Sabonetes / Verseifung von Fetten / Saponification des graisses / Saponification of Fats
In the early 1980s, Flusser wrote a Portuguese, a German, and a French version of “Saponification”, in which he combined a satire of a totalitarian political ideology with a satire of pseudo-scientificity. The narrator is a fictional Commissioner from the Planning Department of Justice writing on behalf of the Minister of Justice in Mexico City on March 7, 2001. The addressee is the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry in the Global Institute for Technological Research. They are all functionaries in an anonymous political superapparatus. The political ideology which in this future dystopia has conquered the whole world is vaguely Marxist. As the narrator points out, the differences between the industrialized western world and the poorer parts of the globe need a quick effective global response in order to achieve a fair distribution of the goods. In attempting to quantify the inter-worldly and inner-worldly relationships a single parameter has been chosen: the amount of fat stored in the human body. In the first of the four worlds that make up the international situation, one can make out a secondary tendency to lose weight, which, however, cannot override the basic tendency towards obesity. The second world is in a transitional stage between lack of fat and obesity. In the third world, the majority of the bodies stores only the minimum of fat which is needed for their functioning on the lowest level. And finally in the fourth, the bodies are skeletal and do not dispose of the necessary energy for any movement. The international trade relations cannot be used as a model for a global redistribution of fat. The excess fat of the first world is undigestible, the second world only focuses on the absorption of fat from the third and fourth world and the excess of fat of the third world is drained by the fat bodies located there. This basically means that there is no actual fat to be redistributed and that the whole argumentation is to no avail. Despite this, the narrator suggests a series of possible but ultimately useless solutions leading the whole argumentation ad absurdum.
Von Vilém Flusser’s Gesten ausgehend. Zur Phänomenologie des Entwerfens und seiner Werkzeuge
This essay draws on Vilém Flusser’s phenomenological approach and speculative thinking to envision a theory of architectural design. It focusses particularly on the last book he published during his lifetime, Gesten (Gestures) 1991. Based on a series of lectures held in São Paulo and in the mid-seventies in France, Gesten offers a sequence of 18 essays reflecting upon everyday activities as “movement(s) of the body or of a tool attached with the body, for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” (3-4). The book culminates in the call for a general theory of gestures. Starting from a close reading of some of these chapters, this essay examines the relation between gestures and thinking, between gestures and the future, with a particularly close look at the gesture of making. Gestures are discussed in terms of primary means of visual expression, which in many ways become starting points for design processes. Flusser's general theory of gestures facilitates a theory of architectural design based on a phenomenological analysis of its tools and processes. By going back to some of Flusser's writings on tools, machines and apparatuses and their unforeseen repercussions, new design practices and digital design tools can be understood as ways of simulating and anticipating the consequences of design decisions, permitting us to better understand and deal with them.
Técnica, espaço e abstração: uma visão do Instagram em perspectiva Flusseriana
This study attempts to mobilize Flusserian propositions as a means of reflecting on contemporary phenomena such as Instagram. It begins with the issue of photography and its relationship with technique. Because both Walter Benjamin and Vilém Flusser treat technique as a mediator in the production of symbols in photography and cinema, the essay will engage the work of both.The concept of apparatus will also be revisited in this article. Linked to the concept of the apparatus, the ideas of program, employee and programmer will also be taken into consideration. In addition, Lúcia Santaella’s idea of cyberspace will be used to position Instagram as part of a universe that reconfigures the notions of the here and now, enabling news of places visited and moments experienced to be published in real-time. Instagram is then seen to be an apparatus and part of a broader escalation of abstraction, toward a space of zero dimension.
Auschwitz as Philosophical Device: An Adornian Heritage in Flusser’s Thought?
