Issue 2011/2-3 (293-294) - Aby Warburg, Our Neighbour

Tomasz Szerszeń Aby Warburg, Our Neighbour 5

Georges Didi-Huberman called Warburg „our obsession”, a Dibbuk that continues to haunt us. The years-long successive work on an enormous archive – Warburg’s bequest – revealing not only an outline of never completed projects and the scale of quests but also the history of a mental illness and an amazing return to health, became entangled with interest in Warburg’s legacy, growing since the 1980s; thus at the end of the twentieth century, Warburg, little known during his lifetime, became, an emblematic figures of the contemporary humanities. This unexpected revival, „life after life”, so well inserted into the „phantomatic model” of history construed by him, testifies not only to the belated discovery of his opus.

From the present-day view the impossibility of delineating the boundaries of the Warburg project appears to be particularly intriguing, and its open form means that writing today about his work signifies accepting that one day our hypotheses and interpretations will be modified or undermined.

Andrzej Turowski History of Art in an Age of Madness 11

History of art, as formulated by Warburg, comprised a critical reference to the beginnings of the discipline where not only the name but also the object of research and the method defined their sense and limits. Such critique was paradigmatic and questioned the epistemological foundations and methodological discourses of the „scientific” history of art. Taking into consideration this basic transformation we must become aware of the fact that due to Warburg the „first history of art” based on an Enlightenment model was replaced by a „second history of art”, which came into being in the psychiatric clinic and on the excavation site of memory. The first emerged under the sign of the Sun, while the second turned towards the melancholy of Saturn. Its centre was the motif of the threat looming over man and the experience of a permanent crisis.

Krzysztof Rutkowski Warburg and the Snake 15

This literary-biographical-philosophical passage shows Warburg as a borderline figure constantly crossing the boundaries between „science”, „art” and „life”, torn between Apollo and Dionysius, between pagan antiquity and modernity, between health and mental illness...

Aby Warburg Seismographies 27

Two fragments concerning Seismographs (Burckhardt, Nietzsche, Warburg), sensitive to motions concealed for the contemporaries and the transferences to which culture has been subjected.

Aby Warburg Burckhardt and Nietzsche 28

A fragment from the Warburg dairies on two models „clairvoyance” in German-language culture upon the threshold of modernity. Tomasz Szerszeń Demons of War according to Warburg. Kriegskartothek

The reaction of Warburg to the horror and destruction of the 1914–1918 period assumed the form of an attempt at creating „war iconography” (a large collection of photographs, postcards and maps) and overcoming with their assistance images of the „demons” of war: anti-Semitism and nationalism.

Tomasz Szerszeń 29
Ryszard Kasperowicz The Image in the Conception by Aby Warburg 33

The concept of the „image” assumed a key rank in the interpretations proposed by Aby Warburg. The latter did not accept the universally applied description, silently approved in the second half of the nineteenth century, which either referred to assorted formalistic aesthetics that granted autonomy to the form of the artwork, or situated the form in an abstractly constructed system of the development of historical forms. Warburg conceived the image as the outcome of a complex historical situation in which the artist’s intentions play a role just as essential as the needs of the patron or the certain mental inclinations of a milieu and inherited traditions. Constructing the image crosses the demands of aesthetics and is enrooted in a convoluted psychological process, indicating the anthropological justification of the image as man’s cultural-biological function. At the time this stand did not have a counterpart in the „classical” history of art and owed much to studies into religion and the myth, consistently aiming at an interpretation of art as the history of man’s visual expression transcending the traditional rigid rules of aesthetics.

Aby Warburg Images from the Region of the Pueblo Indians of North America 41

A famous lecture given by Warburg in a mental hospital in Kreuzlingen and concerning his „initiation” trip to America.

Katia Mazzucco Bilder, Reise, Schlangenritual... 55

Aby Warburg’s journey in late nineteenth century in Arizona and New Mexico Pueblo villages, and the influence of this experience on his theory of symbolic thought and his research methodology, are inextricably connected both with the clinical story of the scholar and the rhapsodic editorial success of his writings.

