Of Gods and Scripts around the Mediterranean
Symposion in memoriam Friedrich Kittler
Fri, October 19, 2012 – Sat, October 20, 2012, Symposium
After media and machines, after the technologies of saving, transmission, calculation and their preservation in the universal machine of the computer; after the passage through the two world wars of the twentieth century from which these technologies are derived we finally have unexpected clarification of the situation: only liberation from all monotheisms will open up the sources of desire and knowledge of the Western World. Since, those of the Greek gods which have nothing to do with religion – that Roman invention – are now poised at the inception of that which the world of our science and our technology world will have become.

It is this extraordinary way of thinking that answers to the name Friedrich Kittler. It is thanks to his endeavors that have placed the history of poetry, of philosophy, indeed, culture as such on the sure footing of its technical and pre-technical media. And yet neither does the god of religions fall from those very heavens it has itself created. The gods reveal themselves no less in their media. What for systems of writing is literature, what sets of commands are for programmable machines, in the quite literal sense of the Latin word elementa, for the gods is the most elementary medium: letters. The manner in which the gods interact or do not interact with mortals, whether they command or punish, whether they are solicited for mercy or whether their presence is invoked in the form of a sung epic, in opera and tragedy, is dependent on the way in which a culture writes.

The symposium entitled “Of Gods and Scripts around the Mediterranean”, which is dedicated to this hypothesis and that Friedrich Kittler had been preparing before his death – precisely as Symposion (as based on the ancient Greek term, which in contemporary parlance means “symposium”) – was of particular importance to him. In what ways, in the regions around the Mediterranean, have the contacts, the competitors, as well as the innovations of the various writings and alphabets since early antiquity – this, as Hegel expressed it ‘medium of communications’, or in Kittler’s words, outstanding ‘locus of writings’ – shaped the future fates of the Western World?

Three simple opposing positions guide the symposium’s questions

A. Since the Neolithic period, Mediterranean cultures have existed whose alphabets were closely tied to administration, trade, chains of command and laws. On the other hand, there is a culture whose alphabet draws on the writing of music on vocal recitals, verse and the invocation of the gods.

B. Among the forms of writing of the Mediterranean there are those which – in cuneiform, pictography, syllabic writing systems – are graphically oriented. In these it is mostly consonants that are used. On the other hand, there is the Greek alphabet which, as the first one in the world, also contains vocals. It is a phonetically oriented form, and drives to the extreme the dual structure in meaningless units and their combination of word, sentence and verse.

C. There are gods of laws who punish and command. The treatment of them is regulated according to law. On the other hand there are those gods who give instructions and who deny. Communication with them is not administered but committed. It is renewed each time music and legends begin sounding.

The symposium brings together specialists of diverse writing cultures.


Fri 2012/10/19

10.00 a.m.:
Peter Weibel, ZKM | Karlsruhe
Welcome address

Anthony Moore, Academy of Media Arts, Cologne
»Translaneous Readings«, Soundscape

10.15 a.m.:
Peter Berz, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

11.00 a.m.:
Gerhard Scharbert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
»Tell me true, tell me why was Jesus crucified?« drafts from Friedrich Kittler's estate

11.45 a.m.:
Ludwig Morenz, University of Bonn
»Gottes-Worte und Götter-Zeichen. Von Figurativität und Ikonizität der frühen Hieroglyphenschrift«

12.30 p.m.:

02.00 p.m.:
Joachim Schaper, University of Aberdeen
»'... die beiden Tafeln des Gesetzes; die waren aus Stein und beschrieben von dem Finger Gottes': Schreiben, Schrift(en) und Ikonophobie im antiken Israel«

02.45 p.m.:
Oliver Primavesi, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich
»Empedokles: göttliche Schriftlichkeit − menschliche Mündlichkeit«

03.30 p.m.:
Coffee Break

04.00 p.m.:
Beatrice Gruendler, Yale University
»Arabische Schrift als Chiffre und Spielfeld«

04.45 p.m.:
Barry Powell, University of Wisconsin–Madison
»Gods, Poets, and the Alphabetization of Culture in the Ancient World«


Sat 2012/10/20

11.00 a.m.:
Siegfried Zielinski, Berlin University of the Arts
»Mittel & Meere«

12.00 a.m.:
Lars Denicke, cultural historian, Berlin
»Land und Meer, Luft und Feuer. Die Vier-Elemente-Lehre der Geopolitik«

01.00 p.m.:

02.30 p.m.:
Jan-Peter Sonntag, artist, composer, theorist, Berlin and Sebastian Döring media scholar, Berlin
»apparatus operandi1 :: anatomie // Der Synthesizer des Friedrich A. Kittler«

03.15 p.m.:
Tania Hron, cultural historian, Berlin
»Nicht nachlassen«

Paul Feigelfeld, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
»Quellcode als Quelle. Aus der Editions-Arbeit an Friedrich Kittlers Programmierwerk«

04.00 p.m.:
Joulia Strauss, artist, Berlin

Cari Machet, artist, activist, Berlin/New York

Project team
Host: Peter Weibel, ZKM
Scientific advice: Peter Berz, Tania Hron, Gerhard Scharbert, Joulia Strauss
Project management: Meta Maria Valiusaityte, ZKM
Organization / Institution