Vilém Flusser, 1983

Images are mediations between the world and human beings. Human beings ‘ex-ist’, i.e., the world is not immediately accessible to them and therefore images are needed to make it comprehensible. However, as soon as this happens, images come between the world and human beings. They are supposed to be maps but they turn into screens: Instead of representing the world, they obscure it until human beings’ lives finally become a function of the images they create. Human beings cease to decode the images and instead project them, still encoded, into the world ‘out there’, which meanwhile itself becomes like an image – a context of scenes, of states of things. This reversal of the function of the image can be called ‘idolatry’; we can observe the process at work in the present day: the technical images currently all around us are in the process of magically restructuring our ‘reality’ and turn it into a ‘global image scenario’. Essentially this is a question of ‘amnesia’. Human beings forget they created the images in order to orientate themselves in the world. Since they are no longer able to decode them, their lives become a function of their own images: Imagination is turned to hallucination.

(Vilém Flusser, ‘Towards a Philosophy of Photography’, Reaktion Books)

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