Virilio Live: Selected Interviews


Edited by: John Armitage

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  • Theory, Culture & Society

    Theory, Culture & Society caters for the resurgence of interest in culture within contemporary social science and the humanities. Building on the heritage of classical social theory, the book series examines ways in which this tradition has been reshaped by a new generation of theorists. It also publishes theoretically informed analyses of everyday life, popular culture, and new intellectual movements.

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    This book is dedicated to Julie Lawrence, my sister


    An editorial task of this extent is inevitably a cooperative endeavour. I want to offer my deepest thanks to Paul Virilio, who not only gave me his permission to publish his words in this book but who also took time out from a frenzied writing schedule to produce the Preface for it. Mike Gane and Nicholas Zurbrugg commented on an earlier draft of the Introduction. To Mike and Nicholas my sincere thanks. Thanks are also due to Douglas Kellner for refereeing Virilio interviews in German. Additionally, I owe a debt of gratitude to Mike Featherstone, the editor of Theory, Culture and Society, and to Chris Rojek, senior commissioning editor at Sage, for encouraging my work on Virilio from the beginning.

    To the Virilio interviewers, translators and publishers, dispersed across the world, and who gave their work and permissions, a genuine thank you. However, I was not able to locate all the interviewers, translators and publishers of the interviews published in this volume. On behalf of Sage Publications, I would like to say that every effort has been made to trace all the copyright holders of the material reprinted herein, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity. For their willingness to allow either the publication of an interview originally published in a language other than English or an interview that has not been published previously, I would especially like to thank Andreas Ruby, Niels Brügger and Nicholas Zurbrugg.

    I am particularly grateful to Patrice Riemens, the Scarlet Pimpernel of cyberspace, who translated Virilio's Preface, various Virilio interviews, and who offered sometimes-dizzying dromological companionship in Amsterdam and Paris. My colleagues in the Division of Government and Politics at the University of Northumbria, UK and, in particular, John Fenwick and Ken Harrop provided much-appreciated intellectual, financial and administrative support. I am also grateful to Arthur Affleck. His research assistance was invaluable in the final stages of the preparation of this book. Lastly, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to my partner in love, life and the odd academic crime, Joanne Roberts. On numerous occasions, Joanne generously put her own research aside to comment on many of the draft sections of this book.




    I do not agree with Montesquieu, when he wrote ‘the more one talks, the less one thinks’. All that matters is the nature of the exchange. To talk does not necessarily mean to chatter, and to have a dialogue with another person does not necessarily mean to sermonize but to respond to that person in a proper fashion, inclusive of thoughtful arguments.

    For thirty years now I have held a professorship of architecture, and I know from experience that talk can provoke. The spoken word is a mental voyage, a voyage in thought and action. The interview is at once the exhalation of thought and the inspiration for theory. Otherwise, how can we explain, for instance, Flaubert's ‘Shouting Alley’ in that remote corner of the Croisset Estate, near Rouen, where he used to scream out his writings?

    The fact is that writing takes a long time, whereas the spoken word is an exploration of speed, not only in terms of its delivery, but also in terms of its conceptualization.

    The spoken word shifts thought into overdrive. This acceleration also speeds up the revelatory possibilities of thought and intuition. However, the spoken word is primarily involved with re-conceptualizing thought through the reverberations inherent in dialogue itself. Dialogue is the canonical form par excellence, and it was a form cherished by the ancient philosophers; philosophers who were not concerned with the mere blurting out of messages, as so many seem to be in these loud-mouthed times.

    When two people are in a dialogue, the VERB TAKES ON HUMAN FORM. Without the echo of the human voice, without the interplay of the exchange, the force behind the meaning of the words deteriorates. Moreover, dialogue sometimes results in a theoretical breakthrough.

    For me, the silent procedure of writing corresponds to the ‘sound barrier’. However, the sound barrier is a barrier that the spoken word can sometimes break through!

    Of course, the spoken word in the form of, say, a radio interview, has a number of drawbacks. It can often result in misunderstandings, inaccuracies and repetitiveness. But one should also stress that an interview is but a draft, a blueprint for a text, and that reading and writing are an essential follow up after the verbal expression, after the breath of the shared word.

    Moreover, let us be totally honest. Very few interviews are totally satisfactory to a writer, and nothing can substitute for the retinal persistence of the written text.

