Flusseriana: An Intellectual Toolbox was published

“With more than two hundred ‘thinkthings’ (Denkdinge) of all kinds, Flusseriana is a toolbox that reflects the paradoxical and audacious freestyle thinking that is Vilém Flusser’s intellectual modus operandi.”

I was so fortunate to contribute four of the lemmata. I feel very honored to be a contributor to this great project as a collection of “particularities”, which also were translated into English and Portuguese:

  • Neuland / new land / terra novo,
  • magisch / magical / mágico,
  • Masse / mass(es) / massa,
  • Atlas / atlas / atlas

texturen Nr.2 — Spielen has been published

On April 16, 2015, the second volume in the series textures was published by Verlag of University of Arts Berlin. The new edition of texturen makes “Spielen” (“playing”) the subject of the book. It includes 21 essays and reportages of students, researchers and artists.

The theme “Spielen” is understood both as subject and method; not only as a metaphor. Playing games means taking up a stance and paving new ways of thinking and acting (Daniela Kuka, co-editor and author).

The spectrum of articles ranges from reportages to the philosophical essay. Those dense and thick descriptions emerge from participating observation. The mixture of authors make the reading inspiring – not only for readers interested in the cultural studies.

Texts transfer between reflection, analysis and new forms of articulation. They are thus addressed not only to an academic readership, but also to agencies, editors and other laboratories of the present.


Volume 2 – Forum zur Genealogie des MedienDenkens

The second volume of the expanded documentation of the talks held within the Forum on the Genealogy of MediaThinking in summer term 2013 is now published by Verlag der Universität der Künste Berlin. Siegfried Zielinski in conversation with… Hans Belting, Wolfgang Ernst, Hartmut Winkler, Henning Schmidgen, Claus Pias and Sybille Krämer. It features contributions and material by Vilém Flusser, Florian Hadler, Konstantin Daniel Haensch, Toni Hildebrandt, Daniel Irrgang, Linnéa Meiners, Sandra Moskova, Inger Neick, Aneta Panek, Andreas Rauth, Sarah Johanna Theurer and Siegfried Zielinski.

Edited by Daniel Irrgang, Konstantin Daniel Haensch & Inger Neick.

The Forum on the Genealogy of MediaThinking – an essentially incomplete and open search for developments within the academic and artistic discourses about what media were, are and can be, drawn along the scientific biographies of Siegfried Zielinskis guests. It is an attempt to grasp in public talks, what has emerged as MediaThinking in universities and in the manifold current laboratories over the last decades.

ISBN: 978-3-89462-260-2
The book is now available for sale at the UdK-library (foyer, Fasanenstraße 88, Berlin) for €15. It can also be ordered at Verlag der Universität der Künste Berlin (for an additional €2 shipping charges):

Universität der Künste Berlin

Claudia Metz
Einsteinufer 43–53
10587 Berlin
Tel. (030) 3185-2157
Fax (030) 3185-2121
email publikat@udk-berlin.de

AnArchive(s) – A Minimal Encyclopedia on Archaeology and Variantology of the Arts and Media

The bilingual project AnArchive(s) has now been published. I am very honored to contribute one of the lemmata: “Manifest / Manifesto” [p. 113-114]. Let me provide you with the English version of the text:


A manifesto is a medium of immediacy. Translator of immaterialities, transcending out of the world of ghosts, of communism as well, into that of future actions. A manifesto makes something obvious, manifestus; directs its voice to the resisting hands, manus, of many. The Book of Revelation is a manifesto by the enslaved Christians in the Roman Empire of the 1st century: ‘The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place’ (Rv 1:1). A manifesto is the theory, theoria – an idea that in its contemporaneity enables new futures, therefore the present to come, from past practices. The momentum of the manifesto develops out of this synchronicity; the energy that it directs towards forces. The Communist Manifesto (1847-48), the Futurist Manifesto (1909), the Dada Manifesto (1918), the Surrealist Manifesto (1924), the Prague Manifesto (1934), A Cyborg Manifesto (1985), The Hacker Manifesto (1986), The Cluetrain Manifesto (2000). Siegfried Zielinski’s Against Psychopathia Medialis – For Normal Schizophrenia: A Minimal Manifesto (US: 2013) is opposed to the media regime. It is the draft for a post-mediality that argues a case for the ‘integrity of the individual’ against ‘dismembered’, the modes of existence to reveal on that courageously aspires to discover the individual in the other. It is a Vademecum for travelers on a quest for lost unintentionality. Ghosts in dialogue with a monologue, oh so media-based world.

