HomeVilém Flusser, Walter Benjamin – The technical ambiguities

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Published on Friday, August 10, 2018 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

In different moments of his work, Walter Benjamin reflects upon the question of technology and related issues such as work as the mediation between man and nature, conducting his critical analysis of progress. He says: “What’s the idea? to speak of progress to a world sinking into the rigidity of death. (...) The concept of progress must be grounded in the idea of catastrophe. That things are 'status quo' is the catastrophe. It is not an ever-present possibility but what in each case is given.” Marxism will also be reviewed by him  according to his critical conception of progress: “Marx said that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps things are very different. It may be that revolutions are the act by which the human race travelling in the train applies the emergency brake”.

Announcement

Argument

In different moments of his work, Walter Benjamin reflects upon the question of technology and related issues such as work as the mediation between man and nature, conducting his critical analysis of progress. He says: “What’s the idea? to speak of progress to a world sinking into the rigidity of death. (...) The concept of progress must be grounded in the idea of catastrophe. That things are 'status quo' is the catastrophe. It is not an ever-present possibility but what in each case is given.” Marxism will also be reviewed by him  according to his critical conception of progress: “Marx said that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps things are very different. It may be that revolutions are the act by which the human race travelling in the train applies the emergency brake”. In “One Way Street” Benjamin recalls that “The mastery of nature, so the imperialists teach, is the purpose of all technology.” But he also offers an opposing view: “technology is not the mastery of nature but of the relation between nature and man.” In the second version of his essay about “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility” he develops a distinction between the first technology, its outcome being the sacrifice of life, and the second technology, which would have as paradoxical examples photography and cinema, based on the play with nature: “The origin the second technology lies at the point where, by an unconscious ruse, human beings first began to distance themselves from nature. It lies, in other words, in play. [...]The first technology really sought to master nature, whereas the second aims rather at an interplay between nature and humanity”. And so, he notes: “Because this technology aims at liberating human beings from drudgery, the individual suddenly sees his scope for play, his field of action [Spielraum], immeasurably expanded. [...] No sooner has the second technology secured its initial revolutionary gains then vital questions affecting the individual - questions of love and death which had been buried by the first technology - once again press for solutions”.

Vilém Flusser also considers these two sides or two types of technology, as well as the challenges of rethinking love and death in the age of technical images. His theory of images does not distinguish between auratic images (cultual) and pre-auratic images (reproducible) like Benjamin, but pre-modern images that are works of art, and post-modern images that are products of technology. The latter, as he notes in the beginning of his medialogy, are the ones that program us. In 1983 Flusser points out two possible paths for the future of writing: “it will either become a critique on tecno-imagination [...] or a production of pretexts for tecno-imagination (a plan for that technical progress)”. In the second case, we would move towards transforming life into an apparatus that will feedback itself eternally. In the other hand, in “The Universe of Technical Images” and other late works, Flusser bet on a profound radical transformation of our nature from the radicalisation of technical images. Like in Benjamin, we see technology awakening the fecundant seed of nature and developing its potential. In Benjaminian terms, Flusser writes in 1991, in his work “Technical Imagination”: “We have to rethink all our concepts of art, science, politics, freedom, conditioning, chance, necessity, and yes, of life and death”. And more: “The Einbildungskraft [imagination] that is being established now opens new fields of possibilities that we had not dared to dream about until now, that is: freedom will not be ‘of whom’ anymore, but ‘to whom’, and life will be the achievement of always new possibilities”. In the formulation of “A New Imagination”, text from 1990, we read: “the levels of existence that we have to conquer thanks to this new imagination promesse us life experiences, representations (Vorstellungen), feelings, concepts, values and decisions - things that until now we could at best only dream of; this audacity promises to put on stage habilities that until now were asleep within us”. Also for Flusser, the game is central in this new creative imagination: “only when images are made from calculation and not from circumstances [...] is when a ‘pure aesthetics’ (the pleasure in the game of ‘pure forms’) can unfold; only then can Homo faber detach from Homo ludens”.

Our proposal as organizers of the present dossier is that authors develop and deepen the discussion about the philosophy of technic in these two fundamental authors, be it a comparison between them or a deeper research in one of them. This theme becomes essential in our time, more and more conscious of the destructive element of technology and, at the same time, keeps on dreaming of technical or even naturalist post-technical utopias. In what way these two author’s proposals for re-thinking art from technic (téchne) was determinant to the theory of art? How can these theories be enlightened from the confrontation and dialogue with other authors who are critical thinkers of technic/art such as Ernst Bloch, Adorno, Horkheimer and Heidegger? Which philosophies and theories of history are behind these conceptions of technic/art and also how are they co-opted or tensioned by a theological and/or messianic thought? How can current technology be read from these works or, in the other hand, to what extent new technology demands updating or even overcoming the legacy of such authors? The current art-media rewrites the matter of technic; how can we think this phenomenon from Flusser and Benjamin? At last, how can the ethics of responsibility and the philosophy of technic of Hans Jonas be analyzed along with Flusser’s and Benjamin’s proposals?

