Photographs are received as objects without value that everyone can produce and that everyone can do what they like with. In fact, however, we are manipulated by photographs and programmed to act in a ritual fashion in the service of a feedback mechanism for the benefit of cameras. Photographs suppress our critical awareness in order to make us forget the mindless absurdity of the process of functionality, and it is only thanks to this suppression that functionality is possible at all. Thus photographs form a magic circle around us in the shape of the photographic universe. What we need is to break this circle.
Towards a philosophy of photography Vilem Flusser
“CANNOT YOU SEE, CANNOT ALL YOU LECTURERS SEE, THAT IT IS WE THAT ARE DYING, AND THAT DOWN HERE THE ONLY THING THAT REALLY LIVES IS THE MACHINE? WE CREATED THE MACHINE, TO DO OUR WILL, BUT WE CANNOT MAKE IT DO OUR WILL NOW…THE MACHINE DEVELOPS - BUT NOT ON OUR LINES. THE MACHINE PROCEEDS - BUT NOT TO OUR GOAL. WE ONLY EXIST AS THE BLOOD CORPUSCLES THAT COURSE THROUGH ITS ARTERIES, AND IF IT COULD WORK WITHOUT US, IT WOULD LET US DIE.” - E.M. FORSTER, THE MACHINE STOPS (1928). VIVIFYING THE SENTIMENTS EXPRESSED IN AN EXCELLENT ESSAY I READ LAST MONTH - VILÉM FLUSSER’S ’TOWARDS A PHILOSOPHY OF PHOTOGRAPHY’. MORE ON THAT LATER.
A “textolatry” occurs, which is just as “hallucinatory as idolatry.” An example of textolatry is orthodox Christianity and Marxism: texts projected, undeciphered, into the world “out there,” man experiencing, knowing, and evaluating the world as a function of his texts.
Vilem Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography.
There is so much to Flusser than I absolutely love, the least of which is the clarity of his essays and the skepticism he brings to them. He writes humbly, but intelligently. This particular point certainly reflects my own problems with some strains of Marxism or ideology in general.