Thinking Cultural History with Vilém Flusser: Images, Technology and Intellectual Constructs

Recent years have seen an intensive interest in Vilém Flusser’s philosophical work, which could be accounted for by his interdisciplinary position, fragmented writing style and multi-lingual oeuvre composed in German, Czech and Portuguese.1

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

Continuing his reflections on the philosophy of photography, in the work entitled Into the Universe of Technical Images Flusser does not separate social structures from the images that are generated in particular periods.2 Based on this premise, cultural history could be submitted to periodization that is in accord with the nature of pictorial forms that are associated with it. In this regard, Flusser’s essayistic style both allows for the recombination of philosophical ideas for a descriptive analysis of the present moment and escapes categorization, especially as the flow of his argumentation is apportioned into short pieces of text. This also positions Flusser at the cross-roads of European intellectual traditions that he has approached from his location in Brazil.

At any rate, his critique of technological images has allowed Flusser to recognize that the utopian expectations associated with the advent of the information society have largely been unfounded, despite the progressive development of the underlying technical possibilities. Decades after the time of his writing, it seems that the interest in his works stems from the perspective they afford on the media-saturated condition that has become everyday reality around the globe. Re-appraisals and re-publications of Flusser’s works indicate that the conceptual vocabulary with which the contemporary culture could be grasp continues to be in flux to a similar degree to which the early foreshadowing of digitization processes could allow a reflexive understanding of the interrelations between society, culture and visual forms in the late twentieth century.

This is the reason for which the article by Riccardo Venturi on Flusser’s thought both registers its trajectory and its reception and historicizes the analyses he proposed, while noticing their stress on insights that rely less on systematic intellectual schemes than on the intensity of insight that the transition from one point to another in the web of his evolving, inchoate argumentation gives access to.3 In other words, Flusser’s works are informed by aesthetics, which is not unrelated to his engagements as an art curator, such as for the 1972 São Paulo Biennial. Likewise, as a form of intellectual montage, Flusser’s thought has been amenable to those working in visual design, design and architecture, since it proceeds from initial ideas toward composite arguments that are not dissimilar to creative processes in the arts, as João Palla argues.4

In other words, as Flusser takes recourse to the narrative reflection more at home in fictional texts, he produces in his works novel forms of intellectual expression that do away with intellectual constructions divorced from the reality of everyday life, works of art and aesthetic perception.

Featured Image Credits:  Neighborhood Sightlines in North Beach, San Francisco, United States, April 11, 2011 | © Courtesy of Digital Archaeology.

Cite this article as: Pablo Markin, "Thinking Cultural History with Vilém Flusser: Images, Technology and Intellectual Constructs," in OpenCulture, 02/07/2017,


  1. Anonymous, Vilém Flusser, Monoskop, 14 May 2017, []
  2. Flusser, Vilém. Ins Universum Der Technischen Bilder. Göttingen: European Photography, 2000 [1985]. []
  3. Riccardo Venturi, « Les Images techniques et leur médium. Exposer la pensée de Vilém Flusser », Critique d’art [En ligne], 46 | Printemps/Eté 2016, mis en ligne le 20 mai 2017, consulté le 02 juillet 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/critiquedart.21166 []
  4. João Palla. Modos De “Ver” O Espaço – A Propósito De Montagens Fotográficas, Artecapital, Arquitetura e Design | Artecapital.Net, n.d., []

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