Flusser and Pseudo Writing
Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) was a philosopher, media theorist, writer, and journalist. Born in Prague, Flusser held Brazilian citizenship and wrote his texts in different languages, "translating himself over and over again, moving from English, to Portuguese, German, French and back again" (flusserstudies.net). Flusser’s work observes the cultural significance and relationship between images and text developing "interdisciplinary and multilingual approaches" and "juxtaposing and contaminating different discourses: philosophy, anthropology, communication theory, art and design" (flusserstudies.net).
In his book Gestures, originally published in German in 1991, Flusser analyses different gestures "as the expression of a particular form of consciousness" (Flusser, 2014). When he examines The Gesture of Writing, he performs an in-depth provocative analysis of both internal and external observations of writing. Flusser registers nine distinct components evident in the gesture of writing:
1. Surface 2. Tool 3. Shapes 4. Convention 5. Orthography (rules) 6. Shared Language 7. Grammar 8. Idea 9. Motive.
For this stage of Various Writings, we have focused on code, tool and surface (we have reduced components 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 to code). Idea and motive do not feature in this part of the research.
Flusser considers writing imperative to cultural life but, unlike walking and speaking, superficial to our genetic makeup. A learned habit that nonetheless we do without thinking. "But as it always happens with phenomena covered by habit, and more than habit, writing becomes almost mysterious when we discover it by deliberate consideration" (Flusser, 2014).
There is lot to argue with Flusser but also a lot to collect. The view of writing as a multilayered heterogeneous practice that can be systematically examined became part of our project’s methodology: to study the act of writing through its distinct facets, to create situations and objects that animate the habit and enhance the mystery of writing. Perhaps because Flusser’s text moves from systematic analysis to passionate polemic and because he defines writing by what it is and by what it isn’t there are numerous ideas and key words to explore: penetrating, informing a surface, writing machines faithful to the mind and hand, the true gesture, motion/stillness, inner reading, facta/data, reading the invisible text, linearity, tablets.
Pseudo writing is a term Flusser uses in relation to the urge for expression of facta (things to be expressed) that puts values on data (given external elements). The frustration and confusion that comes thereof he describes as "the tragedy of writing". Pseudo writing becomes an entry point we interpret for Various Writings to cover a multitude of sins/practices questioning gesture, authorship, expression and legibility, authenticity and the intersection of drawing and writing, grammatical codes et al. Asemic writing might be viewed as pseudo writing’s bedfellow. Asemic writing comes from the Greek asemos (αόεμoβ), meaning without sign, unmarked, obscure. Where pseudo-writing may attempt to mimic the gestures of writing, perhaps has aspirations to be writing, we could argue that asemic writing is less bound to the conventions of the code – though it may still include, loosely, lines, characters etc. – and instead happily picks and chooses the characteristics of writing that it prefers to ape. It is stylistically influenced by writing but cares less how, or even whether, it is understood. Asemic writing sits between existing as a text and an image and invites an open reading from each viewer. Thus it is both universal and utterly specific.