Plaster casts are image vehicles par excellence. They can reproduce and multiply three-dimensional form, and serve the dissemination of visual ideas from one place to another; they can record lost stages of a work’s appearance, e.g. pre-completion, pre-damage, pre-destruction or pre-restauration. Often perceived as perfect one to one copies of the external form of a three-dimensional work, they can also accidentally or deliberately differ from what they reproduce, and with their white and even surface they can condition the perception of the works they represent. Thus, cast are also works in their own right, objects with their own history. Yet, for long, they proved rather evasive. Until recently, there have been few attempts to date them either through material or technical analysis. Given their status as copies, historicaly they were often not documented, and where archival references to casts exist, the objects under discussion are often either lost or impossible to identify beyond reasonable doubt. This situation is changing, as a recent exhibition at the Villa Medici in Rome (November 2019-March 2020) demonstrated
“On 1 August 1914, after all, the mobilisation was announced. Our Kaiser has proven himself so worthy that he could even lose the war without disgrace; what God may prevent.” Aby Warburg began his war journal of the years 1914–1918 with these words. He positions himself in line with the patriotism of the majority of his milieu of the bourgeoisie, supporting “our Kaiser”. In all the praise of the Kaiser, though, he underlines the uncertain outcome of the war, even the possibility of losing it— a notion present already in the very first sentence of this diary.
In Zeiten der SARS-CoV-2-Pandemie verlagert sich das öffentliche Leben weiter in die digitale Welt. Neben neuen Motiven entstehen auch andere Kommunikationsformen, von den leeren Plätzen bis zu digitalen Klima-Streiks. Diese Bilder erreichen einerseits eine große Öffentlichkeit, verschwinden aber teils ebenso rasch wieder. Die materiellen Ephemera der Pandemie werden längst von Museen weltweit gesammelt, aber auch für die digitalen Bilder stellen sich Fragen nach ihrer langfristigen Speicherung. In einem Beitrag zum Blog des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte, München, haben Ursula Ströbele (Studienzentrum zur Kunst der Moderne und Gegenwart, ZIKG) und Steffen Haug einige dieser Bilder kommentiert.
In the first half of this two-part blog about the Yates Family Archive I have introduced the parents of Frances Yates (b. 1899), her three siblings Hannah (b. 1885), Ruby (b. 1887) and James (b. 1889) as well as the house in Claygate from where after the scholar’s death in 1981 the Family Archive, an adjunct to Yates’ working papers, had been transferred to the Warburg Institute. I shall now turn to the collection itself.
In her “Autobiographical Fragments”, written in the year of her death, Frances Yates (1899-1981) refers to a photograph from her childhood. It relates to a period in 1912, when her family was briefly living on a farm in Ingleton in North-Yorkshire. The twelve-year old Frances had been told by her family to work through the books for the Junior Cambridge examination as to supplement her irregular teaching: “I think that this is why I was making an elaborate study of Macaulay’s ‘Lays of Ancient Rome,’ …. or passionately declaiming ‘Lars Porsena of Clusium By the nine gods he swore’ to the lamb in the field opposite. I have a snapshot of that lamb standing quite alone in the distance … and looking slightly worried.”
The cholera epidemic in Hamburg almost 130 years ago inspired Aby Warburg’s first ever published text. Turning to 15th century Florence, it tells the story of the matriarch of the Strozzi family who lost her husband and four of her children to illness. In an essay for ‘Mnemosyne. The Warburg Institute Blog’, Steffen Haug and Johannes von Müller discuss this early attempt by Warburg to respond by the means of historical comparison to a crisis of his time that was indeed a health crisis.
In einem Interview vom 02. Mai 2020 widmet sich der Kunsttheoretiker W.J.T. Mitchell der Frage, was passiert, wenn wir Kunst im Internet anschauen. Er stellt die Hypothese auf, dass der Transfer von Kunst und Ausstellungen in digitale Medien je in Abhängigkeit zum Werk auf die Rezeption keinen entscheidenden Einfluss nähme und zugleich eine ästhetische Distanzierung ermögliche, die dem heutigen Gebot des social distancing entspreche. Aber was heißt das genau?
Wellnow.wtf is a digital exhibition curated by Faith Holland, Lorna Mills, and Wade Wallerstein that opened on 4 April 2020, and featured a large international group of eighty net artists with moving-image related practises. The web address of the installation is the installation site of the show, run in turn by the same three curators doubling as “Silicon Valet”, a pun on both the sound of the phrase “Silicon Valley” and on the kind of Valley tech-optimism that haunted the first wave of net art in the early 2000’s-2010, against which this exhibition is constructed.
