henry and Gottfried Jäger
This essay is about the relationship and collaboration between Vilém Flusser, Karl Gerstner, Philippe Henry, and Gottfried Jäger and the way this impacted the project of the House of Colour in São Paulo between 1987 and 1989. In this period, Flusser exchanged numerous letters and texts with his three correspondents, continuously re-elaborating and expanding his ideas about colour and their specific role in the project. This communication process was naturally enough multilingual. Flusser used English, German and Portuguese interspersed with French. Jäger wrote his texts in German, Gerstner in German and English, and Henry used Portuguese and French. The plurality of idioms is echoed in the use of different media. Besides forms of written communication (letters, essays, telegrams), video interviews were done in Robion, which were viewed and commented upon in Brazil. Henry conveyed the questions by phone and Flusser reacted in written form. Gerstner and Flusser wrote several texts together. Flusser travelled three times to Brazil, visited Gerstner in Basel and Hippoltskirch and Jäger in Bielefeld. Both Gerstner and Jäger came to see him in Robion. Henry travelled several times to Robion, and also met Gerstner and Jäger. All this ensured a constant flow of back-and-forth information within the small network of friends.
Coloured technical images: On the Role of Colour in Vilém Flusser’s Work
Flusser wrote about colour from different points of view His interdisciplinary approach defies clear-cut borders by contaminating that which is generally thought to be separated. It rather seeks to create complex syntheses that play a privileged role in his texts on colour. In the same way, colours do not stick to the forms into which one tries to imprison them. They overflow, blend and bleed into each other. This essay focuses on four aspects of colour: the connection of black and white in photography and discourses on “racial” differences; the role of greyness and its relationship to colour luminosity in the description of culture and politics; the presence of colour in nature, landscape, and the animal world; Flusser’s use of colour in a redefinition of the notion of technical images in the context of the project of the Casa da Cor.
Thinking Plurality. Vilém Flusser and Michel Serres: A philosophical convergence
This essay compares Vilém Flusser’s and Michel Serres’s notion of plurality. Flusser’s and Serres’s writing and thinking are strikingly similar even if they radically diverge on some points. For both philosophers, thinking is not a linear progression that moves straight ahead along a simple line, but a journey full of meandering and surprising twists and turns, which can lead back on its tracks. To describe this complex contradictory movement, Flusser uses the spatial metaphors of the circle and the spiral. This is best exemplified in his practice of multiple translations and retranslations, and the Jewish method of Pilpul. Serres, on the other hand, uses the metaphors of the randonnée – a random stroll across a landscape –, the wild flight of a wasp and the unfolding and refolding of a plane of dough. Both authors reject a view of reality based on a single centralized point of view, an umbilical vision of the world, as Serres called it. They both question systematic thinking and favor theoretical plurality and openness. In Flusser’s view, synthesis brings points of view together that often radically differ from each other. For Serres synthesis is a cluster of differentiated but organized relations. Flusser’s and Serres´s thinking is non-linear, non-hierarchical and always open-ended, a proliferation of fixed points to infinity. For both thinkers these different points of view are equally valid.
„Eine Wolke von Zukunft“. Zur nubigenen Einbildungskraft in Vilém Flussers Werk
This essay starts out from Flusser’s use of the metaphor of the cloud as a possible representation of our present condition. Our identity and the world around us have lost all solidity and turned into groundless swarms of particles. This vision accompanies the short history of the cloud that follows, moving from its conception as a changeable veil masking the true light of inner truth, to an assemblage with frayed and constantly changing outlines, a formless but significant stain, and a field of possibility. As Flusser points out, when dealing with present day digital technology, one has the impression that our imagination (Einbildungskraft) has emigrated from our brains and become independent so that one can have a look at one’s own dreams. One would have to enter into a kind of dialogue (Zwiegespräch) between our own imagination and the one that we have been feeding into the computer, in order to pave the way for a jump into a completely new form of Einbildungskraft.
Wind and Desert
Two of the central nodes in Vilém Flusser’s metaphorical net that this part of Flusser Studies is trying to explore are the wind and the desert, which are not only linked to each other but also to other terms. The wind is a metaphor of the communication revolution. It penetrates into our homes and unsettles our habits, turning us into nomads. It is the immaterial ground on which nomads live and their very reason of being. Some nomads, like the Jewish tribes from the Bible, lived in makeshift tents and led an existence in Bodenlosigkeit, always on the move. Furthermore, the ephemeral sand dunes are related to Flusser’s notion of artificial worlds made out of dots, bits and pixels, composite worlds that resemble swarms and clouds.
Die Dimension der Leere. Vedanta und Buddhismus in Vilém Flussers Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert und Bodenlos
This short essay explores some of the connections between Vilém Flusser’s study of eastern philosophy in the 1940s and 1950s and his later notion of zero dimensionality. In his first book, Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert, he pointed to a theoretical convergence between the Indian Vedanta, Buddhism and modern natural sciences. In his autobiography, Bodenlos, written in the early 1970s Flusser reevaluated his former interest in oriental philosophy in highly critical terms. However, despite this attempt at distancing, some of the notions from Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert infiltrated his late vision of an emerging universe of technical images.
Zwischen Berg und Ebene: Zur Entstehung von Vilém Flussers Begriffspaar Dialog/Diskurs - Tra montagna e pianura: come è nata la coppia di concetti dialogo/discorso di Vilém Flusser
This essay attempts a genealogic reconstruction of Vilém Flusser’s fundamental conceptual pair dialogue/discourse that he developed in the early 1970s. From 1973 to 1975, Edith and Vilém Flusser lived between Merano – where they generally spent the winter reading, discussing, taking walks and relaxing – and the Loire region in France where they spent the summer of 1973 and 1974. This nomadic existence between the mountain valley of Alto Adige/Südtirol and the plains of France prompted Flusser to develop a double vision of culture and communication based on two different geographical settings. Dialogues take place above all in valleys and discourses predominate in the plains. Between the two, there is a constant exchange that recalls Flusser’s own existence in these years.
Jude Sein – Being Jewish – Ser Judeu / Spuren des Jüdischen in Vilém Flussers Denken
These two short essays try to retrace some of the main interrelated nodal points of the Jewish dimension in Vilém Fusser’s thinking and writing: Bodenlosigkeit, Heimatlosigkeit, nomadism, exodus, desert, sand, dune, tent, wind, bit, grain of sand, swarm, Sabbath, epoché, mysticism, nothingness, Pilpul, Talmud, polysemy, multilingualism, and translation.