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The Strength, Power, and Force of Images from an Intercultural Perspective


Philosophical und Interdisciplinary Approaches | Conference Concept

Discourses of approaches from image/visual studies [Bildwissenschaft] and the philosophy of images [Bildphilosophie] are rising in significance, not just in interdisciplinary settings, but in philosophical contexts as well. With this background of current debates, this conference would like to look into the prospect of particularly intercultural image thinking [interkulturelles Bilddenken], which would be devoted more closely to seeing and experiencing images [Bildsehen und Bilderfahren] as much as it would be to image theory and image praxis [Bildtheorie und Bildpraxis]. With the three different, though certainly not separate levels of the “strength,” “power,” and “force of images” [„Kraft“, der „Macht“ und der „Gewalt der Bilder“] there should be support for an account by paradigms that are particularly intercultural as well as transcultural and hybrid-theoretical, comparative, and so forth. In this spectrum, the thematic placement of the image and of images particularly proves itself to be a requirement of the mutually clarificatory work of cultural and social self-understanding. What do we understand by “image,” when it allows for the attribution of portrayal [Abbild], archetype [Urbild], representation and the like in its wake and when it, by means of “iconic difference” (G. Boehm), “image-anthropological” situating and image-induced “cultural transfer” (H. Belting), of “image philosophy” as “originary ‘school of seeing’” (H. Rombach), of “image style(ing)” (Meyer Schapiro, D. Summers), of an “image critical” method (H. Bredekamp), of an overthrow or “war of images” (W.J.T. Mitchell), of “artificial presence” (L. Wiesing), of a semiotically accompanied “perception and media theory” (K. Sachs-Hombach), and so forth, when it, the image, develops and makes “visible” new ways of seeing, perceiving, experiencing, and knowing? What occurs with the “image” when an “aesthetic regime” (J. Ranciere) dwells within, or if it, motivated by intercultural and critical factors, sets forth a transitory and processual seeing “beyond the form” (F. Jullien)? What do images “say,” what does art say, and how do they say it? Texts, particularly philosophical texts, invariably already speak “about” something, in the most abstract and formal ways possible. And though, to paraphrase Nietzsche, an “army of metaphors” already bustles about in this; indeed what we do not imagine of everything already projects virtual images in order to understand a thought. To put it another way, what makes an image an image and in what does its “strength,” its “power,” and finally its “force” consist? How do the relationships between image and language, image and view, and image and body stand? And how does this allow for determining the relationship between culturally pregnant and socially contextual images with the “politics of images”?
The “image” reaches far outward from its narrow realm of determination as an “artwork” (painting, photograph, film, video art, etc.); it has at long last become the medium of our everyday practices of perception and understanding, so strong that it commandeers the pre-linguistic fields in particular. The image “speaks” to us in sensuous, bodily ways, while it is at the same inscribed in our perception and experience. Indeed, it speaks prima facie to our visual sense, while at the same time also already exceeding this though - and this occurs from the beginning on – with respect to synesthetic, kinesthetic, imaginative, sensuous-bodily, medial-performative dimensions, whereby one can by all means speak of a “deep dimension of images.”
In the intercultural context, but naturally not only there, something somewhat decisive enters in though: There has been and there is, before a thought grasped in word and text, an active life of people anchored in the lifeworld that forms and to a certain extent inheres in ways of building and ways of life, in mythologies, in religions and rites, in artistic productions as well as in how everyday practices and everyday objects not only speak their own “language,” but in how they speak to people in a far more elementary dimension of their own understanding. In this sense, images can be “basic images”— cultural, social, political basic images—which however now does not mean that one can, by means of an image, also already be able to demonstrate the basis of a culture or of a society and therefore its basis for being. To paraphrase Jean-Luc Nancy, one might say that in the image “the ground [appears] as what it is by disappearing.”
In front of this background, the conference would like to dedicate itself, under the heading of intercultural connections, approaches and current debates, to the following questions above all: 1) What makes an image an “image,” in what does its vastness consist, in what do its borders consist? Can one speak of “image or visual thinking” [Bilddenken] and how would this stand in relation to image/visual studies [Bildwissenschaft] and image theory [Bildtheorie]? 2) What does it mean to work with and on images, indeed from images outward and finally too about images? What do we mean when we speak of the “strength of images,” their “power,” and their “force”? How do these stand with each other? Do they form [bilden] a self-standing dimension arising outward from each other; do they supervene on each other; do they overlap? Do they overflow, markedly or not, in and out of each other? Or are they more likely restricted by each other or indeed are they intertwined with each other?

Interkulturelle Philosophie, Kulturtheorie, Kulturphilosophie

Institut für Philosophie
Fakultät für Philosophie und Bildungswissenschaft
Universität Wien

Universitätsstraße 7
1010 Wien

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