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Human History as TV Drama (1991)
“Human History as TV Drama” is a long unknown section of the original footage for Michael Bielicky's 1991 production of Vilém Flussers Fluss. It was first published entirely as part of the Flusser Video Collection in 2021.
These recordings were borne from a conversation which took place on Flusser's garden terrace in Robion, France, with Edith Flusser, Karin Lauerwald (Flusser’s student assistant), Sabine Müller (Lichtblick Film, Cologne), Carl-Ludwig Rettinger (Lichtblick Film, Cologne), Louis Bec and Michael Bielicky in summer of 1991.1)
The title of this video is the translated title of the manuscript Menschheitsgeschichte als Fernsehdrama written in 1991 with a view to a television production.2)
In this video, Flusser playfully appropriates the etymology of “recounting” human history, i.e. “raconter” in French, meaning to “enumerate again”, counting again, which is related to the process of computation. Departing from this etymology as methodology, Flusser revisits the computer-synthesised image of human history in a series of five programs catalysed by the introduction of historically situated mediations: 1) the emergence of magical, symbolic and mythical writing with pictures, 2) the invention of linear writing, 3) the introduction of the alphabet, 4) the invention of the printing press, 5) the invention of the computer.
The sixth and final program is yet to be seized by a post-historical human project, in which the ability of machines to calculate linear history into pieces joins together with the ability to compute alternative worlds. Flusser contends that while humans already know this, it remains a possibility still difficult to imagine. Next to Imagination, the capacity to step back from the world and look at it, this sixth program requires Einbildungskraft, the capacity to put ideas into an image.
“The last is: Let us have an overview. Two million [years] ago an animal appeared that is capable of realising values and evaluating reality. About 40 thousand years ago, very shortly, this animal succeeded in stepping back from what he is doing and imagining it. About 7 thousand years ago, yesterday, people in Mesopotamia invented linear writing so that they could become aware of processes, of history. About 3.500 years ago, nothing, people invented the alphabet and that made it possible to make science, philosophy and technology. About 500 years ago people invented the press and that made it possible to overcome the alphabet and create numbers that calculate the world. Yesterday it became possible to make machines that do away with history and start new histories. And all this can be shown easily if you show on television how people put their hand into the world, how they step back and make images, how from these images they make texts, how out of the texts they made an alphabet, how out of the alphabet they make a printing press, how out of the printing press they made numbers, how out of the numbers the make a computer, how out of the computer they make a new world. Now, can there be a more beautiful television program than this? […] This is what I suggest. Now, of course it's not easy to make such an image. It takes imagination.[…] I imagine that it can be done. I imagine that it would have a colossal impact, but not a mass impact.”3)
The transcript to this video was edited in German by Steffi Winkler4) and translated to English by Baruch Gottlieb5) published in Flusser Studies 17, May 2014.
Title: Human History as TV Drama
Location: Robion, France
Filmed by: Bielicky, Michael
Edited by: Winkler, Steffi
Language: English (en) Source: Michael Bielicky - all rights reserved
Image, Idolatry, Myth, Magical, Alphabet, Language, Linearity, Machine, Post-History, Programming, Technical Images, Television, New Imagination
Vilém Flusser, Human history as TV drama. With original recordings from Michael Bielicky, Vilém Flussers Fluss, in: Flusser Video Collection, 2021