Kenneth Goldsmith

It’s a Mistake to Mistake Content for Content

Back in 1983, the media critic and philosopher Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) described this exact phenomenon in a little book called Towards a Philosophy of Photography. Flusser claimed that the content of any given photograph is actually the camera that produced it. He continued with a series of nested apparatuses: The content of the camera is the programming that makes it function; the content of the programming is the photographic industry that produces it; and the content of the photographic industry is the military-industrial complex in which it is situated, and so forth. He viewed photography from a completely technical standpoint. In Flusser’s view, the traditional content of the cultural artifact is completely subsumed by the apparatuses — technical, political, social, and industrial — surrounding, and thereby defining, it.