The Art History Newsletter

‘Visual Studies’ in Germany

by | 25 May 2006 | Theory

What’s the latest with Bildwissenschaft? Christiane Kruse reviews several recent books on the subject and credits W. J. T. Mitchell’s 1994 Picture Theory with inspiring many of them. In What Do Pictures Want?, Mitchell’s latest, he explores the counterintuitive idea that pictures themselves have life and power and “do things to us that we don’t want done.” Hans-Dieter Huber (CV), meanwhile, introduces recent findings in brain research, which confirm the idea that our conscious thoughts constitute just a fraction of our mental activity when we look at a picture. The collection edited by Klaus Sachs-Hombach offers a smorgasbord of disciplinary perspectives on the field, and Martin Schulz addresses the discipline’s historical roots.

A sample of contemporary trends is given by Sven Behrisch’s report on a recent Berlin conference organized by Ingeborg Reichle and Steffen Siegel. Topics and points of reference included Bertillon, Belting, Bacon, Butler, Wittgenstein, maps, astronomy, algebra, biological taxonomy, and fractals. Presenters included Sachs-Hombach, who spoke on the philosophical bases of the subject.