The lecture Aby Warburg gave in Kreuzlingen in 1923 on Hopi Indians rituals remains the best known of Warburg writings and places his studies among the earliest contributions to modern inter-disciplinary Cultural Studies. Bibliographic notes collected in this paper trace the main editions of the Kreuzlinen lecture and some of the most important critical works on Warburg american trip, as a guideline for a correct contextualization of the work.

Ewa Klekot Narratives on a certain voyage 60

Presumably, if Aby Warburg had not lectured on 21 April 1923 in Kreuzlingen on Images from the Pueblo Territory in North America, the only writers interested in his trip in the South-West in 1895-1896 would have been his biographers. However, the fact that Warburg, hospitalized in Kreuzlingen sanatorium, decided that the first lecture he was going to deliver since his mental collapse in November 1918 would be based on his memories of the American trip, put the powerful interpretative machine of modern humanities into motion. Since then different narratives on his trip have appeared, based on different versions of his lecture (no one published during his life and with his consent), his diary, letters and photographs. However, the question why he had decided to delve in his American memories while preparing a lecture that was supposed to prove his mental stability remains open for speculations. One of the reasons of this choice may have been Warburg’s entanglement in his German identity, that actually had been a direct cause of his collapse only a month after the armistice of 1918.

Ulrich Raulff The Seven Skins of the Snake. Oraibi, Kreuzlingen and Back: Stations on a Journey into Light 65

What was it that Warburg found so fascinating in the figure of the snake, and what granted it incomparable power – the power of semantic change? Apparently, it is due to the possibility of changing its meaning that the snake is capable of the very process of creating a symbol. Hence it is not an unambiguously defined figure but precisely a symbol of ambivalence.

David Freedberg Warburg’s Mask. A Study in Idolatry 70

The presented text is an attempt at a critical analysis of the American episode in Warburg’s life and associated literature, whose considerable part repeats the same information and motifs; almost all publications represent an uncritical approach. Warburg has been rendered the object of idolatry as a pioneering example of combining the history of art and anthropology.

His example is an excellent lesson on the dangers lurking in the meeting point of the history of art and anthropology: it calls for a less hagiographic approach on the part of the reader and more caution.

Benedetta Cestelli Guidi Aby Warburg and Franz Boas: Two Letters from the Warburg Archive. Correspondence between Franz Boas and Aby Warburg 1924–1925 82

The correspondence between Aby Warburg and Franz Boas casts interesting light on the dialogue involving the history of art and anthropology and conducted in the first decades of the twentieth century – a crucial moment in the history of both disciplines.

The presented correspondence confirms the profundity and range of Warburg’s interest in cultural anthropology and his proclivity for obliterating the borderline between cultural anthropology and the history of art as well as a readiness to transfer his library to the USA.

Julián Gastelo, Goshka Macuga Snake Society 87

The outcome a journey taken in the footsteps of Warburg by the Polish-British artist is the film Snake Society, part of a larger project entitled I Am Become Death.

We present fragments of the film’s transcription, which together with photographs comprise a photo–essay.

Monika Szewczyk Recorded Conversation with Goshka Macuga91
Ludwig Binswanger Letter to Sigismund Freud93
Davide Stimilli Warburg’s Tincture 94

This text is a record of an „incomplete treatment” – a cure applied at the hospital in Kreuzlingen – as well as testimony of the extraordinary relation between the psychiatrists (Ludwig Binswanger, Emil Kraepelin) and the patient (Warburg).

Chantal Marazia Ludwig Binswanger and the Ritual of Healing 104

Aby Warburg spent three years being treated by the famous psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger. Historiography and philosophy perceive the Swiss psychiatrist as the (co)founder of humanistic psychology, based on listening, empathy, an encounter of the doctor and patient, as well as „existential communication” between them. Meanwhile, the treated and ultimately cured Warburg showed no signs of a return to health that would also involve his physician. Quite possibly, the reason for this state of things was the fact that Binswanger had never truly engaged his ”I”...

