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Gestures

2014
Author:

Vilém Flusser

Gestures

An analysis of gestures great and small, from a renowned media theorist—available in English for the first time

Defining gesture as “a movement of the body or of a tool attached to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation,” Vilém Flusser moves around the topic from diverse angles. He analyzes each gesture as the expression of a particular form of consciousness, that is, as a particular relationship between the world and the one who gestures.

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.

Gestures

Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) was born in Prague; emigrated to Brazil, where he taught philosophy and wrote a daily newspaper column; and later moved to France. Among his many books that have been translated into English are Does Writing Have a Future?, Into the Universe of Technical Images, and Writings, all from Minnesota.

Nancy Ann Roth is an arts writer and critic based in the UK. She previously translated Does Writing Have a Future? and Into the Universe of Technical Images.

Gestures

Contents

Translator’s Preface

Gesture and Affect: The Practice of a Phenomenology of Gestures
Beyond Machines (But Still within the Phenomenology of Gestures)
The Gesture of Writing
The Gesture of Speaking
The Gesture of Making
The Gesture of Loving
The Gesture of Destroying
The Gesture of Painting
The Gesture of Photographing
The Gesture of Filming
The Gesture of Turning a Mask Around
The Gesture of Planting
The Gesture of Shaving
The Gesture of Listening to Music
The Gesture of Smoking a Pipe
The Gesture of Telephoning
The Gesture of Video
The Gesture of Searching
Appendix: Toward a General Theory of Gestures

Translator’s Notes
Index