    But a dialogue is a movement from one person to the Other. It is, as they say, the practice of alterity. It is therefore necessary to say that I seldom encounter an interviewer who is convinced beforehand of the validity of my words or of the relevance of my work. This results in the interview often turning into an effort of clarification, which might be useful, but which is also tiring, and sometimes very trying.

    Another aspect of the interview form, but this time a more positive one, is the element of surprise, the element of amazement, or, in other words, a recognition of the fact that ACCIDENTS OCCUR ALONG THE WAY as the discourse unfolds.

    It is indeed very often in the exchange, in the clash of opinions with one's interviewer, that the unforeseen happens, and the unexpected truth of the union materializes. And in fact, my penchant for spontaneity often makes me disinclined to amend afterwards particular figures of speech, or particular images and metaphors that might, in print, appear too harsh. Then you have to take into account the man himself. I am half Latin and half Breton. A Latin person is a born public speaker with just a hint of the demagogue, whereas a native of Brittany normally takes to silence and to contemplation.

    Therefore, if writing is a contemplative act, then speech is an action since it never returns before it has achieved its task.

    But let us conclude with a short passage from Jacques le Majeur's ‘Epître de Saint Jacques’, and taken from his Contre l'intempérance du language:

    When we put a bit in a horse's mouth in order to let ourselves be obeyed, we in fact direct his whole body. Or take ships: large as they may be, and even if propelled forward by strong winds, they are still steered by a small rudder, at the helmsman's will and pleasure. In the same fashion, the tongue is a small organ, and yet it can boast of great achievements!

    Translated by Patrice Riemens.

