Mira Schendel (1919–1988) was born Myrrah Dag- mar Dub in Zurich. She studied in Milan and lived in Rome; as a Jewish émigré she also lived in Sofia, Sarajevo, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. In Brazil she formed friendships with Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica. InVilém Flusser’s autobiography Bodenlos [No Firm Ground], written in 1972 but only published twenty years later, she is the only female artist to whom an entire chapter is dedicated. Mira, as Flusser called her and as she signed her works, gave him at least two artworks as gifts, which he describes in detail in Bodenlos. He speaks of two “focal points” on which her artistic thinking centers: first, “transparency,” defined as an “ability […] to penetrate beneath the surface of things” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 198; translated from the German); and second, “meaning,” defined as “what symbols point to” (ibid., p. 199; translated from the German). Flusser’s world, which had become transparent and in which symbols no longer had definitive meanings, was to be grounded in Schendel’s opaque corpus of graphic objects on the terra nova of Brazil.
Flusser wrote two essays on Schendel’s objetos gráficos: “Indagações sôbre a Origem da Língua” [Inquiries into the Origin of Language] (in: O Estado de São Paulo, no. 525, April 29, 1967) and “Diacronia e Diafaneidade II” [Diachrony and Diaphaneity II] (in: O Estado de São Paulo, no. 623, May 3, 1969). They were given to Max Bense to read, but Flusser says Bense “typically, ‘did not understand them’” – a “symptom,” for Flusser, “of the crisis of aesthetics” (Bodenlos, p. 203; translated from the German).
Flusser and Schendel’s only collaboration was in 1963: In Língua e Realidade [Language and Real- ity], written that year, Flusser attempted to come to grips with Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of language. The book cover Schendel designed anticipates her Monotipias series (1964–1966) and seems, independently, to presage the quest for a new way of forming language. In the distinctive characters of her écriture féminine, Schendel was to transform the root words of ontotheology into a drawn “library of the future” (Bodenlos, p. 202; translated from the German).
The elective affinity between the artist thinker and the rootless philosopher mirrors the experience of a double-edged posthistoire – stricken by occidental thought’s deep-time views of history and thrown into the superficiality of worldwide media transparency. In São Paulo, Schendel and Flusser’s conversations focused on “the possibility of overcoming the meaninglessness and transparency of the world and, in that sense, [on] the future” (ibid., p. 204; translated from the German).
Original article by Toni Hildebrandt