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Paul Virilio (1932–2018)

Paul Virilio, the influential French philosopher, urbanist, teacher, and writer on speed and acceleration, has died at the age of eighty-six. His family announced yesterday that he suffered from a cardiac arrest on September 10, according to Virilio wrote influential books and essays on perception, cinema, media studies, and military and information technology, including War and Cinema (1989), Strategy of Deception (2000), Pure War (1983), and Speed and Politics (1986). “Since the beginning of the twentieth century . . . the screen . . . became the city square,” he wrote in The Lost Dimension (1983). 

Initially trained as a stained glass artist, Virilio studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and worked with artists such as Georges Braque and Henri Matisse. Beginning in the mid-1970s and through the 1980s, he worked in architecture and taught at schools such as École Speciale de Architecture and College International de Philosophie de Paris, retiring in 1998 to work with homeless housing organizations.

“Art is drama. Any relationship to art is also a relationship to death,” he said in a 2011 interview. “Creation is against destruction. You cannot dissociate birth from death, creation from destruction, good from evil. Thus any art is a form of drama standing between the two extreme poles of birth and death, just like life is drama. This is not sad, because to be alive means to be mortal, to pass through. And art is alive because it is mortal.”