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The noun “experiment” is not one that stands out for the frequency with which it is used in the universe of Vilém Flusser. And yet this term is deeply inscribed in Flusser’s nomadic, discipline- spanning thinking, of which it must be viewed as an inherent part. If, tracing its etymological roots, one goes back to the Latin word experimentum, one sees that experiment refers not only to a test or trial, but also to experience. Francis Bacon describes experiment, in his book Novum Organum (1620), as an experience intentionally sought. Encompassing art, science, and the technical/technological, this sphere of testing and trying, which approaches the things themselves neither subjectively nor objectively, but from a phenomenological standpoint, combines theoretical and practical ways of gaining knowledge. The theory-based, creative gestures of projection are playful, purposeless, ecological gestures, transforming the economical gestures (originating in Aristotle’s hylomorphism) of homo faber.

Flusser envisions scientific laboratories and art academies as the factories of the future, sites for theory as experimentation, where the improbable and surprising are manufactured in telematic dialogue. It is the verb “to experiment,” the active infinitive form, which relinks the noun “experiment” to the gestural/media-based means of execution. The gesture of experimentation is a seeking, searching gesture through which humans inhabit a concrete relationship to their environment – even as they are in the midst of that environment. Thus the preposition “ex,” in both the noun and the verb forms of “experiment,” takes on significance in relation to Flusser’s philosophy of conjunction: Every “and” presupposes an “ex,” so that accessibility is expanded into connectivity.

Original article by Katrin Weiden

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