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2021 | Buch | 1. Auflage

The Palgrave Handbook of Image Studies

herausgegeben von: Krešimir Purgar

Verlag: Springer International Publishing


Über dieses Buch

This handbook brings together the most current and hotly debated topics in studies about images today. In the first part, the book gives readers an historical overview and basic diacronical explanation of the term image, including the ways it has been used in different periods throughout history. In the second part, the fundamental concepts that have to be mastered should one wish to enter into the emerging field of Image Studies are explained. In the third part, readers will find analysis of the most common subjects and topics pertaining to images. In the fourth part, the book explains how existing disciplines relate to Image Studies and how this new scholarly field may be constructed using both old and new approaches and insights. The fifth chapter is dedicated to contemporary thinkers and is the first time that theses of the most prominent scholars of Image Studies are critically analyzed and presented in one place.


Introduction: Between the Creation and Disintegration of Images

Our world is every day more and more permeated with different kinds of images: from the simple and often trivial visualizations present on social networks to complex visual constructions available throughout the realm of the digital universe. While many contemporary visualizations cannot even be considered images any longer, we still don’t know what images are and how we should respond to them: should we fear them or embrace them with confidence? This volume wishes to bring together the most current and the most hotly debated topics in studies about images today and to become a reference point for future editorial projects of this kind.

Krešimir Purgar

Essential Histories

The Concept of the Image in the Old and New Testaments

It is notoriously difficult to define the term image. Is it an idea, an artifact, an event, or another phenomenon altogether? W.J.T. Mitchell’s influential essay “What Is an Image?” developed a “family tree” of images, including graphic, optical, perceptual, mental, and verbal images (Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987). James Elkins, building upon this model, has suggested an even more diffuse genealogy of image types (Elkins, The Domain of Images. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999). Sunil Manghani synthesized both approaches and has proposed an “ecology of images”, through which one can examine the full “life” of an image as it resonates within a complex set of contexts, processes, and uses (Manghani, Image Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 2012). For the purposes of this analysis, we shall accept this model of an ecology of images, encompassing the graphic, optical, perceptual, mental, and verbal images. The fundamental question, then, is this: How do the Old and New Testaments conceptualize the category of image? We shall examine the concepts of “graven images”, theophanies (appearances of God), and the “image of God” within the biblical canon, and argue that the conceptualization of image within the Judeo-Christian scriptures contains both a potent iconophobia on one side and iconophilia on the other.

Michael Shaw
Mimesis and Simulacrum in Aristotle and Plato

The theories of art in Plato and Aristotle focus on poetry (including song and drama) and comment on music. What they find specific to pictures and visuality appears in a few evocative but often difficult passages.

Nickolas Pappas
Iconoclastic Disputes in Byzantium

This chapter is surveying iconoclastic disputes in Byzantium, in an attempt to provide some historical background to the use, misuse or abuse of images for religious and political purposes, thereby unfolding an important chapter of image studies’ history. Hence, the topic in question contributes to our understanding of how images are deeply ingrained in both cognition and memory. To this end, the chapter is structured in definitions and overall interpretation of the iconoclast controversy, its historical circumstances in their ideological, geographic and theological background, as well as examples from artworks from the period, before recapitulating how the topic contributes to the broader field of image studies.

Konstantinos Giakoumis
Perspective, Space, and Camera Obscura in the Renaissance

Contemporary digital media are correlated to spatial GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) coordinates. Spatial information is itself knit together according to absolute coordinates, which may be viewed in conformity with the principles of projective geometry. Such a mode of viewing—relatively recent—has now become completely natural to most electronics users. It is natural to assume that such digital technologies, whose algorithms include projective geometrical processing according to a mobile viewpoint, are descended from the history of western art in the Renaissance. But that genealogy is much contested.

Ian Verstegen
Immanuel Kant and the Emancipation of the Image

The aim of this essay is to articulate the central elements of Kant’s aesthetic theory and to demonstrate in what way they have been essential for the development of modern art, especially for our appreciation of abstract images. Even though Kant’s aesthetic theory of art did not actually represent any radical departure from the standards of representation that dominated the art theory and practice of his time, his conception of aesthetic appreciation as embedded in the notion of the free harmony and in the idea of a disinterested pleasure due to the purposive form of the object was nevertheless revolutionary in that it emancipated the form from the content of the object and thereby allowed the possibility to understanding and appreciating art irrespectively to what it represents.

Mojca Kuplen
Formalism and Kunstwissenschaft: The “How” of the Image

Paraphrasing Aristotle’s dictum on being, “form” is said in many ways. The notion covers such an ample semantic spectrum that one might even doubt it could hardly be of any use for the methodology of art history and image theory. And yet, in spite of its puzzling polyvalence, in its millenary history this concept appears to represent an indispensable and inescapable tool for historians and theorists.

Andrea Pinotti
Aby Warburg and the Foundations of Image Studies

“I am an image historian, not an art historian”. Claiming to have spoken these words to his son, Aby Warburg (13 June 1866–26 October 1929) recorded them in his diary on 12 February 1917. Since the beginning of the First World War, Warburg kept cautiously surveying the latest political and military developments and their reception in Germany and Europe, paying specific attention to the role of images as means of information and, more importantly, agitation (cf. Diers 1997; Schwartz, “Aby Warburgs Kriegskartothek. Vorbericht einer Rekonstruktion”. In: Korff 2007: 39–70, 2007). In order to understand the dynamics of the surrounding visual culture, he then turned to moments in history he deemed precedents for the contemporary situation and whose analysis therefore struck him as particularly revealing. This was the very moment he consciously declared his profession’s nature. Thus, it seems possible to date accurately the transition from a conventional study of the history of art to an innovative form of approaching its source materials that was finally to open out to the universal project of image studies (cf. Warnke, “Aby Warburg (1866–1929)”, in Altmeister moderner Kunstgeschichte, Heinrich Dilly, ed. Berlin 1999: 117–130. Bredekamp, “A Neglected Tradition? Art History as Bildwissenschaft”. In: Critical Inquiry. 29 (3): 418–428. Hensel, Wie aus der Kunstgeschichte eine Bildwissenschaft wurde. Aby Warburgs Graphien. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2011). This, however, would mean to simplify what is indeed a complex history—with regard to Warburg’s practice, whose particular ways of accessing a history of art in the context of the wider history of civilization unfolded over the span of the scholar’s entire oeuvre, as well as to the field of image studies in general whose beginnings cannot be limited to Warburg alone. However, Warburg is undoubtedly a key figure in this history. It seems therefore critical to clarify what he might have had in mind when he not only distanced himself from the discipline of art history of his time but explicitly differentiated his own metier as that of an “image historian”.