Joseph Leo Koerner Lecture as Rite de Passage 107

The Warburg presentation still fascinates due to the proximity between the author and the topic. In this curious discourse European cultural identity is regained thanks to becoming close to the Other, envisaged as „madness” and „savagery”. Warburg actually performs a transition ritual, in which the object of the analysis turns into the observing subject. This autobiographical attitude assumes particular meaning in the present-day state of research.

Aby Warburg Mnemosyne Atlas. Introduction 110

An introducion to Warburg’s The Mnemosyne Atlas.

Aby Warburg Manet’s ‘Déjeuner sur l’Herbe’... 116

The only completed commentary to The Mnemosyne Atlas boards.

Katia Mazzucco Mnemosyne: Bilderdemonstration, Bilderreihen, Bilderatlas... 120

With the name Mnemosyne we can identify a great project by Aby Warburg, which includes the collection and systematization of his library, devoted to the mother of the Muses, his last unfinished book, the Atlas, and also documents that testify a praxis of Warburg research methodology, the exhibition. This paper collects critical considerations on these issues and proposes an inedited chronology of documentary photographs exhibitions – Bilderreihen and Bilderdemonstrationen – by the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg and of the preparatory stages of the Mnemosyne book.

Georges Didi-Huberman Mnemosyne Atlas as a Montage 143

Mnemosyne is an avant-garde object since it dares to reconstruct a historicist album of recollections about the „impact of antiquity”, replacing it with a wandering album of memories modelled on the unconscious, full of diverse images, imbued with anachronic and ancient elements and suffused with the blackness of a backdrop in which life plays the part of an empty space, a missing link, a gap in the memory. The original model of the Mnemosyne Atlas should thus be sought in the very structure of the objects appearing in it, which become analytically „disassembled” and „assembled anew”.

Giorgio Agamben Aby Warburg and the Birth of the Cinema 148

The research conducted by Warburg coincides with the birth of the cinema. That which at first glance appears to be shared by the two phenomena is the question of a presentation of motion. Warburg’s interest in the depiction of the body in motion was connected with his obsession with something that could be described as the „life of images”. He was the first to become aware of the fact that images transmitted by historical memory are not immobile but lead a peculiar life, which he called posthumous life and survival.

Philippe-Alain Michaud Crossing the Frontiers: Mnemosyne – between Art History and Cinema 149

The Mnemosyne Atlas stressed the intrusion of photography into the discourse of the history of art and the assumption of a place traditionally reserved for the text. The Atlas does not restrict itself to describing the migration of images in the history of representation, but reproduces them. In other words, Mnemosyne is based on a cinematic way of thinking – it uses figures not to express meanings but to yield effects. It is precisely in the cinema that we may encounter the strongest links with the Warburg undertaking.

Andrzej Leśniak Introduction to a Political Analysis of the Mnemosyne Atlas by Aby Warburg 156

The unnamed science proposed by Aby Warburg is an intellectual project within whose range images are treated as complex cultural phenomena. The Mnemosyne Atlas, its most radical fragment, is critically valuable not only vis à vis the limits of the history of art as a discipline but also the hierarchy that defines visual art. For this reason, there exists a need for a political analysis of the Atlas that would take into consideration the significance of the „moment of the new exchange” programmed by Warburg on the modern scene of the visual.

Paweł Mościcki Seismography of a Breakthrough. Revolutionary Gestures as Pathosformeln 162

Apparently, not much brings modern revolutionary tradition close to Warburg’s research. Do studies into Nachleben der Antike not contradict the tradition of revolutionary change? Is „unnamed science” doomed to be „reactionary”, to constantly seek the return of that which is primitive, or is it capable to tell about the fate of the nameless in whose name revolutions are, as a rule, carried out? The search for analogies between the formulas of pathos present in the history of the culture of antiquity, the Renaissance or late modernity, on the one hand, and the depictions of the revolution and its participants, on the other hand, is not supposed to exclusively portray some sort of a continuum within the range of the „tradition of the oppressed” alone or to persuade us to accept its cultural enrootment. In a certain sense, this is a hermeneutic of the revolution as such. In the reanimated scenes of lofty pathos and dramatic suffering there stirs yet another utopian vision of historicism itself and that which revolution wants to accomplish within it.

