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.
Suponhamos: cenários para uma ética flusseriana / Suppose that: Scenarios for a Flusserian Ethics
This essay focuses on the formal aspects of Flusser’s Angenommen. The first part provides the general outline of the book and the second discusses its relationship to other initiatives by Flusser, both authorial (Vampyroteuthis Infernalis) and collaborative (Joan Fontcuberta’s plants, Louis Bec’s sulfanogrades and Guimarães Rosa’s garças). The third part discusses the ethical dimension of the book especially Flusser’s notion of engagement. The idea is to associate the positions of the two main characters, the terrorist and the futurologist, with Flusser’s own situation when he decided to leave Brazil and return to Europe in the early 1970s. Flusser rejects engagement (the terrorist) and scientific theory (the futurologist), but also seems to suggest that the third position – that of the artist –, the ideal synthesis, is not yet given. The artist’s situation has no place, it is improbable, but it is not utopian - without topos. Utopia is next to science fiction. It is a projection of an imaginary world that does not serve as knowledge. Flusser’s focus, in Angenommen and other works is on the improbability of love, or, as he points out in a letter to Mira Schendel, on aisthesis as a method of political criticism. Flusser's ethics have not yet reached the present.