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Fantasia essata: Behind Flusser’s Theory of Imagination

In several texts Flusser refers to a fantasia essata, an “exact imagination,” attributing this concept to Leonardo da Vinci: a non-arbitrary use of imagination, a dialogue between experience and reason by investigating improbable but possible scenarios. However, Leonardo never used this phrase: it was Goethe who first wrote of an exakte sinnliche Phantasie. This article aims, on the one hand, to reconstruct a genealogy of fantasia essata, and on the other, to investigate the affinity between this exact imagination and Flusser’s notion of Einbildungskraft. Although the expression exakte Phantasie does not date back to the Renaissance, it was used by Cassirer to explain Leonardo’s peculiar imaginative approach to science. The success of this concept is linked to the rediscovery of the dynamic epistemology of Renaissance Humanism (Grassi) before modern exact sciences excluded imagination and locked art in museums. Some mid-20th century thinkers, such as Santillana and Ferreira da Silva, who are likely to be Flusser’s sources, used this concept to think of a productive and operational imagination that could bridge the gap between art and science. This debate could shed new light on Flusser’s theory of second-order imagination, which he also defined as conceptual, reflexive, and philosophical imagination.

Fantasia essata (PDF 361.74 KB)

Animated Animals and Metabolic Machines: Affect in Vilém Flusser’s Theory

This essay analyzes Flusser’s playful engagement with the nature/culture divide and its implications for Affect theory and posthumanism. For Flusser, affect is not a pre-processed human feeling, but a composite of moods, emotions, automated habits, and recursively activated reactions that come from outside – the apparatus of communication, conventions and algorithms that encode what counts as truth. Affect partakes of the same process that binds the “artificial” production of “truth” and the “customization” of life according to conventional knowledge. Similarly, the “natural” world dissected in Natural:Mind is subject to determinations by technology, culture, and habit; in fact, nature is produced by culture as part of the apparatus. Flusser’s version of affect theory destroys the fantasy of the human individual and indicates how humans do not exist in essence, but are themselves symptomatic expressions of the modern, programmatic society. Flusser’s twisted humanism invites a reflection on the cognitive and critical possibilities of aesthetics – as a secondary, reflective form of knowledge that provides models to grasp unhabitual and unusual phenomena even if it cannot account for their occurrence. Art in this sense functions like a Trojan horse used to storm the naturalist fortress sheltering humanist humanity.

Animated Animals (PDF 288.62 KB)

Pensamento Poético e Pensamento Calculante: o Dilema da Cibernética e do Humanismo em Vilém Flusser

This paper discusses the complex and contradictory status of cybernetics in Flusser’s thought. These contradictions are, to a large extent, intrinsic to the cybernetic paradigm, as demonstrated by authors such as Katherine Hayles and Céline Lafontaine. The strange combination between the humanistic point of view and cybernetics’ destruction of the humanistic subject, already present in Norbert Wiener, engenders a permanent and creative tension within Flusser’s work. The article argues that it is this creative tension that allows Flusser to establish a dialogue with radically new models of subjectivity, while at the same time remaining faithful to what – according to him – characterizes the apex of human experience: freedom and the willingness to engage in a playful relationship with the surrounding environment.

Pensamento poético (PDF 254.74 KB)