Intersubjectivity: media metaphors, play & provocation

6th international Vilém Flusser symposium
& event series

march 15-19 1997 budapest hungary

Ákos Szilágyi

Born 1950 in Budapest
1974 received diploma in Hungarian-Russian studies from L. Eötvös University (ELTE), Faculty of Liberal Arts
Teaches literary aesthetics, media theory and Russian cultural history in the ELTE Department of Aesthetics and Institute of Russistics
Recieved Ph.D. in 1976
Founder and co-Director of the Hungarian Institute of Russistics at ELTE
Founding Editor of the sociological and literary periodical 2000
Has written books and essays on the Russian avant-garde, Totalitarian culture of the Stalin era, and negative Utopias
In 1985, received the Attila József Prize for his literary work

Selected books:
I am not a Critic! (Magvető, 1984)
The Object of Non-Secret Desire (Liget, 1992)
The Facts and the Individuals (Liget, 1995)
Corpse and Taboo (Kijárat, 1996)

"The 'Raw' and the 'Cooked': Russia's Mediatization"
lecture for the Symposium - abstract

The one who looks at Russia (virtually, naturally!) today with a naked eye (without ideological bandages) might not see more from the world than he would normally, but perhaps s/he can see more clearly what the world is or what it is becoming. I emphasize, s/he could see more clearly not Russia, but the world as it congeals into fact-money-á la russe-in Russia, into its electronic picture and number, and as the global mass culture is revived in the postmodern fantasy games of virtual reality, totally unfettered.
Thus, for example, if the political anthropologist bows down closer to the "eternal Russian soil," he will be able to observe with a naked eye how the postmodern gourmet chefs -- the media experts -- cook everything to tenderness in the transparent world-kettle of the simulacrum. All the things are cooked, which, in the raw state of modernity were called "Russian tradition," "Russian spirit," or "Russian idea," pickled in Orthodox Christianity and Soviet Communism, larded with autocratic power and Byzantine court games, garnished with xenophobia and aping foreigners, served with Russian miracle and Russian catastrophe. At the same time, he will recognise the anthropological changes that humankind is going through nowadays.
The old Russian questions "Sto djelat?" and "Kto vinovat?" (ie., "What should we do?" and "Who is guilty?") eventually find their answer ahead and beyond modernity: Money has to be made, Gentlemen, but a lot! And those who cannot make money -- the penniless -- are guilty. The skyscraping utopia and the most daring dream of the "new Russians," as the Russians of today call themselves, sounds like this: We want to be a normal country, with a normal economy, a normal political system, with a normal lifestyle. Normal – one among many. Normal -- that is something comprehendable, something in which you do not have to believe, but which you can live. No poetry, no sacrifice, no miracle. A normal country -- that is a kind of place and a kind of time where not frantic and magnificient ideas, not absurdities nor utopias nor demigods, crazy monsters, wise leaders, rule any longer, but rather the one and indivisable world norm does. Because to be normal is good. Because to be normal is promising. Because the future belongs to the normals. S/he who is normal is accountable. S/he is taken into account. S/he can be counted upon. S/he counts. S/he can be part of the normal world order of the global financial economy; s/he can take part in it. Normals of the world unite! This is the latest -- already postmodern -- version of abnormality in Russia. Fiat normalitas, pereat mundus!
The secondary wildness -- what modernity was called until now by the Western descendants of humankind who consider themselves civilised; the secondary wildness with its sophisticated torture that was characterised (to quote the famous Hungarian poet) as "They don’t impale anyone on the stake any longer." (Instead, we are sent humanistically into the gas, as in the title of a famous novella of another great writer, this time Polish: "Ladies and Gentlemen! Kindly step this way into the gas!"); the secondary wildness, the state of modernity, with its neoprimitive and neomagical idea-idols (History, Intelligencia, Nation, State, etc.), and with its fairy tales lifted from the sky down to the earth (nationalism, liberalism, socialism) is now being cooked to tenderness in the media-kettle of postmodernism, and it is being consumed. History, Nature, the physical life of their own body or that of another, in its "raw" barbar and own naked reality, evokes sacred horror in every civilised image-eater.
The civilised world inhabitant is exclusively fed on "boiled" History and "boiled" Nature (the latter is both in its abstract and direct sense). The civilised human eats with his/her eyes. And because his/her eyes are certainly bigger than his/her mouth, s/he devours everything and in every quantity. History, cooked to well-done in the "media-kettle," is not even History in its modern, hence "wild," sense. It lacks the flesh-and-blood reality of History, the pure taste of History, every religious and ideological promise. History that gobbled its children in the form of revolutions, like a sly Chronos. History, where one can get into and fall out of, which had a trapdoor and a stage. History, against which the truth of the moderns could not win, which employed the "trick of the mind," and by this means, its hidden sense, its secret promise, swung beyond comprehension (nonetheless, its most virtuosic acrobats could catch its flying trapeze). History, which clanked through the centuries in the irons of necessity, and which was the plan of freedom. History, for which the insignificants and "unwise" of the "pre-history" sacrified so much. They sacrified everything and everybody, the past and the present; they sacrified peoples and whole generations, and even the world, if that was the price to pay for the promise of the rationalised mystics.

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, program director C3
Ágnes Veronika Kovács , program coordinator C3
Adele Eisenstein, program coordinátor C3

See the Goethe-Institut Budapest website on theFlusser Symposium:

Magyar változat