Steffen Haug, Johannes von Müller
Early Interactions of Static and Moving Images

One of the keys to the understanding of visual culture at the beginning of the twentieth century is the relationship between the static and the moving images. There is good reason, then, to investigate the interactions not only between the image that preceded the movie (the photograph) but also the image that came into being under the influence of film. In this entry we shall call this kind of image the static-moved image. This essay takes its point of departure from the conviction that Walter Benjamin was one of the first authors to have written about the link between the media of photography and film, the new technologies of the beginning of the twentieth century, and that it was he that created the foundation for a discussion of the crucial themes that appeared at the turn of the century. As well as in his best-known work, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1939), in his much more extensive work, The Arcades Project, which will be invoked here, he also drew attention to the key role of the new visual media of the static and the moving images. The fact that in this text Benjamin refers equally to the photograph as a technological invention and a new means of artistic expression will enable us to define the context within which interaction between the different visual media occurs. The medium of photography, for instance, to be discussed at the beginning of this essay, will be considered in the following ways: (1) in the period of modernity, characterized by the ambivalence of the concept of modernity, as a not entirely new phenomenon, but in the new circumstances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a new environment for the analysis of phenomena such as beauty or “presentness” (Calinescu) or the “divided pathos of Modernism” (Hoffmann); (2) within the new socially and technologically produced observer: precisely because of the appearance of new visualization techniques, Jonathan Crary thinks that the germs of Modernism were at the beginning of the nineteenth century; (3) within the new multimedial observer: in this sense, we have referred to John Fullerton, who shows that the new technologies meant a new experience in the person of the observer, the user of the new optical inventions that were a form of popular entertainment.

Mirela Ramljak Purgar
Iconoclasm and Creation of the Avant-Garde

The notion of modern(ist) art was closely related to progress, change, and novelty and was as such antithetical to everything that was normative, generally valued, and institutionally affirmed. In historical accounts modernist art represented a radical rupture within art historical canon and its value system against which it proposed a new ontology of art. In order to retain the condition of modernity and adapt to changing ideas art has had constantly to reinvigorate itself and renounce any kind of stability and the rule. It is not surprising though that iconoclastic attitude was intrinsic to modernist movement and the avant-garde, in fact, as Dario Gamboni has noted in his comprehensive study on modern iconoclasm, at the turn of the century, modernity was inevitably linked to iconoclasm (Gamboni, The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution. London: Reaktion Books, 1997, 257).

Nadja Gnamuš
Planarity, Pictorial Space, and Abstraction

This article looks at how abstraction has progressed in art history in relation to the image and the planar surface, and in relation to consciousness, concepts, and language. I begin with challenges to more traditional kinds of representation that were mounted by people such as Turner and Cézanne, and that were continued through Analytic Cubism to Mondrian and Malevich on to Abstract Expressionism and Color-Field Painting. This brief outline enables one to see how the dilution and disintegration of the realistic image end in the reality of the surface in pure visual abstraction. I also consider the route from papier collé and collage to Duchamp, and to different kinds of surface in different kinds of object, and how that route leads to Minimalism and linguistic Conceptual art, which itself represents, in at least one important sense, a return to the use of planarity in the background surface on which visible language is situated.

Jeffrey Strayer
The Postmodern Image

“It becomes more and more difficult […] to specify exactly what it is that ‘postmodernism’ is supposed to refer to as the term gets stretched in all directions across different debates, different disciplinary and discursive boundaries, as different factions seek to make it their own, using it to designate a plethora of incommensurable objects, tendencies, emergencies” (Hebdige 1998, 181). Dick Hebdige’s remarks about the slipperiness of the term postmodernism (which continues with an endless list of things that can be associated to it) are neither the first—even if we are “just” in 1988—nor, obviously, the last problematization of this sort. More concisely, in 2009, in an article for the New Yorker centered on the work of Donald Barthelme, Louis Menand has described postmodernism as “the Swiss Army knife of critical concepts”, and at that moment the definition sounds particularly true, if we think that post-9/11 a wide international debate on the end of the postmodernism has been going on, fatally adding definitions over definitions, while trying to understand what would have replaced it, if something has (Brooks Toth 2007; Toth 2010; Faye 2012; Rudrum and Stavris 2015).

Luca Malavasi
Digital Images and Virtual Worlds

The emergence of digital technologies has significantly changed the perception of visual content and how immersion—and in particular pictorial immersion—is defined and perceived. The same applies to terms such as simulation, simulacra, virtuality and of course virtual realities. Images often represent a certain aspect of reality that can be virtually transformed into something that can no longer be traced back to any reference system of reality. But there is much more than that: this concept allows for immersion which means to dive into the image. Immersion describes an effect of being exposed to illusory stimuli which fade into the background to such an extent that the so-created virtual environment is perceived as real and therefore it is important to specify the attributes of virtual image systems compared to images of traditional works of art or moving images such as cinema or videogames. Art historian and media theoretician Oliver Grau states that

Rebecca Haar
The Martian Image (On Earth)

“Machine vision” is not an invention of the digital age, it dates back to the invention of the photographic and filmic machine of vision where images are recorded automatically, and it is logical to think that, at some point, these machines will no longer need us to function or to look at their images or data. Already in the 1920s, experimental filmmaker Dziga Vertov imagined mechanical kino-eyes not only replacing human eyes but becoming autonomous. In this well-known passage from his Kinok manifestos Vertov lends his voice to such a camera-robot:

Ingrid Hoelzl, Remi Marie

Fundamental Concepts

Intentionality, Phantasy, and Image Consciousness in Edmund Husserl

Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) was one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and is known as the founder of phenomenology. Husserl was famously led into philosophy by Franz Brentano (1838–1917), who reintroduced the medieval notion of “intentionality” into his contemporary philosophical reflections; Husserl later autonomously developed the concept in his Logical Investigations, the work that marks the inception of phenomenology.

Claudio Rozzoni
Aura, Technology, and the Work of Art in Walter Benjamin

In the famous essay from 1935/1936 The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility (Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit), Walter Benjamin introduces a highly ambiguous concept of “aura” in the philosophical and historical discourse of aesthetics. Aura blends motifs of Greek mythology, Jewish Kabbalistic and eschatology, echoes of esotericism and occultism, the modern experience of transcending the boundaries of the material world of phenomena, the bohemian experience of poets and artists from Baudelaire to the Surrealists, and the practice of opium and hashish users. Isn’t it truly “shocking” and “provocative” that the key concept of modern and contemporary art—aura, which has managed to survive in the contemporary age of the technosphere—encompasses all speculative-metaphysical, hybrid and manifold meanings precisely because it speaks of the power of image over language? So, despite his mimetic theory of language, Walter Benjamin opened the door to philosophy and art, starting from the “pictorial nature” of language.

