Hot Images

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Hot Images – mimetic – iconic

Any complaint about the lack of religion today is a testimony of ignorance. We have our GODS, Our Pantheon resembles that of the Ramayana: elephants, apes, snakes, trees and flowers – Hitler, Stalin, Kennedy, John Lennon, Greta Garbo, Marilyn and Micky Mouse.

We are renewing it every day. GODS shine up and disappear. They are part of the images which enter us regularly. They are hot for some time and cold afterwards. A hot image is not necessarily a good image. It is obsessive and provokes a question which has to be answered. The traffic of these images is immense. Their transfer is accompanied by misuses and errors. Sometimes errors are useful.

The images I choose are taken from the domain of the arts, a line of contemporary thinking and of image production. It is not the limited line of conventional art which is shown in conventional museums and galleries. It is not the line of hot places which exchange high-prized art trophies. It is the broad line of image production which has been often misused by political and esthetic dictators, which finally determines our exuberant Pantheon. It needs a neverending analysis of this enormous world of images and it needs museums which are able to expand the traditional notion of what art is.

Every image separated from the time of its origin pretends timeless values. It seems to profit by the fact that the circumstances of its creation are forgotten. It rises into our Pantheon as a argument of belief. In the big line of masterworks in art history there are few that belong to those in which we believe. Some are surrounded by small sectarian audiences of believers, some are adored by millions: the black square on white field by Malewitch, the Mona Lisa. Neither the material appearance nor the factual history of the creation of these two paintings have considerably contributed to raise them into our Pantheon. Their believers know the from books, postcards and the www. But what has strongly contributed to make them arguments of belief has been the radiance of the eras in which they were created: that of the October Revolution and that of the Renaissance. These eras regarded as landscapes in our migrations through time and space are part of our Pantheon, too.


In the Ramayana the Pantheon is wide open to the human beings, and the base of the text is a dialogue between Man and many Gods about mimesis and iconicity:  imitate the Gods and  create images of therm.

It seems important to draw a line between mimetic images and icons, and the significance of that line grows. Mimetic images seem innocent. They are narrative, tell stories, they can consist of many elements ordered scientifically in central perspectives or others. On the contrary, the iconic image can be dangerous, being a concentrated amalgam of meanings, a compression of power. Both are condemned to be forgotten and rediscovered like the stories they tell and the power they represent. Who knows the story of Diana and Acteon? Who knows the power of Charlemagne?

Redigiertes Vorwort zu einem Dia-Vortag, den ich am 20. August 1992 in der Bibliothek Nobel der Schwedischen Akademie in Stockholm gehalten habe. Eine Auswahl der Bilder und ihrer Kommentare folgt. Zum Englisch üben.

  1. Aachen, Cathedral, 794-801

„Aurea Roma iterum renovata renascitur orbi” – “The Golden Rome renovated another time, will be given back to the world” Following the will of the emperor Charlemagne his chapel was built after Byzantine models, and original columns with their capitals were taken from Ravenna and Rome. As Napoleon admired Charlemagne as his powerful ancestor he ordered to take most of the columns and their capitals to Paris when he conquered Aix-La-Chapelle. They can be seen today as part of the interior decoration of the Louvre.  The columns, originally functional members in an architectural order, had become iconic images of imperial power when they were put into the early medieval chapel. The columns in the upper arcades do no more support horizontal weights, but are inserted into the semi-circular openings of the deambulatorium – functionally senseless and purely decorative, architectural errors, but powerful iconic images. Napoleon understood.









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