Intersubjectivity: media metaphors, play & provocation

6th international Vilém Flusser symposium
& event series

march 15-19 1997 budapest hungary

Gábor Bora

Born 1956 in Budapest, Hungary.
1980 Degree in Philosophy and Aesthetics, L. Eötvös University Budapest
1982-83 Research fellowship, Humboldt University, Berlin (GDR)
1987-90 Postgraduade scholarship, Uppsala University, Sweden
1991-present Lecturer, Department of Aesthetics, Uppsala University, Sweden
1995 Autumn Guest Professor, Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest
Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden

Publications in periodicals and exhibition catalogues. Additional activities include texts for performances and video works; screen- and radio plays; texts for, and participating in, television programmes; member of Media Research Foundation, Budapest.

Interobjectivity: the link from communication to information and back again
lecture for the Symposium - abstract

To begin with, let’s assume two certainly illegitimate distinctions -- they may be instructive: (1) a unit of communication, and (2) that the unit contains two parts: contact and content. These two, then, correspond respectively to a communicative and an informational value. Often fundamentally different, they are, however, not opposed to each other. They stand for distinct orders. Contact forms the connection between participants, by touch, signs, telepathy, etc.; it works as a string or as adhesive between communicators. It arranges a relation, whereas the content belongs to an order of information. Its value is measured by unexpectedness, i.e., by informing of something hitherto unknown or forgotten, whereas contact is rendered by a communicative value, ensuring that the communicators are bound to each other, it uses the well-known, it works with familiar riffs, with repeated phrases. In isolation, contact handles relations, assuring the communicators that there is a communication between them (similarly to the phatic function in Jakobson); the pure presence of communication is stressed: something is shared, there is a togetherness, there is a relation. Pure content, deprived of the riffs of contact is cold communication; it would produce an interobjectivity, it would be information of objects. Contact in itself has no object. As Michel Serres provocatively put it, "I shall call poor that which has no object. Myth has no object, nor does theater or politics." They only have relations.
Now, there is no communication without both contact and content; the one can, however, almost entirely take the part of the other. Contact can be used as objectified, it is then the source of surveillance and manipulation - and conversely, contact can be the only content in a communicative act, "[t]he message becomes the object itself," to quote Serres again. To have object, communication as interobjectivity that is, means to stress content, meanwhile not transform contact into content. Vilém Flusser’s phenomenological-cybernetical approach gives a cardinal lesson in just this. It provides us with objects that inform us.
The goal of the distinction is the unfolding of a cultural dynamic. During the sixties, there was a vast turn towards communicability. Communication was reinvented by pop, by telephone hacking, etc. Successively, the communicative value became stressed and the informative one ignored. By the seventies, the vast majority of cultural products were userfriendly interfaces of nothing, familiar repeated phrases of the already known. They suggested contact in any possible way, becoming what Baudrillard calls ‘the ecstasy of communication’ - thus simulating and abusing contact instead of providing it. Now, my somewhat optimistic view is that during the nineties, there is a reversal taking place. Not in the way that content is becoming the exaggerated part, but rather, by a growing consciousness of what is contact and what is content. As it seems, today those cultural forms are most effective that articulate this certainly fictitious difference between a state of having contact and a state of having object, to being informed. And I assume, this articulation will lead into the next century.

Intersubjectivity: media metaphors, play & provocation
Advisory Committee:
László Beke, director, Műcsarnok;
Wolfgang Meissner, director, Goethe-Institut Budapest;
Matthias Müller-Wieferig, Goethe-Institut Budapest;
Miklós Peternák, chair of the board, C3;
Zoltán Sebôk, theoretician; J.A.Tillmann, theoretician;
Organizers:Suzanne Mészöly, programdirector C3
Ágnes Veronika Kovács , program coordinator C3
Adele Eisenstein, program coordinátor C3

See the Goethe-Institute website on the Flusser Symposium:

Magyar változat