Žarko Paić
Image and the Illusion of Immanence in Jean-Paul Sartre

The starting point for understanding Sartre on the image and the imaginary is the fact that for the existential philosopher, the image is a relation of consciousness. Indeed, to follow the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, as Sartre did in the mid-1930s when he was working out his ideas regarding the imaginary and imagination—although L’Imaginaire (1986), which deals directly with the image, was not published until 1940, most of the material for the work was done at the same time as Sartre was writing L’Imagination, first published in 1936—an image is always an image of something; just as, for Husserl, consciousness is always consciousness of something (cf. Husserl 1982). As there is no consciousness in itself, so there is never an image in itself. What perhaps surprises here is that although the image is a relation of consciousness it is not simply produced by consciousness but has an autonomy that is entirely its own. As Sartre says: “An imaging consciousness is, indeed, consciousness of an object as imaged and not consciousness of an image” (Sartre 2004, 86). But, as we shall see, to speak of the autonomy of the image is not to imply that the image is an object; far from it. Conceiving the image as an object is an indication that one has fallen for the “illusion of immanence”, the illusion that posits the image as always already existing in the psyche and the imagination. Instead, the image is what enables access to what is imaged: it is the presence of the imaged (or object) in its absence, as Sartre puts it. Such an approach puts Sartre’s notion of the image at odds with much of contemporary media theory, which proposes that the image is indeed an object—an object that is media specific, so that rather than a face being made present in a photograph it is said the medium ultimately becomes manifest, not the reality of the face. Thus, photography—that is, the medium—appears and not the immediate thing (the imaged) (cf. Wolf 2007).

John Lechte
Trait, Identity, and the Gaze in Jacques Lacan

The initial push for Lacanian theory is given by confrontation with the neo-Freudists, who, in his opinion, led psychoanalysis to an impasse of the theory of autonomous ego. The autonomy of ego is defined by its ability to harmonize instinctual drives and requirements of the external world. Ego-psychological bios in psychoanalysis claims that the latter hinges on the identification of the analysand with “the strong ego of the analyst” (Evans 1996, 14–15). Correspondingly, this approach assumed a strengthening of the ego as a key to therapeutic strategy. But, according to Lacan, the ego is conditioned by the order of the signifier (the symbolic). As early as in 1938 Lacan claims that it is family complexes—which are interiorized social structures—that shape individual psychology (Lacan 1938). So, psychoanalysis radically breaks with any kind of biological reductionism in the understanding of the human being. And this is precisely what Freud did by his discovery of the unconscious in “The Interpretation of Dreams”.

Andrei Gornykh
Symbolic Exchange and Simulation in Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard’s theoretical system contains two significant categories of analysis: an anthropological notion of symbolic exchange, which is contrasted with that of simulation. The development of his conception of symbolic exchange, from the 1970s into the 2000s, is the context against which his analysis of the virulence of images and their murderous power is presented. Baudrillard’s theory of the image is explained with reference to his many borrowings, as a psychoanalytic primal scene; the absorption of events like a spongy referent of physics; the jealousy of the real in the face of the proliferations of images, expressing a kind of pataphysical sensibility. The key facets of his theory of simulation are delineated. Baudrillard’s theory and practice of photography is analyzed, noting his debt to Roland Barthes. His fascination with photojournalism is also canvassed. Finally, the entry culminates with a section on television. Baudrillard’s fascination with this medium forms a major part of his interest in images, especially how reality television and its precursor television verité allow him to expose the implications of the implosion of the screen and the world.

Gary Genosko
Historicity of Observing and Vision in Jonathan Crary

The famous 1996 October “Visual Culture Questionnaire” presents a set of editors’ assumptions about the newly founded “interdisciplinary project” (VCQ, 25). “In a manner openly unsympathetic to visual culture” (Dikovitskaya 2006, 17), each question begins with the phrase “it has been suggested that visual culture”, leaving no doubt about the editors’ aversion: the inquiry starts with the proposal to radically separate the disciplines of art history and visual culture. While the former is built on the model of history, the latter is supposed to be grounded in anthropology. Their radical difference is accepted beyond doubt. Regardless of the authors’ intentions and precise foundations of this distinction—unclear also for many of the original responders—the place of history within an academic endeavor centered on image and vision is worth revisiting. If only because one of the most important interventions of historicizing the image and visuality comes from an author consequently writing about his mistrust in the “new academic precinct (regardless of its label)” (Crary 1996, 33)—Jonathan Crary, Professor of Modern Art and Theory at Columbia University and co-founder of non-profit publishing house Zone Books.

Łukasz Zaremba
Male Gaze and Visual Pleasure in Laura Mulvey

Feminist film theory plays a crucial role in examining the concept of spectatorship. Ruby Rich puts it this way:

Patricia Stefanovic, Ana Gruić Parać
Reality, Fiction, and Make-Believe in Kendall Walton

Images share a common feature with all phenomena of imagination, since they make us aware of what is not present or what is fictional and not existent at all. From this perspective, the philosophical approach of Kendall Lewis Walton—born in 1939 and active since the 1960s at the University of Michigan—is perhaps one of the most notable contributions to image theory. Walton is an authoritative figure within the tradition of analytical aesthetics. His contributions have had a considerable influence on a broad range of topics, such as the role of categories in the understanding of the arts (Walton, “Categories of Art”. Philosophical Review, 79(3): 334–367, 1970), the ambiguous nature of emotions in the experience of fictional stories (Walton, “Fearing Fictions”. The Journal of Philosophy, 75(1): 5–25, 1978), the transparency of photographic images compared to other depictions (Walton, “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism”. Noûs, 18(1): 67–72, 1984) and, above all, the development of a general theory of fiction as imaginative activity. His 1990 book Mimesis as Make-believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts collects and re-elaborates articles Walton published on the subject since the 1970s. Though he does not attempt to give a definitive answer for what imagination is, Walton thoroughly investigates its role in all cases of representational works, describing depictions as a specific case of “make-believe” activity: images, in short, are specific props of a visual and perceptual “make-believe” game.

Emanuele Arielli
The Technical Image in Vilém Flusser

The concept of the technical image can be discussed in few distinct positions which relate Vilém Flusser—Czech-born philosopher and a naturalized Brazilian citizen, 1920–1991—close to some of the most important philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. Namely, we can discuss the notion of the image in terms of Heideggerian system through The age of the world picture (Heidegger 1977, 115), as a signifier of the contemporary mode of communication through the Society of the spectacle (Debord 1992) and as technique distinct in its individuation and relationship to that which is human from Gilbert Simondon to Gilles Deleuze’s notions of image, technics, time, film and so on. This means that the theory proposed by Vilém Flusser stands in the center of the contemporary debate on the image, image theory and its significance in the everyday life of the later twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Even though he actively wrote and gave lectures throughout the sixties, his most famous work Für eine philosophie der fotografie emerged in 1983 (Towards a philosophy of photography, 1984) alongside with the more elaborate and abstract work published two years later Ins Universum der technischen Bilder in 1985 (Into the universe of technical images, 2011b). It is there that Flusser sublates and postulates his most important and thought-provoking notions regarding the image. Drawing his influence from Heidegger’s two most famous essays on the Age of the world picture and The Question regarding technics, he will advocate that the image in the contemporary and radically new context of mass media, digital, virtual and overall technical reality brings about a fundamentally new outlook on our society as well as our everyday life. In that sense we can consider Flusser’s philosophy to be a direct symptom of new technologies of the philosophical concepts proposed and consequences anticipated by authors like Martin Heidegger, Gilbert Simondon, Guy Debord and many of his contemporaries, from Jean Baudrillard to Bernard Stiegler. Most notable for his essayistic writing style (compare, for example Flusser 2011a, Flusser 2013), we must consider the whole of Flusser’s eclectic attempt at the information image theory as a specific philosophy in itself or an invention of a specific attitude toward the most contemporary of the everyday phenomena.

