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.
En hommage à Louis Bec (1936-2018)
Louis Bec, who died three years ago, was one of Flusser’s closest friends, one of the few with whom he never quarreled, and the only one with whom he co-authored a book. They met every Saturday to exchange their ideas. This essay discusses Bec’s life, his creation of the “Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste”, his work as a “zoosytematician” and his theories about bio-art and artificial life, some of his artistic installations, such as the Sulfanogrades, as well as their most important project, the Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Their friendly and intellectual complicity lasted seventeen years: it is difficult to imagine what Flusser would have been without Bec, or Bec without Flusser.
Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, le podcast comme format de recherche-création
For this special issue of Flusser Studies on Vilém Flusser's relations with France, I would like to propose a research-creation format, which is embodied in a podcast that is part of the Bio Is The New Black series. The podcast is a creation based on reading the Vampyroteuthis Infernalis and research conducted at the Vilém Flusser Archive in Berlin under the supervision of Anita Jóri. Bio Is The New Black is a podcast around design, biology and technology that invites artists, designers, philosophers, scientists and engineers to explore the multiple ethical, critical and creative questions that arise with bio-manufacturing technologies.
The Anti-Archive as a spatial design tool for the continuous destruction and reconstruction of memory
The installation Anti-Archive in the Vilém Flusser Archive (Berlin) establishes a design posture, a method for conveying content from memory spaces that rejects the reproduction of historical discourses. Instead, it seeks to show the ruptures and gaps in history in which each individual can endlessly reconstruct his memory. There are infinite anti-archives in every archive.
Rethinking Interology with Flusser
Motivated as much by a deep concern with the rapidly evolving human condition as by intellectual curiosity, this article reveals the problem-driven and futurological nature of Flusserian interology [Deleuze]. It proposes that compared to traditional ontology, the notion of interality and the dynamics of interology offer us a more adequate way of thinking through our situation in the here and now and in the immediate future. The secondary motive is to turn Flusser’s media philosophy into a pointillist verbal art, a techno-ethics, and an intertopia befitting the digital era.
Von der telematischen Gesellschaft zur retrotopischen Stammesgemeinschaft: Zbigniew Libera’s Film Walser (2015)
This essay uses Vilém Flusser’s reflections on the medium of video to examine the work of the Polish visual artist Zbigniew Libera focusing on his latest film Walser (2015), his first and only feature film for cinemas. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic age. Only one tribe has survived which lives peacefully and harmonically with nature at the margins of civilization. One day, a stranger visits it. The aim of the essay is to explore the portrayal of the tensions between individual and collective in the film in order to reconstruct Libera’s idea of a community based on the principle of dialogue, an idea that can be compared to Flusser’s own vision of the future and his theories of cultural history. In the last part of the essay I try to interpret Libera’s deconstructionist approach using Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of retrotopia.
The Protreptic Writer
Focussing on the text of the essay “The Gesture of Smoking a Pipe,” this paper proposes that at least some of Flusser’s writing can be usefully identified as protreptic. Having arisen in ancient Greece as a form of speech or writing for the explicit purpose of persuading an audience, protreptic also served to display the author’s skills and attract students, persuading young men to take up philosophy. It was never confined to a particular genre of writing, but always addressed its audience in a specified situation, that is, in circumstances shared by writer and reader. Applied to Flusser’s writing, the “communicative purpose” becomes a way of examining both the compositional structure and the implicit dialogue between writer and reader that appears in the text. Questions about the implied identity of the reader and of her relationship to the writer lead to a conclusion that even as the text argues about the right way to classify the gesture of smoking a pipe, it is also performing a phenomenological inquiry. The reader plays the role of audience to the performance, and so becomes the object of persuasion at another level as well. The paper further suggests that study of rhetorical structures in Flusser’s writing may reveal a new level of coherence across its languages, disciplines and genres.
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.
Denken neu denken mit Vilém Flusser
Flusser suggests synthetic images may free us from the tyranny of linear thinking, whilst calling upon us to engage actively in the new ‘Einbildungskraft’ or techno-imagination. The innovative dimension of this new form of synthesizing information might be the transcending, overcoming or undermining of dualistic patterns of thought. ‘Dedicated to synthesis of contrasts’ (1949) Flusser not only translated between cultural poles but strove for a ‘method of cognition [...] with aesthetic qualities’, ‘which extends beyond philosophy’ (1951). His poetically composed philosophy transcends the traditional opposition of art and philosophy. Yet, as ‘every technical revolution induces a new mankind which again designs a new technique’ (1991), the challenge facing us is more than merely thinking and acting in new technical ways, we must deliberately co-design. Thus, the transformation at hand may be discussed as a shift away from the dominance of thinking in dichotomies, indicating an interrelational understanding of the (re)programming of our environments and of ourselves in dialogue.
Da soggetti a progetti. L'abbandono dell'Humanismus in Vilém Flusser
By focusing on two of Flusser’s last writings, this essay tries to address the question of the relationship between Flusserian thought and the tradition of humanism. Moving towards a form of intersubjectivity based on dialogue and mutual responsibility, Flusser succeeded in breaking the bonds that bind the contemporary subject to modernity’s unbearable burden. He described the meaning of a contemporary becoming human in a very distinctive way. Indeed, the trajectory drawn by Flusser is not entirely superimposable on the actual vernacular of post-humanism and I believe that its deepening could open us up to more responsible ways to deal with technological development and “post-humanist technologies”.