Creative Writing

Vilem Flusser - Television image and political space in the light of the Romanian Revolution

Conference transcription
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  Vilem Flusser / Television image and political space in the light of the Romanian Revolution --> --> April 7th 1990 Kunsthalle, Budapest I believe that whatever happened in Romania merits philosophical reflection. Of course it is too early, we do not have the necessary distance, but still something seems to have happened there, it is called here a revolution. I think that is a wrong term, because revolution is a political category and it doesn’t look to me that what happened over there is political at all. Now whatever happened there may, in the future be interpreted as a turning point. It may be that what French and American philosophers used to call post-history. Post-histoire has found its first, or almost first, expression in that small country, off Broadway if I may say so. Imagine for a moment, and this is why I accepted the invitation to come here to this meeting, imagine for an instant that such a thing should happen, let’s say in the United States or even in Western Europe. Imagine for an instant that television in the United States would take over and I think you would have imagined the end of history, the end of what we are used to call history. Now of course it happened all away in Romania, where nobody cares about, but imagine for a moment that it happens in what we are used to call the centres of decision, even in Moscow. I will submit to you the hypothesis that a new situation in the image culture is about to happen, but in order to sustain such an hypothesis I will have to give you a few theoretical concepts..  We have at least two possibilities to face our world. One is through image and another is through linear writing. Originally man was immersed in his circumstance. Now when Homo Sapiens came about he made a step back from this circumstance, what Heidegger calls ein Schritt zuruck, and he tries to look at the circumstance from a subjective distance and the result was an image. Now the image transforms the world into a scene. Through Image the world has a scenic character, it shows contexts, what Wittgenstein calls Sachverhalte, what Heidegger calls Verhältnisse. Bezüge. The world seen through imagination is a context wherein things relate to each other. Now this has a magical character. Every image is strongly magically loaded. When the f  irst images were made, let’s say at Lascaux, they were meant to orient people in the world, for instance they were meant to show how to hunt oxen or ponies. And when people were exposed to these images they probably danced, they made ritual happenings.  And then they went out to hunt the animal. It is absolutely impossible to see the image outside magic… there is a voodoo character in every image. I told you that the image had the purpose to orient people from outside in the world in which they are thrown. An image is the possibility for me to step out from the world and see it from outside. So they are sorts of maps, mediation or as you say here media, which is a barbarian way to use latin. So they are mediations, they mean the world. But by meaning the world they also hide it. This is an inner dialectics of every mediation. For those who speak German it becomes very clear: Bilder verstellen was sie vorstellen, sie stellen sich vor dass was sie vorstellen sollen. Now this inner  dialectics which is responsible for the fact that images hide the world, is the reason for a very profound alienation. Images are meant for people to orient themselves in the world, but when they become very strong, people use their experience in the world to orient themselves in the image. The image becomes the concrete reality and the world is only a pretext. Now this inversion of the relationship between the world of experience and the world of imagination, this is called by the prophets idolatry. This is the reason why Plato wanted to prohibit art and images in the Republic. Images are anti-republican, anti-political. The purpose of image in this stage is to hide what happens. When this idolatry, this curious sort of paganism, against which not only Jewish prophets, but also the pre-Socratic philosophers argued. When this became too dense linear writing was invented. The purpose of linear writing was to open up the images by explaining them and thus open up a vision of the experienced world. Now let me open up the difference between a scenic and a processual vision. In the scene things happen; everything is a happening. In the linear, processual world nothing happens; everything is an event. The difference between an happening and an event is that the happening is the result of chance, of accident. It is an accident which becomes necessary. .. The world of happening is a chaotic world but everything repeats itself in that chaotic world. But in the event of history, in the vision of the world as a process, nothing ever repeats itself, everything is an event which has causes and will have effects. It is a world which can be rationally explained. To give you an example, for instance, the coronation of a king is a happening, it is the result of some  accident, the old king dies, it happens all the time, Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi and it is always something festive and magical. Now the discussion of the law in parliament is not a happening it is an event. It has causes and it will have effects and it is done in order to have effects. The consciousness which corresponds to image is called the magical, mythical consciousness. And the consciousness that corresponds to linear writing, to this processual vision is called political consciousness. Television cannot be like any other image, a political thing, it is anti-political by its very structure. And political consciousness is always directed against the image Now as you know Western history begins with linear writing for the simple fact that before the invention of linear writing there was no history, there were no events, everything only happened. And with the invention of linear writing events were created, but of course images didn’t give up, as the linear writing advanced against images in order to explain them away, the images infiltrated themselves into the texts and they began to illustrate the texts. The dynamics of western civilization, this inattention within western civilization, the tremendously so explosive and so dangerous for other civilizations, is the fact that image and text, imagination and conceptual thinking, magic and politics are always in conflict with us. Now during most of Western history this was a very creative process, imagination became ever more conceptual, and conceptual thinking ever more imaginative. But with the invention of print, with Gutenberg, this changed. Images were eliminated from our culture; they were enclosed into glorified ghettoes called museums or academies and the situation was dominated by writing. The
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