Vilém Flusser sees space and time as categories that can be compressed and played with like blocks from a construction set. His experience as a migrant caused him to see a “time of revenge” in Brazil and, simultaneously, a “time of penance” in Europe. For him, from that distance – Flusser calls it the “distance of rootlessness” (Bodenlos, 1992, p. 40; translated from the German) – those times could be compressed. This leads him to the realization that chronology is not suited to describing activity, as he calls it (ibid., p. 101); rather, events must be structured in order of their significance. He recapitulates this argument in one of his central theses, that of the crisis of linearity. For Flusser, phenomena can no longer be incorporated into a discourse of cause and effect. They need to play with chance and necessity.
One of Flusser’s last articles in the journal of the Instituto Brasileiro de Filosofia, the Brazilian Institute of Philosophy, is about the spirit of the times as expressed in art (“O Espírito do Tempo nas Artes Plásticas,” in: Revista Brasileira de Filosofia, vol. 20, no. 80, 1970). For Flusser, science and technology are discursive languages that proceed logically from object to object; art, by contrast, is not discursive. Art tends to replace the discursive universe of science and technology with symbols, whereas science and technology tend to seek the origins of their initial conjectures in nondiscursive art. It follows, then, that the one cannot be separated from the other. One could speak of a grey area in which the spheres of science, technology, and art overlap. Flusser’s definition of time leads him to mental images, to metaphors instead of stories. He creates a utopian sketch of a future telematic society, as an alternative to a media theory whose arguments are apocalyptic.