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Image Criticism

Vilém Flusser’s image criticism aims at a kind of second-order iconoclasm. Like every form of iconoclasm, it targets a supposedly illegitimate confusion. However, the target is no longer a magical understanding of the image that believes likenesses to be reality and does not recognize that they are but symbolic mediation. Flusser’s target is the manipulated consciousness that regards the technical images produced by photography, lm, and electronic and digital media as “traditional” images. The confusion that Flusser identifies here is the confusing of abstraction and concretion. Traditional images, beginning with cave paintings, are for him abstractions that reduce phenomena of space and time to two dimensions: products of the “imagination,” of the ability to imagine the world as a surface, and to recognize representations of the world in symbols arranged on a surface. For Flusser, technical images, by contrast, are concretizations of calculations, the result of logical, conceptual operations manifested in artifacts, and they no longer have anything in common with traditional images, even when they look similar enough to be mistaken for them.

But from what position can this confusion be criticized? The classical gesture of image criticism, for Flusser, is writing: Writing breaks images down into elements, arranges them in lines, translates “scenes” into “narratives,” and makes them accessible to conceptual thinking. But if technical images are themselves images of concepts – indeed, if they mark the very crisis of conceptual thinking – wouldn’t image criticism today be more a task for images than for writing? That would not be an entirely new task, for images do not only serve the abstraction of phenomena or the concretion of concepts since the beginning of the modern era, they have always served to reflect on pictoriality itself.

Original article by Roland Meyer

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image_criticism.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by