  • Suggested Further Reading

    Aidar, M. (1997) ‘IDEAL CAR’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–4.
    Armitage, J. (1996) ‘The Vision Thing’, Radical Philosophy, 77: 45–6. (Book review of The Vision Machine.)
    Armitage, J. (1997) ‘Accelerated Aesthetics: Paul Virilio's The Vision Machine’, in C.Blake and L.Blake (eds), Intellectuals and Global Culture, Special Issue of Angelaki, 2 (3): 199–209.
    Armitage, J. (1999a) ‘Paul Virilio’, in E.Cashmore and C.Rojek (eds), Dictionary of Cultural Theorists. London: Arnold. pp. 464–5.
    Armitage, J. (1999b) ‘Resisting the Neoliberal Discourse of Technology: The Politics of Cyberculture in the Age of the Virtual Class’, CTheory (Electronic journal), 22 (1–2) Article 68: 1–10.
    Armitage, J. (ed.) (1999c) Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6).
    Armitage, J. (1999d) ‘Paul Virilio: An Introduction’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 1–24.
    Armitage, J. (1999e) ‘From Modernism to Hypermodernism and Beyond: An Interview with Paul Virilio’ in J.Armitage (ed.) Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 25–56.
    Armitage, J. (1999f) ‘Paul Virilio: A Select Bibliography’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 229–40.
    Armitage, J. (1999g) ‘Into the War Zone’, International Studies Review, 1 (3): 135–9. (Book review of J. Der Derian's The Virilio Reader.)
    Armitage, J. (ed.) (2000a) Paul Virilio: From Modernism to Hypermodernism and Beyond, London: Sage. (Book version of Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6))
    Armitage, J. (2000b) ‘The Theorist of Speed’, in New Left Review, Number 2, Second Series, March–April (146–8). (Book review of La Bombe informatique.)
    Armitage, J. (2000c) ‘Beyond Postmodernism? Paul Virilio's Hypermodern Cultural Theory’, 3rd International Crossroads in Cultural Studies, Conference Paper, Birmingham, UK, 25 June. pp. 1–20.
    Armitage, J. (2000d) The Uncertainty Principle: Paul Virilio's The Information Bomb’, in M/C: A Journal of Media and Culture (Electronic journal). Theme issue on ‘Speed’, 3 (3) July. (Review article on The Information Bomb.)
    Armitage, J. (2000e) ‘Beyond Postmodernism? Paul Virilio's Hypermodern Cultural Theory’, in CTheory (Electronic journal), Autumn.
    Armitage, J. (2000f) ‘The Kosovo W@r Took Place in Orbital Space: Paul Virilio in Conversation with John Armitage’ in CTheory (Electronic journal) October 18.
    Armitage, J. (2001a) ‘Paul Virilio’, in A.Elliott and B.S.Turner (eds), Contemporary Profiles in Social Theory. London: Sage.
    Armitage, J. (2001b) ‘The Military is the Message’, in J.Armitage and J.Roberts (eds), Living with Cyberspace: Technology and Society in the 21st Century. London: The Athlone Press.
    Armitage, J. and Graham, P. (2001c) ‘Dromoeconomics: Towards a Political Economy of Speed’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theme issue on ‘Economies of Excess’, Parallax, 18 (January).
    Ascherson, N. (1997) ‘Nowhere to Retreat in a World without Absence or Darkness’The Independent on Sunday, 23 November 1997. (Book review of Open Sky.)
    Auber, O. (1997) ‘Esquisse d'une position théorique pour un art de la vitesse’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–10.
    Brigham, L. (1992) ‘Motion and Destruction’, American Book Review, 14 (2): 10. (Book review of The Aesthetics of Disappearance.)
    Brigham, L. (1997) ‘Transpolitical Technocracy and the Hope of Language’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–6.
    Conley, V.A. (1997) Ecopolitics: The Environment in Poststructuralist Thought. London: Routledge. (Contains chapter section on Virilio.)
    Conley, V.A. (1999) ‘The Passenger: Paul Virilio and Feminism’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 201–14.
    Conrad, P. (1989) ‘Screen Spectaculars’, Times Literary Supplement, 1–7 September: 939. (Book review of War and Cinema.)
    Crawford, T.H. (1999) ‘Conducting Technologies: Virilio's and Latour's Philosophies of the Present State’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Machinic Modulations: New Cultural Theory and Technopolitics, Special Issue of Angelaki, 4 (2): 171–82.
    Crogan, P. (1996a) ‘Paul Virilio and the Aporia of Speed’. Unpublished PhD thesis, Sydney, Power Department of Fine Arts.
    Crogan, P. (1996b) ‘Paul Virilio and the Aporia of Speed’, Virtual Cultures, Conference Paper, Sydney, 13 July. pp. 1–5.
    Crogan, P. (1997) ‘Metaphoric Vehicles’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–6.
    Crogan, P. (1999a) ‘Theory of State: Deleuze, Guattari and Virilio on the State, Technology, and Speed’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Machinic Modulations: New Cultural Theory and Technopolitics, Special Issue of Angelaki, 4 (2): 137–48.
    Crogan, P. (1999b) ‘The Tendency, the Accident and the Untimely: Paul Virilio's Engagement with the Future’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 161–76.
    Cronin, M.A. (1999) ‘Seeing through Transparency: Performativity, Vision and Intent’, Cultural Values, 3 (1): 54–72.
    Couples, C. (1996) ‘Virilio, the Cyborg, and Me’. Archived at: (Book review of The Art of the Motor.)
    Coyle, R. (1992) ‘Sound and Speed in Convocation: An Analysis of The Listening Room Radio Programs on Paul Virilio’, Continuum, 6 (1): 118–38.