Dario Vuger
Im/pulse to See in Rosalind Krauss

“After Greenberg, no one has had as much influence on American art critics as Krauss”, wrote David Carrier in his intellectual biography of the American critic and art historian Rosalind Krauss (Carrier, Rosalind Krauss and American Philosophical Art Criticism. Westport, CT and London: Praeger, 2002, 2). He refers to criticism, which he calls philosophical, based on a solid theoretical ground, though one that underwent diverse transformations throughout Krauss’ career. Krauss’ art criticism, at the beginning published in Artforum and since 1976 in October (the magazine she co-founded with Annette Michelson and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe), and the task she set for herself as an art historian to rewrite the history of modernism, first from the structuralist, and later from poststructuralist and psychoanalytical perspectives, are complementary and inseparable.

Filip Lipiński
The Power of and Response to Images in David Freedberg

The strength images may have in certain circumstances, the fear they can instill in people’s mind is an old, even archaic problem, anchored in Ancient idolatry. No doubt that the originality of David Freedberg’s image theory lies in his personal answer to this question of power: an answer formulated through his central concept of “response”, defined and applied in his most famous book The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response. The very beginning of the introduction goes straight to the point: “This book is not about the history of art. It is about the relations between images and people in history. It consciously takes within its purview all images, not just those regarded as artistic ones” (Freedberg 1989, xix). As far as people in history made images long before and wide outside the scope of Western art, as far as cultures continue to use and share visual representations of all kind, these images are worth to be considered as well: the contention stands to reason. Nevertheless, in many respects, this statement goes against the grain of art history as an academic discipline and implies therefore a considerable reversal of focus.

Maxime Boidy

Frequent Subjects

Ontological Dispute: What Is an Image?

The idea expressed by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in his phenomenological research on the image proves to be a particularly important contribution to those who are trying to answer the question “What is an image?” Sartre’s research was presented in Imaginary in 1940 after a four-year study entitled Imagination. In his analyses, Sartre sets important points that relate to other famous scholars’ studies focusing on the understanding of the ontological nature of the image and its different expressions. He observes that the term imagine always expresses a relationship between consciousness and object (Sartre 1973). No matter how it presents itself, an image is always considered the means through which an object makes itself visible to the consciousness of a user (“user”—because it is a broader term than viewer or observer). This aspect, which is a key element of every kind of image, is emphasized both in anthropological analyses and in aesthetical analyses. An example of the former is Régis Debray’s study where he states that the image fills a void—it not only evokes but also replaces by making present what is absent according to the unique characteristic of representation (Debray 1992). An example of the latter, the aesthetical perspective, is Hans Georg Gadamer’s idea that any artwork (poetry, novel, music, theater, film etc.) is a representation that distinguishes itself through the possibility to represent something for somebody (Gadamer 2007). José Ortega y Gasset observes that every representation offers the possibility to present different realities through the use of signs, pictures, symbols, as the Latin word repraesentare expresses. These alternative realities are considered by the Spanish philosopher as image reality, or simply images (Ortega y Gasset 1958).

Andrea Rabbito
Representation and the Scopic Regime of (Post-)Cartesianism

This chapter focuses on what I consider to be the development of the scopic regime of Cartesian perspectivalism over the last 500–600 years in representational painting. While several scopic regimes have emerged, especially since the twentieth century, Cartesian perspectivalism has endured and continues to have a considerable bearing, in particular on contemporary representational painting. I aim to consider why this scopic regime has sustained itself and what led to its expansion using several key case studies in the development of representational painting, namely the work of Francisco de Zurbarán, Johannes Vermeer, Lucy McKenzie and Helene Appel. Through an investigation of shifting approaches to depictions of space, light, the viewer’s body and digital imagery, I will argue that painting has continually disrupted Cartesian perspectivalism in order to open and expose it to novel interpretations of reality.

Donal Moloney
The Iconic (In)difference

The opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey is set in a desolate arid region millions of years ago, where a group of hominids is first seen munching on bushes and meager green plants amid a herd of tapirs. After being driven away from their water hole by a rival tribe, the defeated apes huddle together in a dark cave. As night falls, their eyes wide open make us, the spectators, aware of the countless unknown dangers they are afraid of: it is a matter of life and death, a Darwinian struggle for survival in which the fittest rule and the weak die. Overpowered by the fearsome antagonists and deprived of the most essential element to the lives on the desert, Kubrick’s hero apes seem to be doomed to perish.

Pietro Conte
Seeing-as, Seeing-in, Seeing-with: Looking Through Pictures

What do we see what we look at pictures? What kind of vision is conveyed by and through pictorial representation? Such questions have been kept aesthetics and visual studies busy for decades. As it turns out, the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein has proven to be a major source of inspiration in these discussions, and in particular his notion of “seeing-as”, which is sometimes also referred to as “aspect seeing”. Indeed, it seems plausible to say that pictures never show things in general, but always only in a certain respect, from a certain point of view or under a certain aspect. Besides, what holds true for pictorial representation seems equally valid for the stance taken in front of pictures: looking at pictures requires seeing them in a certain way, that is, as pictures. Considering Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) as a rectangular object made of oil, canvas, and stretcher bars does not exactly correspond to the kind of vision pictures generally require (Fig. 29.29.1). Pictures, in that respect, usually present themselves as objects that should be seen as depictions of something else they are about, and in the case of the Hopper painting, say, of a late-night scene in an American diner, with four human figures seen through a wedge of glass. Other descriptions would be possible too, of course, such as one which would present Hopper’s 1942 painting as a depiction of solitude in high industrial modernity.

Emmanuel Alloa
Varieties of Transparency

Transparent things allow viewers to see through them. In the extremes, transparency approaches invisibility. Faced with an even and clear piece of blue glass, Bertrand Russell (1914, 88) suggested that we must “infer” its presence in light of the discoloration it occasions. Dirtied, scratched, or otherwise marred surfaces are more typical, and it is easy to overlook what distinctive things transparencies are. First, they allow viewers to see more than one thing, at the same time, in the same part of the visual field, like the glass and, beyond it, the yard. One cannot point toward the yard without also pointing to the glass through which it is seen. Second, panes of glass and the like are ordinary objects in all tangible and audible respects, unlike the air that stands between viewer and viewed. They have enduring shapes, hardness, and so on. Third, it’s not just that transparencies allow such dual experiences, they require them. You cannot see something as transparent without being able to see what’s beyond it.

