Vampyroteuthis: opening gestures and diffractive beginnings

1. general issues


The overall themes, which might be said to concern humanity, animality, organicity, the inorganic, environment and otherness, are raised in Flusser and Bec’s (2012: 7) outlining of the qualities of animals of the type eucoelomata which,
distinguish themselves from the world;
absorb the world into themselves;
orient themselves in the world; and
influence the world.

2. methodological issues: non-transcendence and immanence

We are talking of beings who distinguish themselves from the world but do not and cannot transcend the world …
The methodological issues raised by Flusser and Bec’s (2012) text, in seeking to elaborate upon these overall themes, concern non-transcendence, immanence, situatedness, standpoint and ‘reflection’.
Flusser and Bec propose a ‘reflective’ game in which the structure of the vampyroteuthic Dasein ‘mirrors’ the human Dasein, albeit a distorting mirror, in order to gain a new perspective on human being in the world that, while distanced, is not transcendent.
Such an approach, Flusser and Bec (2012: 9) argue,

“will not be transcendent … because its standpoint will differ from that of science, which would adopt an “objective” position by floating above the world and looking down on mankind.”

3. methodological aside: reflection and diffraction


Distinction is not a matter of reflection but of diffraction.
To insert a proleptic intervention, or an interruption, following Haraway, it could be suggested that such a ‘game’, while still being non-transcendent, ought not to be ‘reflective’ but ‘diffractive’.
For Haraway (1992: 300),

“Diffraction does not produce “the same” displaced, as reflection and refraction do. Diffraction is a mapping of interference, not of replication, reflection, or reproduction. A diffraction pattern does not map where differences appear, but rather maps where the effects of difference appear.”

Thus, as will become apparent as we proceed to read the Flusser and Bec text, ‘organism’ and ‘environment’ can be understood as effects of difference, appearing in a diffraction pattern. They are not, in other words, immanent productions; but nor are they transcendent. Haraway is seeking to gain some distance from hyper-productionism and masculinist self-birthing, such as articulated, for example, in the discourse of the avant-garde artist, understood by Rosalind Krauss (1986: 157) as a “parable of absolute self-creation” in which “[t]he self as origin is the way an absolute distinction can be made between a present experienced de novo and a tradition-laden past.”
In order to develop her diffractive methodology, Haraway proposes a ‘differential artifactualism’. According to Haraway, ‘artifactualism’ is askew of productionism, emerging as a diffractive rationality, not a reflective one. In terms of positioning, then, Haraway (1992: 333) suggests that, “[a] cyborg subject position results from and leads to interruption, diffraction, reinvention” in the context of a diffracting apparatus of a monstrous artifactualism.




Flusser, V. and Bec, L. (2012). Vampyroteuthis Infernalis. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Haraway, D.J. (1992). The Promises of monsters: a regenerative politics for inappropriate/d others. In: Cultural studies, edited by L. Grossberg, C. Nelson, and P.A. Treicher. New York, NY: Routledge, 295–337.


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