Vilém Flusser - Biography
Vilém Flusser was born in Prague in 1920. His family was of Jewish extraction and prized intellectual endeavors. His father, Gustav Flusser, lectured at the University of Prague and was a social-democratic representative in Parliament. His early education was conducted in both German and Czech. Remaining in Prague, Flusser continued his education at Juridical Faculty of Karlsuniversität in 1938. His intellectual interests drove him to study philosophy.
In his late teens, Vilem Flusser composed poetry. He penned his first play, Saul when he was sixteen. In 1937, Vilém Flusser attended a lecture given by Martin Buber entitled “Prejudice against God.” Martin Buber’s fine thinking impacted the young Flusser’s thinking. Martin Heidegger also influenced the early thought of Vilém Flusser.
After graduating in 1938, Vilém Flusser, his future wife Edith Barth, and her parents left Nazi occupied Prague. Flusser enrolled in the London School of Economics. Vilém Flusser’s family did not leave and they were separated from each other and murdered by the Nazi’s in the concentration camps.
Vilém Flusser moved to Brazil in 1941. On arriving in Rio de Janeiro, he learned of his father’s death in Buchenwald the previous year. Flusser married Edith Barth, and the couple had a daughter, Dinah. In 1943, the couple had their second child, Miguel Gustavo.
In Brazil, Vilém Flusser worked in a wide range of fields including the management of an electronic transformer factory. Flusser kept this position until 1961. During this period, he continued working on his philosophical and intellectual interests.
Flusser also explored phenomenology and existentialism. The influence of phenomenology shaped Flusser’s later work as he explored communication and the production of art. In part, Flusser’s project was to examine the dichotomous worship of image or text. In his work (translated as Toward a Philosophy of Photography), Flusser says,
Images are significant surfaces...signify—mainly—something ‘out there’ in space and time that they have to make comprehensible to us as abstractions (as reductions of the four dimensions of space and time to the two surface dimensions). This...ability to abstract surfaces out of space and time and to project them back into space and time is what is known ‘imagination’. It is the precondition for the production and decoding of images. In other words: the ability to encode phenomena into two-dimensional symbols and to read these symbols.
Starting in 1960, he collaborated with the Brazilian Institute for Philosophy. Some of his early works was published in Revista Brasileira de Filosofia.The Suplemento Literario do Estado de São Paulo published Vilém Flusser’s early writings on linguistics and philosophy in 1961. 1961 is also the year he starts giving lectures from his house to his daughter’s classmates.
The following year (1962) the Brazilian Institute of Philosophy accepted Flusser’s membership. He also became a professor in the philosophy of communications for the School of Communications and Humanities (FAAP) in Sao Paulo. He would also be employed at the Escola Dramatica and Escola Superior de Cinema. He cultivated relationships in the arts and even worked with the Bienal De Sao Paulo.
Flusser published Lingua e realidade in 1963. In 1964, Brazilian Philosophical review employed Vilém Flusser as a co-editor. The Brazilian military coup made it difficult for Flusser to maintain the intellectual freedom to continue publishing and lecture freely. However, in 1965 Vilém Flusser lectured on linguistic-philosophy at the Faculty for Humantities of the Technological Institute for Aeronautic in São José dos Campos.
In 1972, Folha de São Paulo (a daily newspaper) hired Flusser to write a daily column called “Posto Zero.” In this daily column, Flusser had Vilém Flusser and his wife left Brazil. They relocated to Meran, Italy. Flusser began lecturing at conferences. Flusser bean to write a philosophical autobiography Zeugenschaft aus der Bodenlosigkeit . In 1974, Flusser lectured in the United States of America. His family moves to France and he lectured on gestures at the Institut de l’Environment.
Flusser relocated again in 1981. He moved to Robion, France where he and his wife finally settled. Flusser’s Für eine Philosophie der Fotografie was published in 1983. Vilém Flusser started to write a column for Artforum called “Curie’s Children.” His involvement with arts criticism continued, and in 1988, European Photography created a column for Flusser called “Reflections.”
Flusser argues that in the past (before the technology of mechanical reproduction) text was necessary to provide image with an interpretation that would allow the image access to truth. However, with the advent of photography image had the possibility of representing its own truth.
In 1991, Vilém Flusser was a visiting professor at Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany. He also lectured at the Goethe-Institute in Prague. After giving a lecture in Prague, Vilém Flusser was killed in a car wreck. His body was laid to rest in the city of his birth.
Flusser was a polyglot and lectured and wrote in many different languages. His predominate language was German but he also worked in Portuguese and French. The many languages that he straddled prevented him from being widely read until recently. For instance, Atropos Press has only recently published an English Translation of Vampyrotheuthis Infernalis. The writings of Vilém Flusser include Língua e realidade, A história do Diabo, Filosofía da linguagem, Da religiosidade, La force du quotidien, Le monde codifié, Orthonature / Paranature, Natural:mente: vários acessos ao significado da natureza, Pós-história: vinte istantâneos e um modo de usar, Für eine Philosophie der Fotografie, Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Ins Universum der technischen Bilder, Filosofia da caixa preta, Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Eine Abhandlung samt Befund des Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste, Die Schrift. Hat Schreiben Zukunft? , Per una filosofia della fotografia, Angenommen. Eine Szenenfolge, Nachgeschichten. Essays, Vorträge, Glossen, Gesten. Versuch eine Phänomenologie, Bodenlos. Eine philosophische Autobiographie, Ende der Geschichte, Ende der Stadt? , Krise der Linearität, Vilém Flusser: ein Gespräch, Die Geschichte des Teufels, Dinge und Undinge. Phänomenologische Skizzen, Vom Stand der Dinge. Eine kleine Philosophie des Design, Lob der Oberflächlichkeit. Für eine Phänomenologie der Medien (Writings 1) , Nachgeschichte. Eine korrigierte Geschichtsschreibung (Writings 2) , Vom Subjekt zum Projekt. Menschwerdung (Writings 3) , Brasilien oder die Suche nach dem neuen Menschen. Für eine Phänomenologie der Unterentwicklung (Writings 5) , Los gestos: fenomenologia y comunicación, Von der Freiheit des Migranten. Einsprüche gegen den Nationalismus, Die Revolution der Bilder. Der Flusser-Reader zu Kommunikation, Medien und Design, Jude sein. Essays, Briefe, Fiktionen, Kommunikologie (Writings 4) , Die Informationsgesellschaft. Phantom oder Realität, Zwiegespräche. Interviews 1967-1991, Choses et non-choses: esquisses phénoménologiques,Medienkultur, Az irás, Pribek dabla, Standpunkte. Texte zur Fotografie, Ficções Filosóficas, Fenomenologia do brasileiro: em busca de um novo homem, Les gestes, Heimat und Heimatlosigkeit, The Shape of Things to Come, A dúvida, Vogelflüge. Essays zu Natur und Kultur, Briefe an Alex Bloch, From Subject to Project: Becoming Human, Writings, Da Religiosidade. A literatura e o senso de realidade, Filosofia del design, The Freedom of the Migrant, and La cultura dei media.