Matthew Rampley Archives of Memory: Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas 174

The Warburg method of a montage of images reflects his comprehension of culture as a space of memory, in which visual symbols (and not only) fulfill the function of a sui generis archive of contrasted reminiscences. In this aspect, his work can be compared to Benjamin’s Passagenwerk, with Benjamin writing about the dialectic of that which is visible while Warburg conceived the dialectic of perception rather literally: the most economical way of examining the process of sublimation is an actual comparison of visual representations.

Benjamin Buchloh Gerhard Richter’s Atlas: The Anomic Archive 184

During the twentieth century, an age of fading belief in empiricism and aspirations towards a comprehensible completeness of positivistic systems of knowledge, the term „atlas” assumed a metaphorical significance. The most prominent example of this anti-positivistic tendency is the Mnemosyne Atlas – a monumental project whose purpose is gathering identifiable forms of collective memory. The several decades later Atlas by Gerhard Richter appears to treat photography and its assorted practices as one of the instruments with whose assistance collective anomy, amnesia and denial are socially encoded.

Marta Dziewańska Exercise in Imagination. „Atlas. How to Carry the World on One’s Back?” by Georges Didi-Huberman at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid 195

Inspired by the Mnemosyne-Atlas method, the exhibition is an experiment composed of works belonging to different orders (paintings, photographs, documentation sketches and notes) arranged upon the basis of the principle of “affiliation by choice” (known from Warburg and Goethe). The perilous show – fragmentary, selective, concentrated on the detail and not belonging to any synthesis – became a sui generis search for that which may be described as a ”form of visual knowledge”. Formally bold, it poses a challenge both for the practice of holding exhibitions and the routine of art institutions, while for the recipients it is a specific “exercise in imagination”.

Giovanni Careri Aby Warburg. Ritual, Pathosformeln and the Intermediate Form 202

In the iconographic tradition of the West certain configurations of gestures return after a long periods of concealment, albeit carrying already a new emotional burden. Can this phenomenon be understood while limiting ourselves to an analysis of the images alone, or should we rather embark upon an analysis starting with ritual activity, myths and tales that accompany a depiction of those gestures? How are those relics to be perceived within the perspective of the anthropology of the image without succumbing to generalities of the „social context” at the cost of the complex formal specificity of the „work of art”? Such questions, situated along the crossing point of anthropology, aesthetics and the history of art were posed at the academic onset of this discipline by one of its founders – Aby Warburg.

Emilia Olechnowicz Nachleben der Antike. The Medici Intermezza from 1589 216

The 29 years-old Warburg wrote a text about the Medici intermezza from 1589, regarding them as intermediate forms between life and art. An analysis of iconography, predominantly costumes and props, guided Warburg towards traces of the posthumous life of antiquity.

Jacek Jaźwierski Expression and the Tradition of Artistic Borrowings: Warburg – Gombrich – Reynolds 222

An attempt at following the mutual dependencies of two key problems examined by Aby Warburg – artistic expression and the praxis of borrowing image motifs from the past – in the light of the targets of his method of studying culture and art. A comparison with the conceptions launched by the eighteenth-century theoretician Joshua Reynolds, on the one hand, and Ernst H. Gombrich, the director of The Warburg Institute, on the other hand, intends to demonstrate not solely methodological fluctuations in historical reflections on art, but also the topical nature of the method applied by the Hamburg scholar.

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Wiesław Juszczak Odysseus’ Thalamos 232

The author described assorted interpretations of a fragment of The Odyssey and considered the problem of creating a work of art. He has in mind the principle „that incessantly comes into being in non-fulfillment. […] A work that belongs to the domain of produced things constantly attacks, as if challenging the order of created things. This challenge must be regarded as initially (and thus also essentially) distant from the principle of emulation and even hostile towards it”. While analysing the fragment concerning Odysseus’ bedchamber, the author posed a crucial question about creativity conceived as emulation and theories opposing the classical principle of mimesis.

