From Library Journal
As both an art medium and a way to record events, photography has become ubiquitous in our increasingly image-driven culture since its invention in the early 1800s. These two interesting books take a serious academic look at how photography has influenced culture. Prague-born philosopher Flusser (1920-91) concerned himself with design, communication, and language. His illuminating essays, originally published in German in 1983, are offered in English for the first time. Flusser describes a world fundamentally changed by the invention of the "technical image" and the mechanisms that support and define industrialized modern culture. He argues that whereas ideas were previously interpreted by written account, the invention of photography allows the creation of images (ideas) taken at face value as truth, not interpretation that can be endlessly replicated and spread worldwide. His essays identify players in this model (his lexicon includes the Apparatus, the Functionary, and the Technical Image) and warn of rising illiteracy owing to an uncritical faith in photography's "reality." Flusser does not speak of specific photographs or images but of the larger forces at work in the increasingly technical and automated world. Unlike Flusser, Batchen (art and art history, Univ. of New Mexico) delves intricately into individual works to explicate his thoughts, digging into such topics as the invention of photography, the medium's impending demise, photography about photography, and "da(r)ta" digital art that comments on its own structure. Conveying a deep respect for the importance of photography, he laments the way images have become commodities in the digital age. Batchen also explores the history of photography and looks at larger cultural forces from within the framework of the medium. This collection of nine recent essays of various origins (with thorough notes and index) contains some repetition, but that small complaint is outweighed by Batchen's compelling arguments and analyses. Of interest to photographers, historians, and philosophers, both books will serve multiple audiences and are recommended for academic and large public libraries. Debora Miller, Minneapolis
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“In Flusser, we’ve found our Wittgenstein. By that I mean, in the ways that 1960s conceptual artists found his Philosophical Investigations as granting them the necessary permission to see the world around them with fresh eyes, Flusser’s forays into media have framed, theorized, and unpacked the new complexities of our digital world. By empirically questioning received knowledge and recasting it within crisp lines of history and logic, he’s made the digital legible in a time when its theorization is occluded and murky to say the least. Like de Kooning’s famous statement: ‘History does not influence me. I influence it,’ it’s taken Flusser’s analog-based investigations in the twentieth century to show how to be in the digitally soaked twenty-first.”
(Kenneth Goldsmith Los Angeles Review of Books