Ritual Gesture

vilem-flusserApparently Flusser’s Gestures essays have not made such an impact on others as they have on me! Things are very quiet. But I return often, especially to the categories he suggests for a kind of typology or taxonomy of gestures.

The three general divisions were: work (directed at changing the world), communication (I think he actually thinks of this as research), and ritual.  Ritual gestures articulate and share a unique way of being.  The way a particular person smokes a pipe articulates a unique way of being, as he explains in some detail in “The Gesture of Smoking a Pipe.”  It’s a relatively trivial thing, smoking the pipe, which is the main reason it’s such a good example of what he wants to say: he’s contending that religious experience is a kind of aesthetic experience, and more, that religion is a particular kind of art.  The example he gives is of drummers in Rio de Janeiro, at night.  These drummers can recognize one another as individuals by the specific sound passing from hilltop to hilltop.  And if the drumming is recorded, is it comparable to frozen drumming?  But to get back to the point, he takes pipe smoking as his topic because that’s the way he can speak of ritual gesture from direct experience.

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