Submission guidelines

Deadline for submission: 22/03/2019.

Norms to be followed in submitted works:

Papers must have a maximum of 20 pages in the following format: A4, Word document, Times New Roman 12 font, "normal style" or "body text", single line spacing, justified paragraphs, and margins of 3 cm, avoiding the use of advanced editing features such as outline and the like.

All papers must present: title and abstract in Portuguese and English, with a maximum of 200 words; keywords in both languages. Authors: should not be identified anywhere in the text of the article (double blind peer-review system).

The author's mini-biography, institutional affiliation and e-mail address must be informed in the submission form, not in the body of the text.

Bibliographic references should be listed at the end of the text, in alphabetical order, according to ABNT norms.

Illustrations: charts, tables, drawings, maps etc. should be numbered and titled as close as possible to the element to which it refers, indicating its source. Image reproduction rights must be obtained by the authors themselves.

Citations: for citations in the text should be adopted the numerical system (NBR 10520: 2002). The indication of the source is made by single and consecutive numbering, in Arabic numerals, with the footnote being referenced by the complete reference in the first mention, and must contain Author's last name (followed by a comma), first names (followed by a period); Title of the work in bold (followed by period); editing (followed by period); local (followed by colon); editor (followed by a comma); year of publication (followed by period); if applicable, indicate the volume or issue) and finally the source page. In the second mention Surname of the author (followed by comma); first names (followed by a comma); op.cit. (in the cited work); source page. When the notes of the same author are in sequence, the Latin expressions can be used, followed by the page number quoted. A) apud: second-hand citation; cf: confronting refers to; ibid in the same work cited (same author, same work, but different pages); id same author (same author, same work, same page); op.cit. in the work cited. Short direct quotes (up to three lines) must be enclosed in quotation marks and incorporated into the text and without changing the font. Long citations (more than three lines) must have a 4 cm indentation of the left margin, with lower letter than the used text (11 point size) and without quotation marks. Indirect citations should come without quotation marks. Quotes of citations may use the expression apud and the original work to which the consulted author is referring must be cited. For other information about the use of citations, the author should consult ABNT (NBR 10520: 2002).

References: must be presented in alphabetical order. Bibliographical references should be elaborated according to the provisions of NBR 6023: 2002, of the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (ABNT), with only essential elements.

Bibliographic Reference Model of book

  • SURNAME, Name of the author; SURNAME, Name of the author. Book title: book subtitle. Edition. Location: Publisher, year. Xx p.
  • Bibliographic reference model of book available online:
  • SURNAME, Name of the author; SURNAME, Name of the author. Book title: book subtitle. Edition. Location: Publisher, year. Xx p. Available in. Access in: DD / MM / YYYY.
  • Bibliographic reference model of article published in periodical:
  • SURNAME, Name of the author; SURNAME, Name of the author. Title of the article. Name of the journal, City, v.00, n.11, p.111-222, jan. 2012.
  • Bibliographic reference model of an article published in a periodical available online:
  • SURNAME, Name of the author; SURNAME, Name of the author. Title of the article. Name of the journal, City, v.00, n.11, p.111-222, jan. 2012. Available in: Access in DD / MM / YYYY.

Selection committee

  • Dra. Debora Pazetto, CEFET-MG, Brasil
  • Dr. Diogo Mesti, UFSC, Brasil
  • Dr. Eduardo Subirats, New York University, Estados Unidos da América do Norte
  • Dr. Ernani Chaves, UFPA, Brasil
  • Dr. Fernando Iazzetta, USP/PUC-SP, Brasil
  • Dr. Fernando Mencarelli, UFMG, Brasil
  • Dra. Fiona Hughes, University of Essex, Reino Unido
  • Dr. Guido Antônio de Almeida, UFRJ, Brasil
  • Dra. Jeanne-Marie Gagnebin, UNICAMP, Brasil
  • Dr. Marco Antônio Alves, CAPES/UFMG, Brasil
  • Dra. Mariana Lage, CAPES/UFJF, Brasil
  • Dr. Olímpio Pimenta, UFOP, Brasil
  • Dr. Pedro Galé, USP, Brasil
  • Dra. Regina Márcia Simão Santos, UNIRIO, Brasil
  • Dr. Ricardo Miranda Nachmanowicz, UFOP, Brasil
  • Dr. Roberto Machado, UFRJ, Brasil
  • Dr. Rodrigo Duarte, UFMG, Brasil
  • Dr. Slavoj Žižek, University of Ljubljana, Eslovênia
  • Dra. Tânia Alice Feix, Unirio, Brasil
  • Dr. Verlaine Freitas, UFMG, Brasil
  • Dr. Vladimir Safatle, USP, Brasil

Subjects

Date(s)

  • Friday, March 22, 2019

Keywords

  • Vilém Flusser, Walter Benjamin, technical resource

Contact(s)

  • Costa Rachel
    courriel : rachelcocosta [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Costa Rachel
    courriel : rachelcocosta [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Vilém Flusser, Walter Benjamin – The technical ambiguities », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, August 10, 2018, https://calenda.org/465751

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