Thanks for looking at the site. I am currently thinking of my writing in three parts: 1.) papers read or published in an academic context, including those about the writing of Vilem Flusser (1920-1991) 2.) art and photography criticism, and 3.) accounts of small events or situations from experience, pieces I take to be “non-fiction”. There is a more complete list in the c.v. Translation is listed separately.
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Flusser is well-known as a “media theorist,” and hardly known at all as a “games theorist.” But games figure often and prominently in his thinking and writing from the time of his earliest publications in the 1960s. I’m honoured to be a contributor to a new volume called Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, edited by Aaron Jaffe and published at Bloomsbury, probably 2020. I hope to use the opportunity to locate Flusser in contemporary game studies, in the understanding that his position is likely to rest on assumptions very different from those that now prevail (The same difficulty surrounds Flusser’s current reputation in the history and theory of photography.).
Simply by using the phrase homo ludens, for example, which he did with some regularity, Flusser made reference to Johan Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Written in 1938, it has been translated and reprinted many times since, and at this point counts among the “founding texts” of the comparatively new academic discipline of game studies. Both Huizinga and Flusser take the potential for “play” to be a basic, defining human characteristic. Huizinga argues that humans developed civilisations as a result of their capacity to play; Flusser frames the capacity to play as what separates human beings from their devices.
The image: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Childrens’ Games, 1560, oil on board, 45 x 63″, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
I hope against hope that someday “aesthetic” might be widely understood as something that is NOT always, inevitably, associated with art. If that were the case, perhaps more people would see that we are all making aesthetic judgments, decisions, “gestures” as Flusser put it, all the time (“gestures” include speech and writing as well as, say, genuflection), and that such expressions “say” a great deal about us, what’s basic about us. For human beings’ most logic-resistant loyalties, ranging from harmless preferences to the fiercest commitments, are fundamentally aesthetic. “I like it” or “I don’t like it” is probably the most familiar expression of an aesthetic judgement (although it can, sometimes, misleadingly refer to a logical or ethical decision). An aesthetic judgment aligns the speaker on his or her own grounds, without implying any logical or ethical foundation or imposing any tacit obligation to explain or defend. There is invariably some aesthetic dimension in any of our judgments, whether other people, ideas, rituals, institutions, substances, sounds or tastes. It is NOT restricted to arts!
If you are in conversation with someone about an activity that involves aesthetic decisions (this is likely to be cooking or gardening or shopping for clothes, but it could be anything), the sentences in the exchange will probably include plenty of logical or ethical propositions: does the object or material or plant or fabric serve an intended purposes, fit in a given space, appropriately mark an occasion? But there will also be statements about aesthetic preferences. When you hear a phrase such as “If it were me, I’d buy that one” or, “That recipe is too complicated for me,” your conversation partner is acknowledging the aesthetic dimension in what you are doing, expressing an awareness that aesthetic responses will differ, and offering reassurance that he or she is prepared to accept this particular difference.
Suppose that big commitments, such as religious belief or sexual orientation are just as aesthetic at heart as more familiar, less binding ones, such as what you like for breakfast, or which art works resonate with you, or how you feel about trying something new. If the aesthetic dimension really is critical with respect to the big questions, it would be worth building it into even the most basic education. If people could be more aware of their own aesthetics – their own values – and of how these differ from other people’s, we might be able to heal some of the rifts that currently make us so miserable.
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