Małgorzata Sobieraj Like Two Mirrors... 240

In 1912 Jacek Malczewski attained the zenith of his professional career and painted a Self-portrait with Tobias and the Parcae with which, similarly to Luca Cambioso and his Self-portrait, he paid homage to his father. Malczewski could have seen the work by the Genoese artist at the Uffizi in Florence and the phototeque of Karol Lanckoroński in Rozdół. It is difficult to imagine that he could have overlooked it even if only due to the physical resemblance to its author. There are, however, no sufficient premises for attributing an inspiring role to the Italian master. Malczewski owed the idea of his composition rather to a familiarity with the Bible in which generational continuity and changes are depicted in an intriguing and, at the same time, poignant fashion.

Joanna M. Sosnowska The Feet of Barbara Radziwiłłówna 252

The history of art is full of examples proving that reciprocated feelings were a factor stimulating artistic creativity. In his painting Death of Barbara Radziwiłłówna Józef Simmler disclosed the feet of a dying woman – the painter was looking at his wife who acted as a model. This canvas was part of Victorian ambience, characteristic for an epoch when bourgeois morality concealed sexuality but did not obliterate it; sexuality expanded in assorted forms, today difficult to capture and hidden under various cotsumes. An academic, formalistic and historical discourse dimmed the subjectivity of this painting, The fact that it immediately became public property also contributed to this approach. The private sphere became dominated by its historical counterpart, in which the queen’s naked feet became meaningless. The work was extracted from concrete social space, in which art had for centuries a certain place in the history of art, whose formative element was the public collection/musem. This was the onset of the discourse on modernity.

Jacek Dobrowolski The Symbolic of the Willow as the Tree of Life and Death in Poland within the Context of the Cultures of Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia 259

The author of the essay presented the symbolic of the willow in assorted cultures. While analysing texts, carrying out meticulous philological research, examining works of art and conducting hermeneutic comparisons he presented an extremely wide spectrum of meanings ascribed to this particular plant in various parts of the world.

Renata Rogozińska Treiz. On Paintings by Jerzy Ćwiertnia 1928–2009 275

A presentation of the works of Jerzy Ćwiertnia, painter, poet, essayist and philosopher, against the background of the artist’s world outlook – original and suffused with mysticism and idealism. The fundamental goal of his oeuvre was the extraction of the spiritual beauty of Nature, which, in his opinion, is the source and essence of all being. By transcending the framework of the Judaeo-Christian sacrum–profanum dichotomy Ćwiertnia fully shared the convictions of Hindu aesthetics, namely, that it is impossible to realise beauty and attain liberation by turning away from the world. Although in Ćwiertnia’s paintings references to Nature remain only allusions, they play a fundamental role; after all, without them the unchanging original harmony permeating the universe could never disclose itself. The author focused her attention on the painting entitled Treiz – the first in a series of canvases planned by the artist; each composition was to deal with a successive number of the Pythagorean Sacred Decade.

Actually, it turned out to be Ćwiertnia’s last work. Reflections concerning the painting created as the quintessence of the discussed oeuvre fill a copious text, a meticulous analysis of the artist’s achievements. His limited participation in artistic life, ostentatious and radical convictions enrooted in the spirituality of the East, protest against the system of (anti)values dominating in Christian Europe responsible for the suffering of creatures close to him, alienation vis à vis national specificity, and lofty ethical and aesthetic demands – all these factors were the reason why the artist’s comprehensive activity has up to now never become the topic of a suitable study.

Monika Milewska Fascism and Its Roman Myth 286

The ideological stratum of Italian fascism was based on the myth of ancient Rome propagated by, i. a. excavations initiated on an extensive scale in Italy and abroad as well as the redesigning of Città Eterna, which was to emphasise its ancient greatness. The apogee of the Roman myth took place in 1936 when after the conquest of Ethiopia Italy was pronounced an Empire and Mussolini received the titles of its ”Founder”. The empire was, therefore, not a “myth of the past” but a ”myth of the future”. The fascists did not wish to be mere guardians of inherited tradition but the creators of a new civilisation, which was to encompass the whole of Europe. Ethiopia and later Albania were only the beginning of the reinstated Imperium Romanum. Already in 1925 Mussolini was obsessed with a Roman Mare nostrum – the Mediterranean comprehended as the internal lake of an empire stretching along all its shores. This idea was to compel him to take part in World War II, which brought conquests in North Africa, Yugoslavia and Greece. The concept of Romanità was supposed to not only expand fascist dominion but, first and foremost, to reach the heart of every Italian. Similarly to other totalitarian ideologues, fascism brought an anthropological revolution. In this case, however, ”new man” was not all that new, and the “New Italian” was cast directly from the bronze matrix of the ancient Roman.

