Step 1_studying Warburg:
As we have learned, Aby Warburg used current newspaper articles to feed into a constellation of images from art history, “a field of knowledge claiming to have something to say” (Georges Didi-Huberman). Although his ultimate objective was never fully revealed, the Mnemosyne Atlas allowed Warburg to travel through (past) time and (pictorial) space to put in relation visual content based on his interest in crossing disciplines (art, psychology, anthropology, music, technology, law, sociology, political theory, geography etc.). In addition to his literary possessions, his obsession with exceeding simple erudition enabled him to rise as the founder of the Warburg Institute but may have had repercussions on his mental health, leaving the project unfinished. Whilst attempting to elucidate his obscure methods of working, various contemporaries and successors were forced to accept that his practice was mainly based on a subjective understanding of historical content, linked through pictorial planes in an analogous framework. Consequentially, the Mnemosyne Atlas leaves room for interpretation regarding subject matter as well as formal representation.
Step 2_removing Warburg:
In my view, Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas shows how historical methods of structuring knowledge tend to solidify only to defragment and explode again. It seems that instead of learning from the past by looking up the subjects in your grandmother’s diary, history books, Encyclopaedias, websites and blogs, today’s student may question whether we should “learn from the past” through relating different contents at all.
Do the subjects of study hold some kind of “objective truth” just because they have filtered out a collective body of work (publications, etc.) and have qualified through their survival over time or does the relation of contents become more relevant? In fact, one may speculate that this reliance on informative networks over the accumulation of knowledge seems to manifest itself in the way we use our gadgets and computers. Unsure about his performance, the average student is now surfing around globally shared interest zones by clicking and hyperlinking his way through virtual space.
Personally, I have always been quite interested in how I might understand the relationship between the different layers of images as well as their relation to movements in time. So far, I have thought about them as cross-relating content (observations, stories, narratives, etc.) to form (graphic style, composition, frame, sequences, etc.) but content has always remained quite present in defining the overall constellation. Although I may consider the process of abstraction as a means to rearticulate the relation between subject and object and re-understanding of content, I haven’t considered removing notions of content entirely. Reconsidering this, with regard to the Mnemosyne Atlas, in the light of a classification of contents now changes my attitude.
How do we relate to and orientate ourselves in space and time, individually and collectively?
Step 3_removing history:
The dimensional readings of Panels ABC123 – from complex constellation to linear sequence of images
After realizing a sketch model hinting at a transition of the Warburgian montage into a cinematic sequence of images, it became clear that this was just another rearrangement of content which would eventually lead to the removal of the frame, favouring narrative over format.
Referring back to “Panel C goes B!” (the banana in the Mnemosyne Atlas), which would demand the impossible task of introducing or deducing any coherent classification system from a chaos of material objects and their ideological associations, I chose to separate content from format in order to move from an analytical project to a design proposal. How do I strip back, erase or disregard content to and work with formats and their spatial relationships in order to construct a project today which does not get piled up in the heap of history. How do I conceive the “History of the Future of Images”, the “After Images”? At first, I find myself looking at a field, cluster or densities of blank squares from which the image has been removed. I wonder if a blank storyboard, framed in space and time, may emerge out of this hidden mess of relationships.
How does our repertory of knowledge reshape itself once content is separated from format? How do we use our intuition, intellect, acquired knowledge, know-how in relation to a set of impartial discoveries? How do these objet trouvés relate to each other once they have been alienated from their subject matter?
Step 3-4_building the future:
Test1 – The Future of the Image: Objets trouvés?
By screen capturing my search for “the future of the image” on google, pinterest, Instagram, facebook, ninegag (yes!), youtube and AA Library, I travelled through virtual interfaces of the World Wide Web to the physical arrangements of libraries. I selected about 5-10 images, uploaded within the past week, per platform and laid them out on a table. Although the images still presented me with content, their position within the present and orientation towards the future helped me to read them more detached from their historical background. As an additional reaction, I inserted a couple of raw or basic materials (bluefoam, lasercut Perspex, mirror) used in architecture schools and gadgets (iphone, ipad) into the constellation. Some images, such as the Google Books Scanning Machine, represent the process of translation through reformatting, distinguishing themselves as one of the core ideas of the project. Similar to the ways in which the painters have inserted their presence within their paintings (Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Marriage, 1434; Jan Vermeer’s The Music Lesson, c. 1662-1664), this image can speak about the relationship inside and outside of itself. The painter is the subject who transferred his impressions on canvas, the Google Books Scanning Machine is the robot which transfers one format into another. Provisionally disregarding his model, who is the painter without his format and sub-formats? Ignoring content, which is the identity defining itself through working with formats? Can one read format as an unadorned portal through which masters, muses, geeks and automata seek to reinvent themselves? And if so, which is the black canvas, the plane or multidimensional construct which ties it all together? Which is the frame-work or system?
In order to stop myself from mentally bouncing back and forth and understand what I am speculating about in depth, I will do three main things (order depends on available time): 1. Visit the Warburg Institute 2. Consult with Herbert Marshall McLuhan and Jacques Rancière 3. Start drawing or building the architectural space in which formats are tested…
What is format?
Starting with analogue two-dimensional paper space…