    Cubitt, S. (1999a) ‘Unnatural Reality’, Film-Philosophy (Electronic journal), Salon review. (Book review of The Vision Machine.)
    Cubitt, S. (1999b) ‘Virilio and New Media’, in J.Armitage (ed.) Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 127–42.
    Der Derian, J. (1992) Antidiplomacy: Spies, Terror, Speed, and War. Oxford: Blackwell. (Contains chapters discussing Virilio's work.)
    Der Derian, J. (1998) ‘Virtually Wagging the Dog’, Theory and Event (Electronic journal), 2 (1): 1–7. (Book review of The Art of the Motor.)
    Der Derian, J. (ed.) (1998) The Virilio Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. (Contains a reprint of Der Derian's interview with Virilio in Wired. Contains ‘A Select Bibliography of Works by Paul Virilio’. This bibliography also includes some Spanish, Italian and German Virilio references.)
    Der Derian, J. (1999) ‘The Conceptual Cosmology of Paul Virilio’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 215–28.
    Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1986) Nomadology: The War Machine, trans. B.Massumi. New York: Semiotext (e). (Contains a critical discussion of Virilio's work. This book is also one of the ‘plateaus’ in Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus.)
    Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1987) ‘Nomadology: The War Machine’, in their A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. B.Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
    Drake, M. (1997) ‘The Question of Military Technology: Apocalyptics or Politics?’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–13.
    Douglas, I.R. (1997a) ‘Ecology to the New Pollution’, Theory and Event (Electronic journal), 2 (2): 1–5. (Book review of Open Sky.)
    Douglas, I.R. (1997b) ‘The Calm Before the Storm: Virilio's Debt to Foucault, and Some Notes on Contemporary Global Capital’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–18.
    Gane, M. (1999) ‘Paul Virilio's Bunker Theorizing’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 85–102.
    Gilfedder, D. (1994) ‘VIRILIO: The Cars that Ate Paris’, Transition, 43: 36–43.
    Hake, S. (1989) ‘War and Cinema’, Film Criticism, 14 (1): 40–2. (Book review of War and Cinema.)
    Hanke, R. (1999) ‘Virilio's Plea for Time: From Global Village to World City’, in Media, Culture and Technology (Electronic journal), Issue 2: 1–6. Archived at:
    Johnson, P. (ed.) (1996) The Function of the Oblique: The Architecture of Claude Parent and Paul Virilio, trans. P.Johnson. London: Architectural Association. (Contains Virilio's early architectural writings, drawings and photographs. Also included is an interview with Parent.)
    Kellner, D. (1998) ‘Virilio on Vision Machines’, Film-Philosophy (Electronic journal), Salon review: 1–10. (Book review of Open Sky.)
    Kellner, D. (1999) ‘Virilio, War and Technology: Some Critical Reflections’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 103–26.
    Kerrigan, J. (1997) ‘When Eyesight is Fully Industrialised’, London Review of Books, 16 October: 14–15. (Book review of Open Sky.)
    Koppes, C.R. (1991) ‘War and Cinema’, Technology and Culture, 32 (2): 447–8. (Book review of War and Cinema.)
    Kroker, A. (1992) The Possessed Individual: Technology and Postmodernity. Basingstoke: Macmillan. (Contains a chapter critically discussing Virilio's works.)
    Leach, N. (1999) ‘Virilio and Architecture’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 71–84.
    Leslie, E. (2000) ‘Aching for the Crash’, in Radical Philosophy, 99: 55–6. (Review of J. Der Derian's The Virilio Reader.)
    Manovich, L. (1997) ‘Film/Telecommunication, Benjamin/Virilio’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–5.
    McQuire, S. (1999) ‘Blinded by the (Speed of) Light’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 143–60.
    Messmer, M.W. (1989) ‘War and Cinema’, The Minnesota Review, 34 (3): 175–81. (Book review of War and Cinema.)
    Oki, K. (1997) ‘Decisions at the Speed of Electronic Circuitry’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–4.
    Sokal, A. and Bricmont, J. (1998) Intellectual Impostures: Postmodern Philosopher's Abuse of Science. London: Profile Books. (Contains a critique of Virilio.)
    Waite, G. (1996) Nietzsche's Corps/e: Aesthetics, Politics, Prophecy, or, the Spectacular Techno-culture of Everyday Life. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. (Contains discussions of Virilio's thought.)
    Wark, M. (1988) ‘On Technological Time: Virilio's Overexposed City’, Arena, 83: 82–100.
    Wark, M. (1990) ‘The Logistics of Perception’, Meanjin, 49 (1): 95–101. (Review article on War and Cinema.)
    Weissberg, J.-L. (1996) ‘Ralentir la communication’, Terminal, 63: 1–10.
    Wilbur, S. (1994/7) ‘Paul Virilio: Speed, Cinema, and the End of the Political State’, Speed (Electronic journal), 1 (4): 1–10. (Originally posted on the Net in 1994. Reprinted in Speed.)
    Zurbrugg, N. (1995) ‘“Apocalyptic!” “Negative!” “Pessimistic!”: Baudrillard, Virilio, and Techno-culture’, in S.Koop (ed.), Post: Photography: Post Photography. pp. 72–90. Fitzroy: Centre for Contemporary Photography.
    Zurbrugg, N. (1999) ‘Virilio, Stelarc and “Terminal” Technoculture’, in J.Armitage (ed.), Theory, Culture and Society, Special Issue on Paul Virilio. 16 (5–6): 177–200.

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