This essay traces the use of “Auschwitz” as a philosophical device in Vilém Flusser’s thought, from History of the Devil and The Last Judgement, to Posthistory and his later media theory. Throughout Flusser’s oeuvre, the Nazi regime and the brutality of the concentration camps (condensed in the figure of Auschwitz) articulates for Flusser the relationship between progress and Western culture. Taking a detour into Adorno’s own theorization of “Auschwitz” – and especially his maxim that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” – the essay investigates how modern thought has interpreted Auschwitz not as a glitch in the fabric of modernity, but as a programmed step in the march of progress toward hell. After meeting Adorno, Flusser’s thought on Auschwitz matured and he developed his theory of modernity considering the event of the Holocaust as something integrated in the “program” of Western civilization. Flusser often applies an almost cybernetic conception of the operation of a computer system to understand the functioning of our present reified societies, Auschwitz being a paradigm of the transformation of institutions into “apparatuses” and the metamorphosis of human beings into “functionaries” by means of an automatically playing program.
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.
“Documentar algo que no existe”: los modelos discursivos como apparatus en Vampyroteuthis Infernalis
The concept of “apparatus”, proposed by Vilém Flusser in his Towards a Philosophy of Photography, implies an analysis of the “production logic” of the artistic work, which Flusser proposed thinking about photography. However, this concept also offers a possibility of reading his Vamyproteuhis Infernalis as a rebellion against the discursive rules that themselves work as an “apparatus” . By questioning the rules of scientific, philosophical, didactic and literary discourses, Flusser plays with the mechanisms of the discourse and deactivates their automatisms. This leads to questions like the boundaries of art, creation as a form of knowledge, or imitation and scientific study of reality as a need in artistic, literary creation, and methodologies of “scientific creation”.
In this interview, Fred Forest, Jean-Louis Poitevin and Martial Verdier, discuss the relationship between Fred Forest and Vilém Flusser, their collaboration over the years and the influence they had on each other’s work and thinking. Verdier was at one time Forest’s assistant; he is now Secrétaire Général of TK21 and has recorded and edited the discussion. The interview begins with their first meeting between Forest and Flusser and the person of Flusser himself. It then moves on to a major field of collaboration: gestures (ca. 4.38) and the role of dialogue and intersubjectivity (ca. 5.55). They also discuss the notion of apparatus (ca. 9.00), video (ca. 17.25) and the group “Art Scociologique” (ca. 20.25 and again ca. 37.40). Forest talks about the dissolution of the group and about one of his members Hervé Fischer (ca. 38.30) (see the interview with Fischer in this issue). Verdier questions Forest about Flusser’s impact on his work and the way he himself influenced Flusser’s thinking (ca. 29.30). The very last question concerns the future of art. The situation today, Forest says, is tragic, but there is also hope for “a return to more honest, profound and valuable” things.
Appareil et caméras chez Vilém Flusser, objections et critique
For Vilém Flusser, apparatus is a term of primary importance. Key to the post-historical age, it tends to designate a programmed functioning within which the players or functionaries, that we will be from now on, are activated. The problem is to define such a notion, Flusser relies on a questionable conception of photography and of the “photographable.” The point of this paper is not to consider, as Flusser puts it, what can be “left for us,” but to consider more optimistically what can be done “with” the new recording devices. Considering that history is not finished, we will propose, following the suggestions of Walter Benjamin, to think of technique as open to a less regulated, freer and potentially more critical understanding.
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.
Libertad y poshistoria en la filosofía de la fotografie de Vilém Flusser
The object of this research is to trace Flusser’s thoughts on freedom and history as they appear in his philosophy of photography. The investigation focusses on the function of the author of the photograph in relation to apparatuses and programs. It extends, as I will try to show, to the activity of the spectator and of everyone who interacts with images. I follow Flusser’s methodology, which is to relate the philosophy of photography to the theory of games. And that's why I speak about the player, the toy and the game involved in photography. I think Flusser's main inspiration was Wittgenstein of the Tractactus and his theory of the emancipation of meaning from truth or factual falsity. Here I find the ontological key to his philosophy of photography as a philosophy of freedom.