Katarzyna Prot From the Asylum and the Madhouse to One’s Own Home 294

The author outlined assorted conceptions of “madness” across the ages, from antiquity to contemporary times. In doing so, she described attempts at a humanistic approach to the afflicted: the eighteenth-century ”moral healing” movement, derived from the Quaker ideology, the nineteenth-century asylum, i.e. the “great enclosure”, the first half of the twentieth century with Freud and his conception of psychoanalysis and the analytical treatment method. The period in the wake of World War II witnessed the creation of “therapeutic communities” envisaged as a method for curing mental illness. This conception became a point of departure for the reform of mental hospitals in the 1960s in Europe and the USA. The new experiment of the second half of the twentieth century was the emergence of “home treatment teams”, which appears to have been important for producing the present-day situation in which the epoch of the “asylum” – the psychiatric institution – will already become part of the past.

Przemysław Strożek Fotodinamismo 100! Bragaglia, Boccioni, Bergson and Problems of Futuristic Photography 299

The article was intended for the hundredth anniversary of the experiment of photo-dynamism, recognised as the first symptom of avant-garde photography. The Bragaglia brothers, residents of Rome, fascinated with the quests conducted by Italian Futurism, wanted to apply Futuristic ideas in the domain of photography – to bring forth in the photograph absolute motion expressing the truth about the dynamically changing world. Despite such a bold and revolutionary experiment their search was never accepted by Umberto Boccioni – the ideologue of Futuristic visual arts. Not until the 1930s, when photography (alongside the cinema) became the most important medium of avant-garde artistic works, photo-dynamism was fully rehabilitated by the Futurists as the first symptom of modern solutions in art.

Krzysztof Lipka The Audible Landscape Sphinxes. Significant Motifs as an Attempt at a Semantisation of Musical Structure 305

The author used the term “significant motif” (or ”sphinx”) in music to describe a small motif structure composed, as a rule, of several sounds, which apart from emotions and mood transmits also detailed non-musical and non-illustration information – concrete semantic contents: own name, brief linguistic phrases, etc. The article discusses (using many examples) three types of “sphinxes”: (1) morphological (the semantic meaning of the musical motifs stems from the letter or solmisation names of particular sounds); (2) apodictic (the source of the motif is the composer’s arbitrary declaration); (3) situational (the source of the meaning ascribed to a particular motif is an anecdote).

Ireneusz Guszpit Apocalypsis cum figuris – Life after Life 315

This text concerns the legacy of Jerzy Grotowski, and upon the basis of archival material dealing with the famous spectacle Apocalypsis cum figuris, or primarily its filmed account directed by Ermanno Olmi, it deli- berates on the possibilities and purposefulness of a contemporary interpretation of the Grotowski oeuvre. The basic problem involving the Olmi film is Grotowski’s request not to render it available. Researchers specialising in Grotowski thus face a fundamental question whether despite his will and the flaws of the film version it should be shown and, more important, treated as one of the sources for studies on the legacy of the founder of the Theatre of 13 Rows. Guszpit considered this problem while describing his own attempts at analysing the film, conducted as part of his didactic work.

Zbigniew Benedyktowicz, Małgorzata Dziewulska Grotowski-Flaszen. A Registered Conversation on film Grotowski-Flaszen by Małgorzata Dziewulska325
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Zbigniew Benedyktowicz The History of a Single Painting – A Conversation with Piotr Borowski339
Iwona Luba The Australian Landscape, 1923 by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz349
Magdalena Kraszewska About „The Australian Landscape”, dr Kraszewski and the Home in Zakopane356
Kuba Szpilka Zakopiańczycy365

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