To Project/ to Draft
“I mean to write an essay on projection (Entwurf) in contrast to subjectivity (Unterwürfigkeit), should God grant me time and strength,” wrote Vilém Flusser to his cousin David Flusser on November 25, 1990 (correspondence, November 25, 1990; translated from the German). Although he had intended Menschwerdung [Becoming Human] to be a three-part essay, he was only able to complete the first part. As he wrote to his publisher Stefan Bollmann the same day, he also planned to address “the problem of the incongruence between Projekt and Entwurf” (Bollmann, “Nachwort,” in: Vom Subjekt zum Projekt, 1994, p. 281; translated from the German). In Vom Subjekt zum Projekt [From Subject to Project], written in German in 1989, Projektion/projizieren [projection in the sense of a projected image; to project or to draft] is used synonymously with Entwurf/entwerfen [design or sketch; projection in the sense of a plan], although in conversation Flusser did stress that the words had different meanings, according to Bollmann. The unfinished fragment of Menschwerdung does not clarify the distinction between the terms, but there are indications that Entwerfen describes existential, negatively entropic motion, while Projektion is the concrete realization of this uprising. In his 1991 Bochum lectures, Flusser once again uses the terms synonymously (Kommunokologie weiter denken, 2009).
Flusser refers to Martin Heidegger’s Entwurf [projection, projecting-open] when he marks the break at which subjects reverse their thrownness into the world and begin, as projects, to project. But he goes beyond Heidegger, recontextualizing existence within a projection of the new conditions of the telematic society. The way abstraction resolves the world into points is contrasted with the projective gesture of “concretation,” which uses apparatuses to gather the points, shape them into dialogical networks of objects, and project them into the world. The negation of total abstraction via the projection of alternatives is the positive obverse of culturally pessimistic implications: Whereas Jean Baudrillard, for example, interprets projections as simulations heralding the plunge into entropy, to Flusser they are “concretions of possibilities” (Vom Subjekt zum Projekt, p. 25; translated from the German). It is the opening up of this numerical space of possibility that Siegfried Zielinski identifies, in his 2010 International Flusser Lecture “Entwerfen und Entbergen” [Projecting and Unconcealing], as the potential of Flusserian projection.
Original article by Daniel Irrgang