John Kulvicki
Photographic Images in the Digital Era

This chapter attempts to understand the fate of conventional notions of photographic indexicality and referentiality in the digital era where digital images have replaced analog images almost completely. Following a critical overview of relevant literature on digital photography, the author makes a conceptual distinction between referentiality and indexicality with respect to their implications for the notion of photographic realism. With a particular focus on the concept of indexicality, defined herein as an element that radically determines the definition of photography, the author argues that what is represented becomes a “thing” in digital images in the absence of indexicality by using Jean-Paul Sartre’s notion of “illusion of immanence”. This claim strongly challenges the view that digital images can still be regarded as photographs that themselves presuppose a particular relationship between an image and its object.

Koray Değirmenci
Images and Invisibility

Most introductions to the theme of invisibility begin to approach the phenomenon with reference to the traditions of storytelling in which it has continued to figure so vividly and prominently, from its early appearances in ancient myth to its recurrent manifestations in the popular culture of the digital era. Narratives such as the legend of Gyges, cited from Plato’s Republic, occur with frequency in such introductions because they are testament to the lasting magnitude of the trope of invisibility, and its capacity to reflect and question desires and fascinations that are deeply embedded in human nature and culture (Ball, Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015, 2–4; Birchall, The In/visible. Living Books About Life, n.d.). Even the most basic etymological histories and genealogies suggest that as a cultural idea, invisibility remains appealing and provocative across centuries and cultures because the essential aspects of its conceptualization stay the same, even if its reiterations demonstrate its susceptibility to be rearticulated with the advent of ever new media and technologies. Thus, each reappearance in cultural narrative of, for instance, a “magic ring”—which typically provides protagonists and antagonists alike with cloaks of invisibility—tells us something about the motif’s persistent hold on the human imagination, while allowing the implications of the ethical ambivalence of its possession to stay new.

Øyvind Vågnes
How to Make Images Real

Many of our everyday dealings with images are philosophically less innocent than they may seem. For instance, if we are confronted with a piece of stone which has been carved to look like a human head, we will in many cases simply call it a head or “this head” and perhaps point to it and make remarks about the form and expression of its face including the lips, the nose, the eyes and the cheeks, and so on. We will perhaps say that we “see” this head, this face, these features and we will do all of this even if we agree (1) that the concept “human head” applies to a certain part of the human body (typically a body of flesh and blood which was born and has lived for some time and will die or is already dead); and (2) that if one claims to see something and describes it with its particular features, it is usually understood that one believes that a thing of this kind is actually where one claims to see it. Now, a piece of stone, be it carved or not, is very different from what one would usually call a human head. By definition, it is not of flesh and blood, is not alive, and will not die. How can one nevertheless point to the stone, call it a head, describe the expression of its face, and say one sees it? If one claims to be a rational being who remains true to the principle of non-contradiction, one will have to resolve this conceptual problem or somehow justify it. How can this be done?

Wolfram Pichler
Images and Ethics

In the winter of 2019, seemingly innocuous video footage of the Oslo homes of well-known politicians and magnates occasioned the resignation of the Norwegian Minister of Justice and Immigration. The footage, shot surveillance-style by associates of the Black Box Theatre, a small, independent purveyor of experimental plays in the nation’s capital, was used in the production Ways of Seeing, which premiered on November 21, 2018, and immediately caused considerable turbulence in the media and among the public at large. A self-consciously confrontational work about the rise of aggressive nationalism and its economic infrastructure—and, no less importantly, the modern surveillance state—Ways of Seeing prompted a chain of unprecedented events. Not only did the police charge the theater company with violation of privacy; the play also achieved what experimental theater rarely achieves, which was the discontinuation of the post of an important government official and the launching of a criminal investigation that is still ongoing at the time of writing (the trial in Oslo is scheduled for September 2020. Roughly fifty witnesses have been summoned to testify, including some of the crew from Ways of Seeing). In filming the domiciles that index a particular cartography of affluence and political influence, the play’s director Pia Maria Roll and her colleagues did not in fact violate any laws. Their work may be defined as an act of sousveillance, of watching the watchers (Mann et al. 2003), and the play itself instantiates a form of aesthetic practice that recalls Walter Benjamin’s consideration of artistic positionality in his classic essay “The Author as Producer” (Benjamin 1999). Going beyond the question of the work’s “message”, or attitude vis-à-vis its political moment, Benjamin reframes the terms of this ageless debate by suggesting that some works transcend their commentative function to intervene directly in their historically specific relations of production and mediation. It is the notion of technique that, for Benjamin, governs the mode of operation that such works inhabit within a concrete political space.

Asbjørn Grønstad
The Beholder’s Freedom: Critical Remarks on the “Will to See”

It is a commonplace to conceive of images as enormously powerful media. Iconologists may have quite different views on how the notion of iconicity ought to be understood and defined, but they hardly question the widely shared belief in the power of images. In fact, it seems that for most scholars the existence of a certain kind of “iconic power” represents a key element of the very essence of iconicity as such. Hence, it is not surprising to see that the belief in the power of images is often liberated from any need of further explanation or justification—it is simply taken as an indisputable fact, as a “natural given” prevalent and effective in any kind of imagery whatsoever. This chapter argues against such an ontological rendering of the power of images. Power is never a natural phenomenon, but always a relational feature. It is the result of social practices that are deeply influenced by cultural, political, historical, and many other factors. Far from being a natural given, it is something made. To put it in a Foucaultian manner: Power is the outcome of discursive practices.

Mark Halawa-Sarholz
Surveillance and Manipulation Versus Networking and Sharing

For some time now, image has no longer been a predominantly visual issue. What I mean by this is that, in today’s society, an image no longer merely “behaves” like a visual object put before a spectator, or rather, an observer (Crary 1990): instead, it is an object that boasts a vitality that continually readapts its function within a media ecosystem that is increasingly complex and diverse. Today, perhaps more than at any other time in history, images are objects to be used. Particularly on social networks, images have been made the object of a series of social and communicative practices that pervade our daily lives and force us to reconsider the issue of “visibility”—understood as the relationship between a person who observes and a person who is observed—if we hope to understand the particular dynamics that are triggered when images come into play (in vastly different forms and through different media). Take, for example, how a common, entertaining practice such as the selfie—which has radically redefined the rules of visibility as regards self-representation—has become a key element in a series of promotional strategies that “exploit” the urge to create and share such images, an urge felt by an untold number of people (“selfie points,” now found in cultural venues, places of entertainment, and retail outlets, are an obvious example).

