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Gestures

Vilém Flusser

Publication Year: 2014


Throughout his career, the influential new media theorist Vilém Flusser kept the idea of gesture in mind: that people express their being in the world through a sweeping range of movements. He reconsiders familiar actions—from speaking and painting to smoking and telephoning—in terms of particular movement, opening a surprising new perspective on the ways we share and preserve meaning. A gesture may or may not be linked to specialized apparatus, though its form crucially affects the person who makes it.

These essays, published here as a collection in English for the first time, were written over roughly a half century and reflect both an eclectic array of interests and a durable commitment to phenomenological thought. Defining gesture as “a movement of the body or of a tool attached to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation,” Flusser moves around the topic from diverse points of view, angles, and distances: at times he zooms in on a modest, ordinary movement such as taking a photograph, shaving, or listening to music; at others, he pulls back to look at something as vast and varied as human “making,” embracing everything from the fashioning of simple tools to mass manufacturing. But whatever the gesture, Flusser analyzes it as the expression of a particular form of consciousness, that is, as a particular relationship between the world and the one who gestures.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Further Reading, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Translator’s Preface

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pp. vii-xii

...just months before he was killed in an automobile accident. He was living in France at the time, traveling frequently to Germany for speaking and teaching engagements, for...

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Gesture and Affect: The Practice of a Phenomenology of Gestures

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pp. 1-9

...As a matter of courtesy, as well as for other reasons, a writer should define his concepts. In this essay, I will do this for the concept of “gesture” but not for that of “affect.” I hope that the reader will excuse this impropriety. My plan is to feign ignorance of the meaning...

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Beyond Machines (but Still within the Phenomenology of Gestures)

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pp. 10-18

...methodology with the means of changing it. These problems are intertwined. We cannot know that the world is not as it should be without knowing how it is, nor can we know that the world is as it is without knowing how it should be. We cannot know that the world...

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The Gesture of Writing

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pp. 19-25

...Mesopotamian bricks with pointed sticks, and according to tradition, this is the origin of writing. It was about making holes, pressing through a surface, and that is still the case. Writing still means making...

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The Gesture of Speaking

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pp. 26-31

...speech in the course of human evolution? Is the creation of linguistic convention based on organs of speech, or did these organs develop because of the convention, or still another...

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The Gesture of Making

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pp. 32-47

...manipulation with gloves or through animation. But the excitement it produces is so strong as to approach philosophical delirium. For the symmetrical relationship between our two hands...

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The Gesture of Loving

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pp. 48-54

...what is familiar, and so when we concentrate on them, they seem new and surprising. But we don’t see the gesture of loving because social pressure demands that it be private...

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The Gesture of Destroying

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pp. 55-60

...his own free will, although he knows that they are, like all movements, conditioned. He is not satisfied with reasons (causal explanations). Even if I could know everything about what makes...

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The Gesture of Painting

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pp. 61-71

...painted.” From such an approach to painting, which can serve as an example of the occidental approach to the world, come familiar attempts to explain the phenomena we seem to be observing, the difficulties with which arise at the point where...

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The Gesture of Photographing

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pp. 72-85

...in that it, in contrast to painting, permits the subjects themselves to be imprinted on a surface. A photograph is a kind of “fingerprint” that the subject leaves on a surface, and not...

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The Gesture of Filming

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pp. 86-90

...Conversely, I have looked at films far more attentively. I have been intellectually engaged with certain individual films and believe that film must be regarded as the contemporary artistic...

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The Gesture of Turning a Mask Around

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pp. 91-97

...play to one another, and at the same time of the roles we play to ourselves (because we see ourselves mirrored in others). And yet, in comparison to turning the mask over...

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The Gesture of Planting

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pp. 98-104

...effectively demands that we consider this gesture just after having examined the gesture of turning a mask around. The thesis I want to advance here is that the ecologists’ standpoint...

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The Gesture of Shaving

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pp. 105-110

...beautification of an extended human skin, or is it the other way around—are cosmetics a kind of gardening, an artistry applied to human beings’ natural environment? In other words, is grass a kind of beard or a beard a kind of grass (in the understanding...

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The Gesture of Listening to Music

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pp. 111-117

...stars, for example. The gesture of thinking has, by way of Rodin, become a cliché. The gesture of the listener, conversely, does not seem to have been stereotyped in the same way, although it is related to seeing and thinking inasmuch as it involves not...

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The Gesture of Smoking a Pipe

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pp. 118-134

...have additional reserve pockets, for example, for a second pipe, for matchboxes, and for wires of varying strength and flexibility. The pockets cannot have just any shape and...

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The Gesture of Telephoning

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pp. 135-141

...row of colored plastic telephones on the manager’s desk (to say nothing of the red telephone), it has undergone only one functional modification in its long history: automation. The...

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The Gesture of Video

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pp. 142-146

...allow us to “read” the existential changes we are currently undergoing. Another implication is that whenever gestures appear that have never been seen before, we have the key...

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The Gesture of Searching

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pp. 147-160

...that the gestures of researchers in laboratories, in libraries, in classrooms, are more or less the same as they were a hundred years ago, although other gestures, such as those of...

Appendix: Toward a General Theory of Gestures

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pp. 161-176

Translator’s Notes

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pp. 177-180

Index

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pp. 181-194

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About the Author

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p. 195-195

...was born in Prague. He emigrated to Brazil, where he taught philosophy and wrote a daily newspaper column in São Paulo, then later moved to France. He wrote several books in Portuguese and German...


E-ISBN-13: 9781452941882
E-ISBN-10: 1452941882
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816691289

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014

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