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Paul Virilio

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).

Titles by This Author

“Where does the city without gates begin? Perhaps inside that fugitive anxiety, that shudder that seizes the minds of those who, just returning from a long vacation, contemplate the imminent encounter with mounds of unwanted mail or with a house that’s been broken into and emptied of its contents. It begins with the urge to flee and escape for a second from an oppressive technological environment, to regain one’s senses and one’s sense of self.”
--from Lost Dimension

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.

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

with a new introduction by Sylvere Lotringer and Paul Virilio

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.

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

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.

In A Landscape of Events, the celebrated French architect, urban planner, and philosopher Paul Virilio focuses on the cultural chaos of the 1980s and 1990s. It was a time, he writes, that reflected the "cruelty of an epoch, the hills and dales of daily life, the usual clumps of habits and commonplaces."

An Interview with Philippe Petit

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.

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.