Elio Ugenti
Mobile Images

Mobile images are the building blocks of visual collective constructions of reality. They can be considered as the visual intersection of everyday life and popular culture, taken, viewed and/or shared through mobile devices. Understanding what characterizes mobile images relates to grasping Mobile Cultures as a whole (Cf. Martin and Von Pape 2012; Caron and Caronia, Moving Cultures, Mobile Communication in Everyday Life. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007; Goggin, Mobile Phone Cultures. London: Routledge, 2008). It also refers to Mobile Communication Studies (aka Mobile Studies) as a discipline, to Visual Culture, and to the wider field of Image Studies. Moreover, if we follow a “medium is the message” attitude (McLuhan 1964), then it could be deduced that all the acts of taking, making, sending, receiving, posting, and the like of images with and by a mobile is precisely what makes those images mobile images. But, “[m]obile snapshots are mainly embedded in the present and develop their meaning as such,” say Martin and Von Pape (2012: 9). In other words, their meanings change us and change with us. Not only the world changes social media but also social media can change different worlds. Complementarily, I also follow Bourdieu (1965) when supports that the power of photography is “extrinsic to photography,” goes beyond photography itself, and “communicates within a system of values” (ibid.). Mobile images, together with the apps that allow their creation and circulation, are the crucial part of what Hjorth and Pink called a “social lubricant” (2014).

Gaby David

Related Disciplines

Phenomenology of the Image

Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experience as they appear in first-person perspective. Etymologically, the term derives from the Greek words phainesthai, “to appear,” and logos, “study,” thus meaning literally “the study of appearances.” Though the term has been in use since the eighteenth century, its current meaning was developed by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) at the beginning of the twentieth century. It quickly established itself as one of the most influential philosophical movements of the century and grew in several directions in the hands of Husserl’s followers, such as Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), Roman Ingarden (1893–1970), Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980), Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–1961), and Emmanuel Levinas (1906–1995) among many others. Though the exact method and scope of phenomenology remains debated to this day, all its proponents share a common devotion to immediate, lived experience as the starting point of philosophical thinking.

Harri Mäcklin
Visual Semiotics

The field of visual semiotics focuses on the generation of meaning through images and calls for the exploration of its specific mechanisms. While the theory of language developed over the course of the twentieth century had explored and defined the operations of meaning production in verbal language, semiotics as a general science of signs—not merely linguistic ones—assumed the task of exploring, among other languages, visual language as a semiotic object. Semioticians took their cue from structuralist approaches to linguistics and from the fundamental contributions by Ferdinand de Saussure who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, investigated the functioning of verbal language as a semiotic system. Thus, the semiotics of images was confronted, in its early days, with the question of whether images could be considered a “language” entailing a comparably systematic nature (Calabrese 1985, 111–151). Two main issues distinguish the debate in this early phase. In the first place, the semiotic reflection addressed the question of the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign, that is, the apparently fundamental difference between linguistic sign and image. If the former—as Saussure indicated—is based on an arbitrary relationship between signifier and meaning, that is, without any naturally motivated link between the word and its meaning (so much so that each language resolves this association in a different way), the image has been commonly considered to be based on a similarity or analogy with what it represents. A semiotic reflection on visual objects thus first engaged with the problem of the principle of similarity, or likeness. In the perspective of a “critique of iconism,” assuming likeness as a defining trait of the iconic sign entailed an insurmountable separation between the image and verbal language and contributed to the disregard for the commonality of certain levels of meaning. Against this artificial opposition, however, it was pointed out that the similarity between the image and what it represented, far from being a motivated relationship, was itself codified, since cultural codes governed by conventions intervene in the process of recognition of images which, albeit to different degrees, always operate a selection of relevant traits with respect to what they refer to (Eco 1968, 107–130; Metz 1970; Casetti 1972).

Angela Mengoni
Literary Iconology: Tropes and Typologies

In Vermeer’s painting kept in the Dublin Art Gallery, Young Woman Writing a Letter with her Maid (1670), a young woman is sitting in front of the spectator bowed over a table covered by a heavy red carpet. She is holding a quill with which she is writing on what we guess is a white sheet of paper firmly held in place. Standing in the background, a woman wearing a green dress and a blue apron, the servant who has just brought in the note, is looking out of the window. With her distant gaze and her mouth open, she does not seem to belong to the painting’s world but to the world outside, or rather to the vision of the outside world—so completely absorbed is she in her inner reverie.

Liliane Louvel
French Theory: Poststructuralism and Deconstruction

Images can be looked at, they can be felt, they can make an impression and they can be experienced; images, however, can also be deciphered; they can communicate a relatively distinct meaning, since they refer to something that goes beyond their immediate material being. Accordingly, images can be considered as signs, that is, encoded entities that unfold a meaning in the very moment of being decoded. Poststructuralist and deconstructionist approaches in image studies take images to be signs, broadly conceived. As signs, images form part in discourses. Other than in a merely semiotic perspective, the significative character of images relates to different levels: the level of intersubjective and collective forms of the production of meaning, the level of contextuality, the level of more or less dominant governing forces within various contexts (power), the level of circulability across contexts and herein of breaking with a so-called “original” context.

Iris Laner
Anglo-American Theory: Representation and Visual Activism

When reading about images and visual culture, one frequently encounters the term representation. Often, this situation results in a confusion because it forces us to ask about a relationship between image and representation and between visual culture and representation: What is a representation and how does it differ from an image? What is the role of representation in the field of visual culture? This chapter tries to answer these simple (at the first sight), however very complex (when examined closely) questions by inviting a reader into a realm of visual culture where theoretical writing on images gets more politically engaged and critically addresses and reflects on social issues. It refers to a group of authors whose theoretical work has been inseparably connected with their work as political activists and prominent figures of public education. In the first part, a wider cultural context, in which the notion of representation emerged, is established. Then the text provides an insight into how the authors Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, John Berger and Nicholas Mirzoeff have approached the issue of representation in their unique ways, and yet with a common goal: to show us that visual culture is both a powerful tool through which ruling powers of modern society can control the people and a platform based on which the people can control the leading structures. In the end, we discuss some of the protest movements emerging lately in the fields of visual arts and political culture. We use them as examples of visual activism that is seen as a practical implementation of the presented theoretical accounts into the contemporary public life.

Andrea Průchová Hrůzová
German Theory: Bildwissenschaft and the Iconic Turn

Two major streams dealing with images today—Visual Studies and Bildwissenschaft—consider the notion of image and its meaning not only in regard to contemporary art, media or visual representation in general but, more importantly, have in mind two major oppositions: language and image on the one hand, science and culture on the other. This difference relates to the dispute between the so-called continental and analytical philosophy: while the former deals with historical-synthetic analyzes of thought, starting with paradigmatic philosophers from antiquity, the Middle Ages, the modern age and contemporary times, the latter seeks to explore the essence of the problem and the logical-analytical networks of relations between concepts, categories and statements. It is no coincidence that precisely the analytical direction in philosophy is characteristic of Anglo-American culture and therefore of the plural epistemology of visual studies, while the theoretical approaches of Bildwissenschaft can be fully understood only within the German tradition of separation between the natural and the spiritual sciences (Geisteswissenschften). To fully grasp this aporia we need to understand the schism of philosophy that occurred in the twentieth century concerning images, while it may be helpful to mention that similar contradictions make the difference between conceptual and post-conceptual art too. The former refers to the analytical tradition of understanding language as a form of life discernible in late Wittgenstein (language games), and the latter from Heidegger’s notion of an event (Ereignis) moving in different directions to the questions of life, world, body and technology (Mersch 2002; Paić 2019). In principle, an image can no longer be understood “ontologically”, but only taking into account the destruction and deconstruction of the meanings attributed to it beyond language. This emancipatory turn is best viewed as the difference between the concept of universal image science and particular studies that approach images “from the bottom”, “pragmatically” or “contextually” (Boehm 2007; Sachs-Hombach 2006).

