Networked_Performance

Timothy Druckrey on Friedrich Kittler (1943-2011)

On nettime, Timothy Druckrey wrote: No doubt lengthy paeans will be forthcoming from the Kittler scholars. They will be, of course, well deserved for a thinker whose work traversed so many spheres. For us in the media, Kittler’s work has been an indispensable source of rigor and insight. Back in 1987, I read the first chapter of Gramophone, Film, Typewriter in the journal October. After that, his name surfaced in many sources and I read everything I could find with voracious interest. He was regularly in the media festivals and his intense presence was a stark challenge to the kind of idiosyncratic history that was/is still so prevalent in the media sphere.

Uncompromising and prodigious, Kittler’s works evinced an analytical force that came with unsparing lucidity. Few contrived accounts could match his astute autopsies. Kittler embraced history from both ends and wrung from it meanings that analytical amateurs could never fathom. At home with Pink Floyd and Pynchon, Volta and Virilio, Edison and Euclid, Helmholz and Heidegger, Shannon and the pre-Socratics, Foucault and Frege, Turing and Thucydides, Wagner and Weiner, etc,. Kittler dissected history with exacting precision. Under the veneers of comfortable historiography, Kittler discerned systems and unscrambled ciphers that identified not mere archaeological tidbits but the anatomy and circulatory systems for the mobilization of discourses increasingly inscribed by technologies whose effect would radically alter our ‘so-called’ (one of his favorite phrases) communication horizon. He knew so well the link between militarism and media, power and information, philosophy and poetry, reading and really reading.

His wit was often obscure, his arguments targeted with intimidating precision, his ideas formidable and elucidated with the kind of certainty that remain a challenge to anyone representing themselves as media historians or theorists. No one in our field can avoid the continuing reverberations of his ideas, the on-going influence of the many scholars who have followed, studied with, or have seriously studied his work.

Years ago at the Ars Electronica conference InfoWar, Paul Virilio participated remotely by videoconference. Just after, I spoke with Kittler who said in his reluctant English “he always brings water to my eyes.” Well, we were outside the Brucknerhaus smoking at the time so maybe it was just a little smoke in the eyes. Nah. It wasn’t then for him and it isn’t now for all of us.


Oct 29, 15:34
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