Vilém Flusser – The Technical Image
In his text, Flusser makes a distinction between traditonal images and technical images. Traditional images are first-degree abstractions, abstracted from the concrete world. Technical images are third-degree abstractions, since they are abstracted from texts that are abstracted from the concrete world. Rather than phenomena (traditional images), technical images refer to concepts.
Flusser critiques the seemingly ‘objective’ character of technological images. The technological image seems to be a nature-like representation of the concrete world. However, just like the traditional image, we are dealing with the perspective of the maker of the image. Flusser states that a ‘new type of imagination’ is needed to interpret the technical image. An interesting argument is that with the technological image, we are involved in an ‘abstract sort of witchcraft’, which tries to change our concepts of the world out there.
Interesting metaphor of the functioning of the technical image is Flussers’ comparison with dams. The technical image was firstly introduced as a means to reintroduce traditional images in society. On the contrary, the technological image absorbes all other images and texts, everything becomes eternally reproducible.
Two weeks ago I attended the workshop Abstract Images in Art and Science. Rob van Gerwens lecture about Photographs as Abstract Images could be relevant in this context. He stated that certain photographs are abstract images, or in other words, have pictorial qualities carrying a meaning that is not in the pictures itself, but derived from something else, outside the picture. Distinctions beteween the photograph and pictorial images are blurring. The photographs get a certain iconic quality, caused by a neutralizing moral space, where direct viewing is removed. For example, van Gerwen refers to this picture by Nick Ut, who won the Pulitzer prize in 1972:
When thinking with Flusser, how can we relate this example to his statement that ‘Technical images thus suck all of history in their surfaces, and they come to constitute an eternally rotating memory of society”? How can we talk about the technical image as an abstraction, comparing Flussers’ ideas with the example of Van Gerwen?