Foreword. In: Towards Technosophy (2022)
Vilém Flusser is considered one of the pioneers of media philosophy, not only due to his interest in new technologies and the role in culture and art he attributed to them. He proposed (media theoretical) models for the analysis of the “telematic society”, photography, television, computing, contemporary media art or political events from a mass media perspective, but more importantly, he has drawn attention to the shift in the “structure of thinking” that can be observed as much as it calls for a new philosophy.
Standing on the verge of the “universe of computation”, as Flusser stated 40 years ago, we are facing a revolution in thinking: if in the old universe thinking has been predominantly shaped by writing, it is now changed by new media. A new kind of “techno- imagination” replaces the “linear discourse”, i.e. historical, logical, causal, scientific thinking. Like the readers of his texts – at least at the time when they were published – Flusser can only envision the new mode of thinking from the position of a writer, relying on scientific thinking, logic, history. In the performative dimension of his texts and talks, but also his dialogues with artists Flusser however transgresses (t)his media condition. He reveals frictions and tensions in western thinking, projecting both a utopian and dystopian vision of the new telematic society as well as struggling with the “leap” from historical to posthistorical thinking which in its consequence would eliminate the possibility of critical thinking. The tension between the freedom to create alternative realities thanks to the seemingly unlimited possibilities of computation and the determination of perception, thinking and acting by the very same new media then unfolds in his critique of the “apparatus” and encouragement to find ways how to play against and with it. Flusser however challenges the established scientific discourse not only in his argumentation, but performatively playing with an academic style of writing, logical argumentation, the construction of concepts and theory as such, often turning to aesthetic practices not as a subject matter, but as method of reflection – in the practice or gestures of thinking. His notion of a “gesture” might also characterize his own approach: it gives a specific twist to Flusser’s inspiration in phenomenology, describing a practice that allows to reflect its material, technical, social, historical or in short: media conditions.
Starting with short articles for magazines in the 1960s in Brasil Flusser continued to write and lecture in Europe in 1970s and 80s outside academia, pursuing intense dialogues with artists and integrating artistic practice as much as new technologies in his work. He encouraged his readers and listeners to engage in a dialogue with his ideas not only paying attention to changing media practices, but actively participating in this change, performing gestures not only (in) writing. Taking up this initiative the Vilém Flusser Summer School, which has provided the plattform for the (artistic) research projects presented in this publication, was based on the interconnectedness of theory and practice. It`s goal was both to follow and revise Flusser`s critical thinking in writing, de-composing stories, history and his vision of a new “techno-imagination”, using photography or film to “play against the apparatus”, which also pointed the way to the computerized technical image, as well as the “old” techniques of drawing or designing. Connected to Flusser’s anniversary on May 12th (the 100 birthday in 2020) the re-visiting of Flusser’s work would not only trace the premises of his arguments in philosophies and theories (of the Western philosophical canon as well as e.g. cybernetics) and the influence of artistic and technological practice of his time, but also “test” his arguments and concepts in 2022 theoretical or philosophical and artistic practice.
The summer school was staged at the amphitheater close to Flusser’s former residence in Robion in Southern France, where participants from more than 10 countries engaged in dialogue with Flusser’s thinking, through different media and techniques, as well as in dialogue with each other.