Žarko Paić
The Image and Neuroaesthetics

Neuroscience has become a field of increasing interest in relation to theories of aesthetic experience and responses to art and architecture. It has provided instructive data on brain activity that indicates correlations between neural functions and subjective aesthetic experience. However, significant doubts have been raised about this new field of inquiry and about the insights it purportedly brings. These have been raised, first of all, by neuroscientists, who have highlighted the limitations of existing brain-scanning technologies, which means that caution has to be exercised as what they tell the researcher. In addition, practitioners of neuroscience are open to the criticism that they take for granted the meaning and scope of key concepts, not least, that of aesthetic experience. Hence, before neuroaesthetics can claim to be a significant new discourse, its basic working methods and concepts need to be clarified.

Matthew Rampley
Visual Sociology

The history of visual sociology is intimately entwined with the evolution of sociology and has dispersed and episodic trajectories across various geographies and historical periods. In this chapter, I will present visual sociology not as a subfield of sociology but rather as a para-field, and trace some of the historical routes and roots contributing to the ongoing emergence of its post-disciplinary features. Addressing how and in what context the topic emerged will primarily focus on critical moments and thinkers whose contributions nourish the field in important ways but have sometimes been overlooked. To do visual sociology justice, this depiction must be considered a piece in a vastly larger ecology of schools of visual sociology intercontinentally and historically with diverging perspectives that merit being addressed in a more extensive work. The specific aims of this chapter are to present critical points of traction that attend specifically to the questions of how this post-discipline matters for the study of images; what particular set of problems are raised; what consequences visual sociology has had that matter for image studies; and generally what visual sociology offers for understanding images. Readers will not be surprised to find shared approaches, thinkers, and theoretical perspectives with other topic areas.

Carolina Cambre
Images and Architecture

Apart from numerous surveys of archives, museums or exhibitions, few major works on the symbiotic relationship of architecture and the images that it produces have been published. The few surveys that strive to offer an overview mostly depart from an institutional collection, like Architecture and its Image. Four Centuries of Architectural Representation. Works from the Collection of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (1989). This relation, however, has been the topic of debate and research for centuries, albeit focusing on smaller timeframes or techniques.

Vlad Ionescu, Maarten Van Den Driessche, Louis De Mey
What is Design Theory?

Against the backdrop of visual culture studies, the field of design theory refers to a basic dispositif and as a sign of this faces an at least threefold challenge: (1) design practitioners still look on its emergence with skepticism (Mareis 2011, 29); (2) there is still no shared understanding of which methodological attributions, epistemological approaches and scientific-historical positions can be used to develop the discipline (Romero-Tejedor/Jonas 2010); and (3) to this day there seems to be an—almost—insurmountable hurdle in helping design-oriented projects gain acceptance as specifically design-theoretical academic qualifications. This observation results in the need for three conclusions too: (item 1) the union of theory and practice should in future be pushed much more emphatically: bringing these together is necessary not only in the basic teaching of design but also within research; (item 2) a design science should also agree on a canon of design theory literature and a set of interdisciplinary research methods that refer back to it (cf. Edelmann/Terstiege 2010); and (item 3) since design theory seems to lead a shadowy existence within the international higher education teaching of design, it is vital that its essentiality is centrally established in order for it to be understood and then communicated—a point at which the following explanations begin, by wanting to address in detail and exemplify the thus briefly outlined discourse on the topic, in particular to explicate a design research that is guided by theory. To this end, suggestions should be made as to how works of design theory that are trying to solve this problem might look. This sketch is based on scientific-theoretical remarks that illuminate the field of design science as design research in the design theory discourse under discussion. Paths are also being taken that offer up an amalgamation of their milestones: an appeal should be made for projects that, within an adequate research framework, inhabit independent, design-theoretical and therefore also design-aesthetic positions. These fulfill the requirements of traditional scholarship, but at the same time differ from it in essential aspects. This results in the creation of works that operate on the notion of the aesthetic in the sense of Baumgarten and Hegel, and which therefore favor them, so to speak, in their specific character (Menke 2008). It is therefore necessary to conceptually develop the idea and areas of design theory in order to connect further method-centered explanations. Finally, reference is made to the detailed contouring of the subject design theory, as it can be described with a focus on a particular school of thought.

Oliver Ruf

Contemporary Thinkers

W. J. T. Mitchell

W. J. T. Mitchell, a longtime American professor at the University of Chicago, came to the forefront of public attention with his book Picture Theory in 1994 in which he presented his insights into the field of visual culture to the general academic public, such as in the famous essays “Pictorial Turn” and “Metapictures” as well as several others on the relationship between literature and visual arts. The early 1990s were a time when the search for a new, more comprehensive theory of the image and visuality had already seriously shaken the position of art history as a former “master discipline” in the field of art and images in general. In the German-speaking world, Hans Belting published his landmark book Bild und Kult in 1990 (translated into English in 1997 as Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art) in which he significantly deviates from the traditional art historical axiological narrative. Norman Bryson and Mieke Bal published the influential text “Semiotics and Art History” in 1991 as probably the last call for the discipline of art history to modernize its own paradigm, at least through belated reactions to the (post)structuralist season. What distinguished Mitchell from a series of similar attempts was his belief in the power and relevance of all images, not just artistic ones, and not only those we see but also those we can only imagine. We begin our review of Mitchell’s remarkable work with a concept that gave him a planetary visibility, a concept that has become an epitome of an entire society at the turn of the century and whose consequences are inexorably spreading.

