Vilém Flusser (May 12, – November 27, ) was a Czech-born The Shape of Things, was published in London in and was followed by a new translation of Towards a Philosophy of Photography. Towards a Philosophy of Photography has ratings and 27 reviews. Jesse said: Interesting attempt to build a theoretical framework around photography. Back in , the media critic and philosopher Vilém Flusser (–) in a little book called Towards a Philosophy of Photography.

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Vilém Flusser

For the next step, you’ll be taken to a website to complete the donation and phllosophy your billing information. You’ll then be redirected back to LARB.

To take advantage of all LARB has to offer, please create an account or log in before joining There is less than a week left to support our matching grant fund drive! Your tax-deductible donation made to LARB by Click here for the full series. I dug into my MP3 drive, found my Feldman folder and opened it up. I opened it to find 79 albums as zipped files.

I unzipped three of them, listened to part of one, and closed the folder. In this way photograpby role as librarians and archivists has outpaced our role as cultural consumers. Engaging with media in a traditional sense is often the last thing we do, that is like my Feldman experienceif we ever get to it at all.

Flusser: Towards a Philosophy of Photography

In the digital ecosystem, the apparatuses surrounding the artifact are more engaging than the artifact itself. Context is the new content. Flusser claimed that the content of any given aa is actually the camera that produced it.

He continued with a series of nested apparatuses: The content of the camera is the programming that makes it function; the content of the programming is the photographic industry that produces it; and the content of the photographic industry is the military-industrial complex in which it is situated, and so forth. He viewed photography from a completely technical standpoint. This requires an act of imaginative translation on our part, but once you make towarfs leap, you realize that this text astonishingly directly addresses our situation some three decades later.

Obeying such rules — going with the apparatus instead of against it — results in victories, substantiated by gains in followers and retweets.

Failure to follow the rules there are no official rules, actually, only a set of community-based standards that most players unquestioningly follow results in isolation: A photograph is not a carrier of memories — your baby pictures are interchangeable with photogralhy million other baby pictures — but a predetermined artifact spit out by the camera apparatus. The camera is a voracious, greedy device, programmed to stalk images the way an animal stalks prey: For this reason, Instagram keeps adding new filter sets and features in order to retain and broaden its user base.


To Instagram, the content of the photos people are taking is beside the point; the real point is that they keep taking them in order to fortify the apparatus.

Anyone can push a button and produce a photograph without having a clue as to the inner workings of a camera. A lens on a camera will inevitably take telescopic photos. The program of the camera overrides the artifact that it produces. The programmers of cameras strive to keep their interfaces as simple as possible, to discourage experimentation outside of its parameters.

How many people snapping photos with a smartphone only take one shot of any given scene? Those photos are uploaded to the cloud, where ever-more redundant photos are stored.

Your photo of the Flatiron Building on Flickr is identically redundant to the millions already stored on Flickr, yet you keep on snapping them just as I keep downloading MP3s. We work for the camera.

Our compulsive behavior leaves no scene undocumented.

I shoot therefore I am. The image is irrelevant in comparison to the apparatuses surrounding it. Your cultural artifact is locked within that system, constrained by its programming. While we play the Instagram game by liking and reposting photos, the apparatus knows otherwise: The physical value even of a photograpjy photograph is negligible: As opposed to a painting, where the value of the object resides in its singularity, the value of a photograph lies in the information on its surface.

Its surface is ephemeral and, in the digital age, rewritable. The photograph is a pivotal artifact, bridging the industrial and post-industrial, embodying the transition from the physical to the purely informational.

Towards a Philosophy of Photography by Vilém Flusser

How that information is distributed determines much of its meaning. In a paper-bound economy, its ubiquity in physical space was its distributive metric. But even then, the content in a poster or handbill was somewhere other than its image. Unlike, say, an image of a rocket ship glued to a television screen, a photograph of a rocket ship published in a newspaper could be clipped, stuffed into an envelope, and sent to a friend.

Available to be passed hand-to-hand, the moveable photographic artifact anticipated our vast image-sharing networks.

The camera resembles a game philosopy chess. It contains what appears to be an infinite number of possibilities, but in the end, those possibilities are prescribed by its programming.

Just as every possible move and towarfs of a chess game has long been exhausted, every program of the camera too has long been exhausted. In the case flysser Instagram, with a user base of over million users, the programs are instantly exhausted, resulting in updates to the program that include new features in order to retain users. Although finite, the apparatus must always give the illusion of infinity in order to make each user feel that they can never exhaust the program.


After Flusser, the photo criticism of Sontag or Barthes, each of whom mostly ignores the apparatus in favor of the artifact, appears to miss the point entirely.

Their achingly beautiful literary readings of the photograph as memento mori or studies in studium and punctum have no place in the Flusserian universe. However, the apparatuses themselves automatically assimilate these attempts at liberation and enrich their programs with them. Those who attempt to break the system by doing something with the camera that was never intended by industry: Thomas Ruff, who took intentionally boring portraits or enlarged JPEGs to monumental scale, thereby exploiting their crappy resolution; or the blurred portraits of Bill Jacobson, so intentionally out of focus that the head of the subject resembles little more than a blot.

Twitter is trickier to break. I recall a few years ago, a prominent art historian asked me to join a reading group focused on media and communications studies.

She was sensing that in order to be able to understand art being made in a postdigital time, literary-based models of art criticism Krauss, Buchloh, Octoberetc.

In order to understand contemporary culture, we needed to move from the artifact to the apparatus. The effect was profound and immediate. Suddenly, much of the new art and literature found a receptive framework and history that could speak to the networked conditions of the digital age. Kenny Goldsmith is the author of eight books of poetry, founding editor of the online archive UbuWeb http: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews.

Creative Writing and Literary History. Reading as Kissing, Sex with Ideas: By Kathryn Bond Stockton.

Towards a Philosophy of Photography: Vilem Flusser, Vilm Flusser: : Books

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