24 Apr 2008
As early as in the 1980s, some US-American and British artists, filmmakers and intellectuals – such as Lisa Tickner, Jacqueline Rose, Kate Linker, Victor Burgin, Craig Owens, Stephen Heath, Mary Kelly, Laura Mulvey, Martha Rose, Teresa de Lauretis, Kaja Silverman and others – focused on representation in their critique of processes naturalising social, gender and cultural/ethnical differences in society. However, while describing these processes, they used the term ‘representation’ slightly differently to its standard use in daily language, namely to address the social and economic as well as the psychic and imaginary content of images and words as the mediating agents constructing desire, individuals, subjectivity and social values. One could say that part of the concept of performativity developed by Judith Butler and of the relation between the imaginary and the real it describes was already defined in the concept of the processes of representation.
Working with this concept myself, I had also addressed the question of representation of (gendered) bodies in my early research. Thus, I tried to show in specific examples – hysteria and grace – that even body language is language and not nature. In my talk I will show how the concept of representation and the agreement within feminist theoretical debates that there is no ‘natural (body) language’ may help to develop a critique towards some aspects of the recent concept of Bildwissenschaften (Visual Culture studies) of mainly German art historians, which re-naturalizes the body and re-ontologizes the ‘image’ as an anthropological concept.
Prof. Dr. Sigrid Schade studied art history, German studies and empirical cultural studies at the Universität Tübingen and the Warburg Institute at the University of London. She completed her doctoral studies with a dissertation on the portrayal of witches in the 16th century and habilitated at the Universität Oldenburg in the Department of Art History and Cultural Studies on ‘Körperbilder und ihre Lektüren. Studien zum Einsatz von Körpersprachen in Kunst und Fotografie des 16. bis 20. Jahrhunderts’. From 1994-2005, she was Professor of Cultural Studies and Aesthetic Theory in the Department of Cultural Studies at the Universität Bremen. In 2002, she was appointed head of the newly founded Institute for Cultural Studies at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste. As guest curator, Sigrid Schade has supervised exhibition projects and produced programs for various broadcasting stations (Österreichischer Rundfunk). Sigrid Schade’s areas of research include concepts of the body in the fine arts and photography during the 16th – 21st centuries; history of art institutions and the art scene; gender studies; contemporary artists; correlations between old and new media in art and mass culture; media, perception and retention theories; concepts and theory development of visual culture and cultural analysis.
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Organized byICI Berlin
In EnglishFirst published on: https://www.ici-berlin.org/events/sigrid-schade/
Rights: © ICI Berlin
Part of the Conference
Reflecting on Images
The reflection on images is a crossing point of many different theoretical fields and disciplines: art, aesthetics, symbolism, iconology, psychology, sociology and religion. This ample range of disciplines might be a trace of the complexity and vitality of the notion of image itself. It is not surprising that in the centuries different interpretative tools and different attitudes towards images have been developed, sometimes there have been even clashes between an iconoclastic and a philo-iconic attitude. Needless to say, in the contemporary age the media – with their powerful use and sometimes even abuse of images – challenge the thinking on this ground, calling the attention once again on the status of images.
Generally speaking, the problematic nature of images may be summarized as follows: on the one hand, an image appears eminently self-explanatory, its meaning immediately understandable beyond any linguistic content (it is not by chance that images were used as didactic and educational tools on the walls of Christian churches, or that they are the focus of contemporary political propaganda and marketing). On the other hand, however, an image manifests something which is not there, as it is implied in a cultural, theoretical and/or political context which has to be recalled and referred to in order to fully understand the image itself. In this sense, the meaning of an image is actually the invisible behind it, which has to be investigated, explained and brought to light, in order to fully catch it. Also, the image can lay claims to a unique mode of signification: to capture what is otherwise ineffable, either intrinsically or temporarily. Finally, an image can be evoked through a linguistic expression (metaphors, allegories, visualization practices), thus becoming evidently and intrinsically linked to the linguistic context itself, but even integrating – or overcoming – it.
Thus, an image cannot be fully understood at a first glance, or just on the basis of its appearance: it needs a careful and long reflection, aiming at grasping the meaning lying in the image and beyond it, at the same time.
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James Adam Redfield
Paola Maria Rossi
Organized byMimma Congedo