Order here.

Pop & Value II: Normal similarity mixtures and their energies

Johnny Cash stands at death’s door. In 2002, ravaged by disease, he releases his last great album American IV: The Man Comes Around; an album with a very special sound. Cash’s voice is warm and self­contained, the instrumentation subtle and dark. Producer Rick Rubin carefully constructs a sound imbued with immediacy. The intimacy and honesty of the arrangements yield dignified songs about love, suffering and death ­ a homage to the life of Johnny Cash. 11 of the 15 tracks on the album are covers; songs by Sting, Lennon/McCartney and The Eagles. One song stands out from the rest ­ the interpretation of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. Trent Raznor’s piece about death and disappointment, but also about self­preservation in the toughest of times, is to be found on the conceptual album The Downward Spiral, released in 1994.

Hurt was written in A­major; the plucked tones of the harmonies sound festive and uplifting. Yet an interval allows the verses to tremble with dissonance, in B­minor; this shift is known as a tritone, and was referred to in the past, as the ‘interval of the devil’ ­ an almost forbidden musical law. There are six semitones from B up to F. Yet it is not just this trick which creates this sombre, disillusioned and destabilising song; the vocals, which come unusually early, the dark grumbling of the climax as well as Trent Raznor’s whimpering, breathy intonation all allow this initially writhing song to mount its increasingly threatening pound; before reverting at the end, following its destructive peak, to a stagnant pulse. In assuming the present tense, the text submits itself to suicide, leaving in its wake, mankind in eternal pain. “I will make you hurt.“

The song does not end at this point. The lyrics turn and retain for a moment, a sense of hope, bound with a strange certainty. “If I could start again, a million miles away, I would keep myself. I would find a way.” Yet the musical performance pushes against the text; it becomes dissimilar to it. Reznor’s lines of hope and strength give way to the darkness of the final chorus and the crashing of electric guitars.

A song switches owner: an example of the dynamics of similarity in pop and its interaction. Is this example of the productive impact of influence and imitation in pop a rule or that rare exception; a particular achievement of an extraordinary songwriter and a legend of his age?

Johnny Cash’s Hurt is ­ naturally for a cover ­ different. Cash and Rubin forego the prescribed ‘interval of the devil’ and execute the piece in full chords; the typically Cash­esque western guitar, maintained by deep piano and quieting flutes. The despair and trepidation are palpable without the noise and dissonance and are born instead out of the quiet of the instruments and Cash’s fragile, pleading voice. Johnny Cash’s interpretation is able to produce an astounding coherence between lyrics and music. A similarity between Reznors lyrics and Cash’s life lights up, the song becomes self­similar. The cover becomes the original.

Initially, Trent Reznor still had big doubts about Cash’s plan. But as he saw and heard the cover for the first time on MTV, he was overwhelmed with emotion. He had to concede having lost the song to Johnny Cash; “I pop the video in, and wow… Tears welling, silence, goose­bumps… Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.” A song switches owner; an example of the dynamics of similarity in pop and its interaction. Is this example of the productive impact of influence and imitation in pop a rule or that rare exception; a particular achievement of an extraordinary songwriter and a legend of his age? “Culture today beats everything with the similarity stick.”

