Paul Virilio was born in 1932 and has published a wide range of books, essays, and interviews grappling with the question of speed and technology, including Speed and Politics, The Aesthetics of Disappearance, and The Accident of Art, all published by Semiotext(e).
Lost Dimension, new edition
To read these five essays of 1983 is to begin to come to terms with the theoretical cataclysm of the present. In Lost Dimension, Paul Virilio considers the displacement of the concept of dimensional space by Einsteinian space/time as it is related to the transparent boundaries of the postmodern city and contemporary economy. Virilio imagines a coming world of interactive, informational networks offering a prison-house of illusionary transcendence. He pictures global terrorism (perpetrated by and against technological states) filling up the surreal void of an abandoned real. In a multidisciplinary excavation of contemporary physics, architecture, esthetic theory, and sociology, Virilio traces the dystopic unity of the contemporary Western predicament with lightning prescience and clarity.
The Administration of Fear
Translated by Ames Hodges
With Bertrand Richard
We are living under the administration of fear: fear has become an environment, an everyday landscape. There was a time when wars, famines, and epidemics were localized and limited by a certain timeframe. Today, it is the world itself that is limited, saturated, and manipulated, the world itself that seizes us and confines us with a stressful claustrophobia. Stock-market crises, undifferentiated terrorism, lightning pandemics, “professional” suicides . . . . Fear has become the world we live in.
The administration of fear also means that states are tempted to create policies for the orchestration and management of fear. Globalization has progressively eaten away at the traditional prerogatives of states (most notably of the welfare state), and states have to convince citizens that they can ensure their physical safety.
The Aesthetics of Disappearance, New Edition
Introduction by Jonathan Crary
Virilio himself referred to his 1980 work The Aesthetics of Disappearance as a “juncture” in his thinking, one at which he brought his focus onto the logistics of perception—a logistics he would soon come to refer to as the “vision machine.” If Speed and Politics established Virilio as the inaugural—and still consummate—theorist of “dromology” (the theory of speed and the society it defines), The Aesthetics of Disappearance introduced his understanding of “picnolepsy”—the epileptic state of consciousness produced by speed, or rather, the consciousness invented by the subject through its very absence: the gaps, glitches, and speed bumps lacing through and defining it. Speed and Politics defined the society of speed; The Aesthetics of Disappearance defines what it feels like to live in the society of speed.
Paul Virilio and Sylvère Lotringer
Translated by Mark Polizzotti
with a new introduction by Sylvere Lotringer and Paul Virilio
In June 2007, Paul Virilio and Sylvère Lotringer met in La Rochelle, France to reconsider the premises they had developed twenty-five years before in their frighteningly prescient classic, Pure War. Pure War described the invisible war waged by technology against humanity, and the lack of any real distinction since World War II between war and peace. Speaking with Lotringer in 1982, Virilio noted the “accidents” that inevitably arise with every technological development: from car crashes to nuclear spillage, to the extermination of space and the derealization of time wrought by instant communication.
Translated by Mark Polizzotti
Introduction by Benjamin Bratton
speed and Politics (first published in France in 1977) is the matrix of Virilio’s entire work. Building on the works of Morand, Marinetti, and McLuhan, Virilio presents a vision more radically political than that of any of his French contemporaries: speed as the engine of destruction. Speed and Politics presents a topological account of the entire history of humanity, honing in on the technological advances made possible through the militarization of society. Paralleling Heidegger’s account of technology, Virilio’s vision sees speed—not class or wealth—as the primary force shaping civilization.
Sylvère Lotringer and Paul Virilio
There is a catastrophe within contemporary art. What I call the “optically correct” is at stake. The vision machine and the motor have triggered it, but the visual arts haven’t learned from it. Instead, they’ve masked this failure with commercial success. This “accident” is provoking a reversal of values. In my view, this is positive: the accident reveals something important we would not otherwise know how to perceive.
—Paul Virilio, The Accident of Art
Urbanist and technological theorist Paul Virilio trained as a painter, studying under Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Bazaine and de Stael. In The Accident of Art, his third extended conversation with Sylvère Lotringer, Virilio addresses the situation of art within technological society for the first time. This book completes a collaborative trilogy the two began in 1982 with Pure War and continued with Crepuscular Dawn, their 2002 work on architecture and biotechnology.
Translated by Sylvère Lotringer
The accident is a new form of warfare. It is replacing revolution and war. Sarajevo triggered the First World War. New York is what Sarajevo was. September 11th opened Pandora’s box. The first war of globalization will be the global accident, the total accident, including the accident of science. And it is on the way.
In 1968, Virilio abandoned his work in oblique architecture, believing that time had replaced space as the most important point of reflection because of the dominance of speed.
We were basically on the verge of converting space time into space speed… Speed facilitates the decoding of the human genome, and the possibility of another humanity: a humanity which is no longer extra-territorial, but extra-human.
Based upon a 1996 conversation Paul Virilio had with French journalist Phillipe Petit, The Politics of the Very Worst summarizes Virilio’s speculations about the impact that accidents will have on the planet now that we operate on one-world time. Virilio argues that accidents have now lost all particularity. Accidents and events can no longer be confined to markers in history like Auschwitz or Hiroshima. Trajectories once had three dimensions: past, present, and future. But now, the hyper-concentration of time into “real time” reduces all trajectories to nothing. Consequently, an accident of time is bound to affect our entire being as well as the entire planet. And this is the hidden face of technical and scientific progress that Virilio is attempting to reveal, shrugging off any illusion we may have left about its alleged benefits.
Translated by Mark Polizzotti
What is popular defense? From whom do we have to defend ourselves?
Originally civilian populations were capable of defending themselves both in times of peace and war. A military racket was subsequently imposed upon them in the name of protection and popular defense lost its capacity to resist external attack. In case of total war, between the native populations which form the constitutional basis of all great modern states and the military now in charge of defending them there was no more “common culture.” Industrial wars subsequently managed to replace the thousand-year-old pact of semi-colonization with total colonization. First experimented with in South America, this kind of “endo-colonization” (the military cracking down on its own population) was gradually extended to all the post-industrial countries through the exponential development of the techno-military complex.