Transformation lurks within form itself; it is the most vital part of form and its deepest shadow. It appears in the changes and mutations that result from handling forms and circumstances. As a rule, this leaves traces that can be read forwards and backwards, pointing to a form’s origin, truth, and future options. In the “new” or “technical” imagination, the term takes on an operative aspect; it can be seen as analogous to an electrical transformer. Anchored to vital fractures in material production, the potential of outmoded forms is boosted, transformed, and switched into a new formation. This opens up an expanded semantic field, essential for innovation.
Vilém Flusser implants transformation as a catalyst directly at the level of language. His linguistic way of thinking is shot through with a network of deep etymological analyses, a thousand-year-old web of word roots to which he returns again and again. In contrast to Martin Heidegger’s “language […] as the arch-tidings of Appropriation” (Heidegger, “The Way to Language,” in: On the Way to Language, 1982, p. 135), Flusser takes a hands-on approach to the subject: The concept is tweaked, transformation becomes method. He talks about transformation by letting us experience it, giving us a practical demonstration of how it takes place in language itself. This includes repetition and recomposition in other languages. He sums up this mode of translation in his “Lexicon of Basic Concepts”: “to move from code to code; therefore, to jump from one universe into another.” (Towards a Philosophy of Photography, 1984, p. 61). Here, transformation follows the evolutionary principle of repetition and difference – the linguistic signature of Flusserian DNA. “About the Word Design” (in: The Shape of Things, 1999, pp. 17–21) is representative of this successful prototype; after being treated with Flusser’s etymological distillates, the design we knew is barely recognizable.
Transformative experiences and feelings are reflected in the dominant currents of Flusser’s thought, with Auschwitz on the horizon and the innovative, foresighted thinking of a fundamental cultural transformation in the center. On the field of history, transformation occupies a universal space, unfolding into a recurring part of a becoming in which the relationship of life to death is reestablished by reconsideration and redirection.
Original article by Tom Fecht