Guest contribution by Teng Yuning, Peking University/Universität Hamburg
On the 23rd of January this year, China announced the implementation of a lockdown strategy in Wuhan, a city with a population of 11 million people and the center of the corona virus outbreak. Very quickly, public life in the country came to a near standstill and panic began to spread throughout the population. It was hard to believe that quarantine measures on such an enormous scale could be possible in the modern world. A few days later, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel featured a photograph on its cover showing a Chinese man wearing a red raincoat as a protective suit, a large and striking gas mask, goggles, earphones and holding a red Apple iPhone.
Die „Vergleichskonjunktur“ in Zeiten der Pandemie ist unlängst durch Johannes Grave in den Blick genommen worden. Als eine der Besonderheiten des Diskurses beschreibt Grave die nur vermeintlich bestehende Widersprüchlichkeit der beständig erfolgenden Betonung einer Unvergleichbarkeit der Situation bei einer gleichzeitig exponentiell anwachsenden Zahl der tatsächlich angestellten Vergleiche. In dieser Dynamik findet sich, so Grave, die Unausgewogenheit zwischen „Informationsflut und Wissensmangel“ symptomatisch ausgedrückt. Von einer solchen ebenso zutreffenden wie allgemeinen Feststellung ausgehend können aus der Vielzahl der Vergleiche einzelne herausgegriffen werden. Auf ihre jeweilige Signifikanz hin betrachtet geben sie Tendenzen zu erkennen, die nicht unbedenklich sind. Ein Vergleich ist hier von besonderer Tragweite, und zwar der Vergleich der gegenwärtigen Krise mit dem Krieg.
To read an individual’s inner character from their outward appearance is to indulge a deep-seated temptation that has perennially plagued the history of art. Often manifesting itself in drawings of typical expressions or personalities—to say nothing of its troubled connections to theories of race—the very act of visualizing an inner mind by way of outer forms quite easily gives way to another prevalent practice: caricature, the intentional distortion of a given person’s distinctive features for expressive effect.
Burton Nitta will share their artworks that aim to prompt debate, create alternative possibilities and inspire action. They will use their projects to explore how we can shift perceptions of ourselves. They ask us to consider drastic transformations to imagine responses to the largest challenges we face, such as climate change.
Here is why I am addressing Chapter Six of Rosalind Krauss’ The Optical Unconscious, in which she considers the mid-career paintings made by the artist Cy Twombly: I am writing about Rosalind Krauss on Cy Twombly’s ‘chalkboard’ paintings as way of thinking about mark and repetition, eventually as applied to my new theoretical work on the English baroque. I am writing about Krauss on Twombly because I am trying to think about the boundaries between art criticism, personal emotion, and art history in new and productive ways, both for myself and for my work for the project. Finally, I am writing about Krauss on Twombly because I both disagree with her, and owe her the foundation on which I myself am able to mount a critique.
Is it likely that contemporary Indian graphic novelists draw inspiration from medieval Indian artists who composed illustrated manuscripts? There is negligible research on the transference of Indo-Persian artistic practices in the works of modern and contemporary artists in India. One of the causes maybe the disadvantage concerning scholars familiar with Urdu and Persian languages, limiting access to the literary and art historical discourse in circulation, during the early twentieth century. Scholars researching modernism in the art of Muslim South Asia, however, have attempted to address the issue; but more studies are awaited.
On October 10, 2019, the exhibition Inspired by the East opened at the British Museum, which, according to its title, seeks to demonstrate how the ‘Islamic world’ influenced Western art. Besides a large number of paintings from the late 19th century, a few historical maps as well as objects of arts and craft are shown. The title, however, misleads the visitor: It is not an exhibition dedicated to the influence of the East on the West, but rather a show of orientalist art that presents an imaginary Orient from the perspective of the colonial West.
Perhaps the true appeal of what was once called “primitive art” lay not in its exoticism but in its apparent lack of historicity. For many European artists, as Meyer Schapiro perceived in 1937, the art of indigenous peoples had accrued “the special prestige of the timeless and instinctive, on the level of spontaneous animal activity, self-contained, unreflective, private, without dates and signatures, without origins or consequences except in the emotions.” The singular modernity of the avant-garde depended, in other words, on the correspondingly derelict nonmodernity of the primitive.