Following Adorno’s sixty year old absolute: what role does similarity play in today’s (pop) culture? One thing is clear, the popular culture machine continually reproduces itself. Between similarity and difference, there evolves something which feels novel and at the same time strangely familiar. Similarity conceals itself in abstract concepts, leaps far into the past, floats in space like a series of interwoven references. The example of the cover is just one of its forms. Here it manifests itself in imitation, elsewhere it’s as an influence, an improbable coincidence, a genre, a style or a physical restriction of the instrument ­ music in itself. Dealing with similarity is one of the biggest challenges in pop. Following the heated debates of the last decades over authorship, intellectual property, originality, forgery, sampling, codes and so on, we now find ourselves at a point where, with trends like vintage, retro and other re­phenomena (re­issue, revival, remake) similarity has become so well­rehearsed that it now plays a significant role in shaping contemporary pop culture. Have we encountered a ‘pop­historicism’ that need no longer fight off accusations of eclecticism? The artistic game with similarity; what in the first half of the 20th century, with Marcel Duchamps ready­mades, the dadaist collages of Kurt Schwitter and pop­art, was wild and style­defining has become a normal gesture determining the entire production of the cultural industry.

There are numerous assessments which can be made regarding this practise. In his freshly printed account of the ongoing 21st century, Retromania, Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, Simon Reynolds identifies retromania as a series of backward­looking similarities with which we continue to bog ourselves down. “Instead of being about itself, the 2000s has been about every other previous decade happening again all at once: a simultaneity of pop time […]” Here, it is the question of ‘itself’ which naturally comes to the fore. Which era of pop culture can after all legitimately claim complete creative autonomy for itself? Nevertheless, something seems to have changed.

As Elvis, as Jackson, as Cash, as Dylan; the performance of similarity is embedded in pop­culture’s cannon of gestures.

The artist Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, who, under the name of Lady Gaga is one of the most successful female artists of our time, has been driving out the (female) competition with overwrought, absurd acts of imitation for the past few years. Her latest coup is a fictional character based on her own fictional character; her ‘male alter ego’ Jo Calderone, who took to the stage at the MTV Music Video Awards in 2011. As Elvis, as Jackson, as Cash, as Dylan; the performance of similarity is embedded in pop­culture’s cannon of gestures. Germanotta manoeuvres herself within the normalised heritage of pop ­ jumping between gender, roles and sound bites ­ it’s a big performance.

The medley of these pop similarities is strategic in its references, and at the same time, of little consequence to the artist. Germanottas performance is a form of ‘teasing’; a strategy of cultural production, as discussed by Jürgen Link in reference to the American television character Ally McBeal, who, in one episode through exploring her ‘lesbian potential’ transgresses the delineations of normality, only to revert back to being heterosexual within the same episode, thus serving to ‘reassure’ the audience. The decisive difference between this similarity strategy and that of Germanotta is, that this very act of reassurance is no longer necessary. The whole thing was planned from the side of the producers and expected by the audience. The transgression, the ‘overshooting the mark’ as Link says, does not take place. The explosion of this composite of similarity happens within the realm of normality of the MTV Music Video Awards. The energy fizzles out and the references hold an ornamental function, and secede once again, soon after the performance has finished, if not during. Perhaps we could see the performance of the American rapper Marshall Mathers on the MTV Music Video Awards in 2000 as a prologue to this decade of the normalised similarity. The artist Eminen opened the first show of the noughties by having over 100 lookalikes onstage with him. By multiplying himself, he inaugurated a decade, which more so than any before it (re)produced the concept of strategic similarities and established questions of identity and heritage as recurring themes.

And of course, Lady Gaga’s Jo Calderone has its own specific power to unleash, which could allow it through television, the internet and magazines, to spread to the furthest corners of the world and to give courage to transsexual youths.

