Early ITAS work on exhibition in "Flusser show"

The so-called "Flusser hypertext" is part of the exhibition "Bodenlos. Flusser und die Künste" (Without firm ground. Flusser and the arts) at the ZKM in Karlsruhe. The show is devoted to Vilém Flusser, an outstanding media and communication philosopher.
Until mid-October 2015 at ZKM: The computer with the hypertext about Vilém Flusser. (Photos by Tanja Meißner/KIT)

In the light of computerization and digitization, ITAS started research on electronic publishing and new media as early as the late 1980s. In this context Vilém Flusser gave a lecture on 2 March 1989 at the public colloquium of the institute. The topic of the talk was "Writing for Publishing". Later on the idea came up to make this very lecture the center of a multi-modal electronic book (sc. "hypertext") which can be used in three different ways: a) to listen to the voice recording of the lecture, b) to read the transcript of the lecture, and c) to follow links to explanations of the numerous persons, concepts, and Flusser neologisms (e.g., for Kant, Cézanne, code, picture, ‘divulgation’, ‘Burnüsse’) mentioned in the lecture.

The so-called "Flusser hypertext" was one of three cases in a research project aimed at the development of prototypes of novel forms to present scientific content. The leading metaphor was that of an "electronic book". Developing and building these three prototypes by ourselves allowed for an intimate and intense experience with these new media and a thorough assessment of their technologies. At the same time, these activities facilitated access to those who were professionally engaged in new media, either as artists or technicians (or both).

Restoration and emulation

In 2007, the Flusser hypertext (including software, written material, and an Apple device) was donated to the "Flusser Archive" of the Berlin University of the Arts, located at the Chair of Siegfried Zielinski. It soon became obvious that digital publications become inaccessible much earlier than their counterparts on paper – something that ITAS research has already proven in the 1980s and 1990s. Thanks to the time-consuming work of the Flusser Archive to restore this hypertext and the Department of Computer Science, Freiburg, which emulated the old software, it is now available and visible again. Thus, this piece of ITAS work escaped the "digital darkness" of the new media and is now part of the exhibition at ZKM | Center for Art and Media. On this occasion ITAS revised its corresponding web pages, now providing a link to the emulation of the "Flusser hypertext" and an introductory movie (QuickTime-based) to the prototype. Also the out of print book publication of 1997 was digitized and is now offered as a PDF file (cf. Böhle, Riehm, Wingert 1997: Vom allmählichen Verfertigen elektronischer Bücher).

The exhibition at ZKM in Karlsruhe encompasses material of many kinds, e.g., books, letters, videos, drawings, etc. The show will last until 18 October at ZKM and will then move on to the cities of Prague and São Paulo.

About Vilém Flusser

Vilém Flusser was born in Prague in 1920, fled from the German Nazis in 1939 to Brazil where he lived until 1972. Because of conflicts with the military dictatorship of that time he emigrated anew, this time back to Europe, where he became a prominent figure as a media and communication philosopher. Vilém Flusser participated in workshops preparing the foundation of ZKM and is one of the mentors of the institution. He died in 1991 following a car accident. (14.09.2015)

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