Krešimir Purgar
Michele Cometa

Michele Cometa can be considered one of the founders of Italian Visual Culture, which he considers both as a cultural approach and as an academic discipline or, rather, an un-discipline, that is an approach that maintains a subversive potential toward the traditional disciplines that have dealt with images (from art history to aesthetics), answering the questions posed by the pictorial turn. So far, his attempt has been that of not simply translating foreign visual culture (especially from Anglo-American and German traditions, but also from French one)—which he has long practiced, particularly concerning the works of W.J.T. Mitchell—but also that of finding an Italian way to visual culture. This way seems to be founded in the multiple forms of relation between images and words like in ekphrasis, iconotexts or phototexts, in which the two parts of the problematic relation become icons of a period and of a culture. The study of the relationship between “word and images”, Text und Bild, most of the time a problematic one, has a long tradition in international comparatists which often fails to clearly define what each of these terms really means. Cometa prefers to focus on terms such as “literature(s) and visual arts”, which can better take into account both the complexity and the hybrid form of each of the two parts. These forms of hybrid, which Mitchell calls mixed-media, allow each of the two parts to bring out their limits before the “other”. From classic statuary to avant-garde images, from contemporary pop images to cave art images, the relation between literature and visual arts appears no longer as a form of rhetoric but as a “practice preparatory to the study of the other by oneself, an even more crucial exercise of dispossession and contextual recognition of the ontological weakness of the verbal and the visual, and with them of the subjectivity” (Cometa 2004a, 20).

Valeria Cammarata
Paul Crowther

In this study I present Crowther's key concepts for understanding the meaning of visual imagery, identifying and explaining them as follows. First, I give some biographical details; second, I explain his importance in establishing the sublime as a topic of visual analysis; third, his general philosophy of the visual image is discussed; fourth, I consider his more specialized concept of material ontology and the related idea of presentness; fifth, I outline his theory of abstract art and the importance of the allusive image; and sixth, his recent important work on the meaning of digital images. I then offer a Conclusion.

Elena Fell
Hans Belting

Hans Belting began his career as a historian of Byzantine and medieval art. During his almost sixty years of research, he gradually broadened his interests, both in terms of content, ranging from the Renaissance to the twentieth century, and in terms of reflection, by questioning the methods and the role of art history and of the institutions of the art world (the museum, the exhibitions, etc.) in the contemporary context. The results of this reflection lead at first to a farewell from a traditional art-historical study to promote an approach addressed to the history of the image within a contextualist and functionalist framework. In a second moment, Belting took leave also from a continuist historical perspective, to arrive at the elaboration of an anthropology of the image centered on the conceptual triad “image–medium–body”. In more recent years, Belting intensified the relationship between image and visual studies, deepening the issues related to gaze and vision. At the same time, he continued his reflections on the institutions of art in the current context, with an eye to the acquisitions of postcolonial thought.

Luca Vargiu
Klaus Sachs-Hombach

Because little of his writing has been made available for English-speaking readers, and no English translation of his major publication Das Bild als kommunikatives Medium: Elemente einer allgemeinen Bildwissenschaft [Pictures as Communicative Media: Elements of a General Image Science] (2003, presently available in a fourth revised edition) exists as of this writing, theoretical thoughts building on Klaus Sachs-Hombach’s work remain comparably scarce in international contexts. The contrast to the German-speaking parts of the world, where few names are more closely connected than Sachs-Hombach’s to terms such as “picture theory” or “image studies”, could not be more pronounced. Apart from his own considerable theoretical contributions, this is equally due to his tireless efforts to connect and to interrelate the many voices, traditions, and disciplines engaged with pictorial communication in last decade of the twentieth century—ranging from art history to semiotics and from analytical philosophy to film studies, to name just a few. His project of a “general image science” [allgemeine Bildwissenschaft] was mainly an effort to identify all these traditions as sharing a common branch of research, even as their methodological and conceptual assumptions varied significantly.

Lukas R. A. Wilde
Dieter Mersch

Today, images are ubiquitous; they are everywhere, populating the most diverse corners of our culture. Despite their anaesthetising omnipresence, the German philosopher and media theorist Dieter Mersch (born in 1951) is still intrigued by images—for him they are objects of fascination. In this chapter, I shall describe the main features of his philosophy of the image and the iconic and introduce the reader to some of its core concepts. I proceed in four steps: First, I outline Mersch’s critical revision of semiotics and his efforts to rehabilitate aisthesis. Second, I summarize his idea of the image as an aisthetic medium, while paying particular attention to materiality, performativity, and showing. Third, I turn to the interrelations between the image and the gaze, which Mersch regards as the origin of pictorial power and efficacy. Fourth, I discuss aspects of his epistemology of the image, namely the logic of the iconic and issues of visual thinking. Since these topics and notions are closely intertwined, I shall not only identify Mersch’s key concepts, but also point out some of the interdependencies and connections between them.

Marcel Finke
Horst Bredekamp

In a vaguely sketched but rather dry landscape, a man in a military uniform holds heavy ammunition grasped in both arms. Next to him, a two dimensional image of Buddha faces the viewer. Another image, this time a statue, possibly also of Buddha, can also be discerned. As we are informed, the photograph derives from July 1973 when the Khmer Rouge besieged Phnom Penh. The soldier is hoping to be doubly protected by those religious images during the heat of battle. Image, cult, and weapon are two faces of the same coin in dialectical relationship with one another.

Yannis Hadjinicolaou
Lambert Wiesing

Lambert Wiesing’s work on images is situated firmly within the tradition of phenomenology. His writings discuss the works of Edmund Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty while tackling all aspects of the field of image studies from perception of images to digital images and computer simulations. Developing a phenomenological approach to images means that the question is first and foremost how we perceive images. Phenomenology being preoccupied with the different modes of consciousness asks what discerns the way we perceive images from other modes of perception or consciousness. In this regard, Wiesing does not make a distinction between images as artworks and other types of images. The question is a categorical one: is there a difference between the perception of an image and the perception of things? And if so, what is it exactly that is different? In other words: What is the differentia specifica of the perception of images? One could say that a phenomenology of images is a specific theory of perception that is developed within the larger scope of a theory of perception in general, which Wiesing also tackles in several publications (Merleau-Ponty, epilogue, 2003; Wiesing 2014).

Yvonne Förster
Gottfried Boehm

Gottfried Boehm (b. 1942) is a German art historian, philosopher and founding director of the SNF research center (NCCR) “Bildkritik/Iconic Criticism” (eikones) at the University of Basel in Switzerland. Since the mid-nineties, his work on the question of the image has made a relevant contribution to the development of Bildwissenschaften (Image Studies) and to a consequent transformation—especially to a shift in theoretical and methodological approaches—of art history and related academic disciplines in the German speaking world. Boehm’s approach to images, for which he coined the term “iconic criticism”, is influenced by phenomenology, hermeneutics, literary theory and continental philosophy since Immanuel Kant. It is characterized by an insistence on the singularity of images and the binding of any research into the “logic” of images to historical examples. This article introduces Boehm’s work along the line of three related key concepts: iconic turn, iconic criticism and iconic difference.

Rahel Villinger
Georges Didi-Huberman

Georges Didi-Huberman (born in 1953 in Saint-Étienne) is a French scholar, directeur d’études at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. His work spans many disciplines including philosophy, art history, anthropology; the common point of his works is the interest in images conceived and understood as a transdisciplinary object of research. Didi-Huberman’s published work consists of more than forty volumes and numerous articles.

Andrzej Leśniak
The Palgrave Handbook of Image Studies
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Krešimir Purgar
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