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Vilém Flusser

Articles of Vilém Flusser

Um alfabeto de azuis e amarelos

In the interview “Um alfabeto de azuis e amarelos” (An alphabet of blues and yellows) published by the magazine “Superinteressante” in November 1988, Flusser discussed his theoretical position. The problem with spoken and written languages is that they are inadequate to describe the world, which could be described much better in mathematical terms. However, the problem with numbers is that they are separated from each other by intervals. Colours, on the other hand, tend to blend into each other.

Alfabeto (PDF 18.49 MB)

Letters / Postmoderne Farben

Although Flusser met Gottfried Jäger in 1984, the dialogue between them began with a short letter from Flusser to Jäger on March 4, 1988, presenting the project of the Casa da Cor. The letter is accompanied by the essay „Postmoderne Farben” which Flusser dedicated to Jäger, possibly to lure him into a collaboration. Jäger held a speech on autonomous colour on the second day of the 1989 conference (August 23) in São Paulo.

Letters (PDF 672.59 KB)
Postmoderne Farben (PDF 66.87 MB)

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.

Letters (PDF 568.7 KB)
Farben statt Formen (PDF 297.5 KB)
Gerstner (PDF 531.47 KB)

L’irruption du téchno-imaginaire / A. Bonnier Cor de Rosa / O negro será de cor? / Preto e branco / O preto é belo / Schwarz ist schön / Ecologia multicolorida? / Vom Umfärben der Grünen / Bunte Tiere / Disney Land Colors

This selection of texts, which date from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, documents Flusser’s interest in colour over nearly twenty years. Besides 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 also used colour to redefine the notion of technical image.

L’irruption (PDF 69.16 KB)
Cor de Rosa (PDF 58.11 KB)
O negro será de cor (PDF 176.17 KB)
Preto e branco (PDF 152.32 KB)
O preto é belo (PDF 386.1 KB)
Schwarz ist schön (PDF 163.71 KB)
Ecologia (PDF 106.54 KB)
Umfärben der Grünen (PDF 209.73 KB)
Bunte Tiere (PDF 103.49 KB)
Disney Land Colors (PDF 109.22 KB)

Reflexion. Henry Lewis: X-Räume / Reflexion. Henry Lewis: X-spaces / Henry Lewis, X-Spaces

In 1990, “European Photography” published a text by Vilém Flusser on the work of the photographer Henry Lewis: „Henry Lewis: X-Spaces (41/11, 1990: 46-47). In this essay, Flusser discusses the impossibility to experience space with the eyes. We can only reach as far as the surface of objects, he writes, but radiography penetrates beyond the surface into space. Flusser contends that Henry Lewis is not interested in finding out what is behind the surface, but in making the experience of space visible. He is making pictures of the third dimension.

Henry Lewis, X-Spaces (PDF 67.78 KB)

Jogos / Spiele / Games

In this essay, Flusser identifies human beings as homo ludens, the playing animal, asserting that the capacity to play is their defining feature.  He notes at the outset that it is no longer the difference between humans and animals that is at issue, but a difference between humans and their apparatuses.  In supporting his claim, he defines a game as system of elements that regularly combine, then goes on to describe categories of games within which the whole of human communication can be aligned. He focusses on three examples -- chess, language (he chooses Portuguese), and science, using them to introduce terms, e.g. “elements,” “competence,” “repertoire” and “universe,” that apply to games in general but also facilitate comparison and contrast.  Above all, he underscores the need for human beings to be aware of the games in which they participate, for only in such an awareness is it possible to actually play a game -- that is, expand and change it, create something new -- as opposed to being played by it, caught in the operations of a fixed, stolid, apparatus.  First published in German in 1968, the text introduces terms that Flusser developed further in subsequent writings. 

Jogos (PDF 129.9 KB)
Spiele (PDF 139.23 KB)
Games (PDF 240.45 KB)

Ontogenese wiederholt Phylogenese / Ontogenesis repeats Phylogenesis

“Ontogenesis repeats Phylogenesis” is the first introductory text of Flusser’s last book Menschwerdung (Becoming human) that was not completed because of Flusser’s sudden death in 1991. It was published in 1994 by Stefan Bollmann and Edith Flusser with the collaboration of Klaus Sander in Vom Subjekt zum Projekt /Menschwerdung (From Subject to Project / Becoming Human). Two other unpublished texts from this book project were already published in Flusser Studies 12 (“Pünktlich” and “Was man wollen kann”). In “Ontogenesis repeats Phylogenesis”, Flusser compares the development of the individual to that of the species, presenting his book project as a summa of his whole thinking. It is a text written in maturity, at the end of the second millennium after Christ’s death. Flusser describes himself ironically as the last Mohican who by writing his personal history, is also writing the history of the Mohican tribe, the Jews of Prague, most of whom were annihilated in the Holocaust.

Aberturas / Opening

“Openings” is the first of four essays written by Vilém Flusser regarding the work of Russian-Brazilian painter Samson Flexor (1907-1971). Published in “Suplemento Literário do Estado de São Paulo”, the article is marked by a heideggerian-existentialist style and presents what is probably Flusser's first concrete dive into a monstrous imaginary during his years in Brazil, where the philosopher lived between 1940 and 1973. Flusser's essays on Flexor are dated between 1967 and 71 and cover the “Bipeds” phase and the so-called “white” phase from the painter’s work. Later he would write one last essay, called “Flexor: in memoriam”, for the painter’s biography, written by Alice Brill in 1990. This Portuguese-English translation of “Aberturas” includes one photograph of Flexor with some of his "Bipeds" at the IX Bienal de São Paulo, in 1967.

Aberturas (PDF 120.81 KB)
Openings (PDF 314.86 KB)

Bernard Plossu: Die Wissenschaft des Ungenauen / Bernard Plossu: The Science of the Imprecise / Bernard Plossu: La science de l’imprécis

Between 1983 and his death in 1991, Flusser wrote thirteen articles for the magazine European Photography under the title “Reflections”.  These were written by Flusser in German and English, and then edited by Derek Bennett.  Among the photographers whose work appears in these articles, only one -- Bernard Plossu (b. 1945) -- is French.  Flusser did not meet Plossu, but had the catalogue of Plossu’s exhibition “Intermediate Landscapes” (Centre Pompidou, 1988) in his library.  The article was written in the same year as the author’s death.
This essay focuses on sharpness and blur, proximity and distance, and uses a photograph by Bernard Plossu to explore Abraham Moles' theories of imprecision. It was illustrated with four photographs by Bernard Plossu.

Wissenschaft (PDF 76.01 KB)
Science (PDF 75.87 KB)
La science (PDF 264.58 KB)

Bec’s Sulfanograde / Os sulfanogrados de Louis Bec / Les Sulfanogrades de Louis Bec

The essay starts out with the notion of simulation. Scientific observation works by simulating phenomena, that is, by creating models of “reality”. Within this horizon, it is difficult to tell “true” and “false” apart. Furthermore, it is no longer possible to maintain the difference between art and science. As simulated organisms that position themselves beyond the divide of art and science, Bec´s Sulfanogrades are an example of this new understanding.

Sulfanograde (PDF 87.62 KB)
Os Sulfanogrados (PDF 131.41 KB)
Les Sulfanogrades (PDF 245.74 KB)

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