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<nettime> Flying Footnotes to Mumford: Van den Bergs Vn
Nils Roller on Fri, 27 Jul 2001 19:27:04 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Flying Footnotes to Mumford: Van den Bergs Vn

Berlin based artist Oliver van den Berg (Ollimonade) has a special
interest: He is concerned with the desire of technical dispositions for
human beings.
One of his examples is the tactical bomb V1 of the nazi airforces. In
his book "Vn" van den Berg writes: "Due to its automatic steering
system, the V1 was also called the ‘robot bomb’. The steering system led
Londoners – the target of these weapons – to attribute a consciousness
to the V1 rockets, to consider them as beings. The inaccuracy of the
steering system led to the restoration of the pilot in the V1. However,
the V1 was a wholly unsuited enviroment for pilots." (Van den Berg,
Oliver: Vn. Berlin 1999, p. 81). There have been plans to train
extra-man to fly the weapons, to "rehumanize" so the robot bombs.  Of
course the pilots were suggested to never come back. Nevertheless plenty
of pilots had offered to fulfill the job. The first man able to fly the
bomb was a woman called Hanna Reitsch.
For different reasons the german nazi airforces did give up the plan.
This strange case to "rehumanize" a rocket is more than a strange case.
It leads to the insight that artifacts have build within their plan an
idea how man will behave with them. Van den Berg says that mostly this
plan is a plan of a single group. It is based on the concept of man that
the building engineers do have. The rehumanized bomb is an example that
this plan was not exact enough and therefore it was necessary do be
fulfilled with real man/woman. Van den Berg gives also a hint, how to
argue today with Mumford.

He quotes Mumford on page 84: "In other words, the mechanical metaphor
is not istself a suitable means of elimination of human relations…
because mechanisms are themselves subjectively conditioned creations.
Their particular characteristcs…are precisely that which has to be
explained. Considered on its own, the machine is a riddle, not an
explanation." (Mumford 1964: 437). The explanation of the riddle lies in
the nature of man. But I wonder what this nature is. Is there only one
nature or many? Experiments like the discussed V1 are an example of
special madness and attitude. I doubt that this is a common feature of
the nature of man. The Vn shows a feature of a single group.
The problem I do have with magnific study of Mumford is its olympic view
of the nature of man, that is very Goethe-like, a different view is
directing its focus to single and individualistic features.
For a text in progress on audio-philosophy (in german) please check
There you find notes on Oswald and Ingrid Wiener.

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