In spite of some clearly pessimistic appraisals of normalised similarity à la Reynolds, the potential of the new which developed out of what has been described by Düllo as the “multifarious, tactical and cunning creativity of certain groups and individuals”, should not remain unmentioned, since “creating something new out of replication” (Deleuze, 2007), lies in the replication itself, for example, in an act of imitation. As Tarde surmises; “every invention is merely the successful intersecting of various flows of imitation in an intelligent brain”. The new ­ that barely conceivable construct ­ is made up of an amalgamation of temporal context and external circumstance. The role of identifying the potential of the new falls to the act of assessment, which can be seen as the communication of diverse systems. And of course, Lady Gaga’s Jo Calderone has its own specific power to unleash, which could allow it through television, the internet and magazines, to spread to the furthest corners of the world and to give courage to transsexual youths.

And now back to the start, back to Johnny Cash’s Hurt. What good is an altogether pessimistic assessment of similarity in terms of Retromania, in a system which produces songs like Cash’s Hurt? At the same time, the normalised similarity remains a phenomenon of the present­day. “Has popular music, as a style, become traditional?”, asks one disillusioned user on the SPON forum, “what potential do pop musicians have to be innovational (specifically the ones who get teary­eyed with the mere mention of Bob Dylan)?”. It remains the margin, the deviation, the niche, the tried­and­tested model of pop production: the shifting of the subversive into the mainstream. Or is it in fact, that with normalised similarity, we are experiencing the last hurrah of an industry? The realm of the internet conceals huge potential for subversive strategies, yet in these times of increasing industrial cultivation ­ primarily at the hands of Apple with their business model App Store and iTunes (“All in the name of entertainment”) ­ how much longer can this remain the case? The world needs new sources, and finds them time and time again in the barbaric, alien and subcultural. In the big, big topics as well as in the tiny ones, in the crises of our time just as in the fates of individuals, the similarity of pain will remain a constant, as long as human beings can still feel. Perhaps in becoming traditional pop takes on a special form of irony, as Slavoj Žižek discussed back in 1996, using the example of Laibach. But since the artistic subject, acting within the ideology of the cultural industry upholds an ironic distance and does not take the system ‘seriously’, does the ironic attitude of the music industry serve to neutralise not only its criticism but also the new together with it?

The reverse of this is that: the only way to be really subversive is not to develop critical potential, ironic distance, but precisely to take it [the system] even more seriously than it takes itself. (Slavoj Žižek, 1996)

When the energy of subversion, as a currency in pop, ceases to lurk on the periphery and instead in direct opposition, stands in the centre of the system, then the question of the value of pop needs to be reevaluated; the old search for that which lies beyond similarity must yield to the need to be taken seriously

The reverse of this is that: the only way to be really subversive is not to develop critical potential, ironic distance, but precisely to take it [the system] even more seriously than it takes itself. (Slavoj Žižek, 1996)


The text ‘Pop & Value II ­ normal similarity mixtures and their energies’ was originally published in the ‘Similarity’ issue of the magazine EIGENART. This is the translation of Radius Magazine.

texturen Nr.1 - Wohnen

texturen Nr.1 — Wohnen ist im UdK Verlag erschienen

texturen, als Medium des größten Studiengangs der Universität der Künste Berlin, der Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftskommunikation, ist Gegenwartsvermessung zwischen journalistischer Essayistik und akademischem Diskurs. Im ersten Buch „Wohnen“ entstehen Texturen von Wirklichkeiten, die übereinander liegen, sich mischen und ständig in Bewegung bleiben. Entstanden sind Texte für einen gemischten Leserkreis, der neugierig auf das Dichte, Glatte und Brüchige im Alltäglichen ist – und auf den textlich festgehaltenen Moment.

texturen Nr. 1 – Wohnen
Seraina Nyikos u.a.
Hrsg. von Thomas Düllo; Konstantin Daniel Haensch
UdK Berlin 2013
200 Seiten, Ill.
ISBN 978-3-89462-237-4

Bestellbar über den UdK Verlag oder in jeder Buchhandlung.