The Audience as Prisoner: Reflections on the Activity of the Object

The Audience as Prisoner: Reflections on the Activity of the Object - Horst Bredekamp

Horst Bredekamp
Professor of Art History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
March 2, 2010

The basic problem of all pictures is grounded in their bipolar existence. They are created objects, but nonetheless present themselves as physical beings. This paradoxical double-structure is exemplified in the “ME FECIT” of numberless inscriptions. With its “EGO,” the pictorial work declares that it does not consist of artificially shaped dead material, but of a living form. Dramatizing this problem, Leonardo da Vinci created the formula that pictures “imprison” the audience.

In this lecture Horst Bredekamp follows a chain of examples from antiquity, the Middle Ages, early modernity, and the twentieth century in order to question the traditional concept of the relationship between the work of art and the beholder. conceptualizing the theory of picture-act, which tries to develop alternatives to traditional concepts of representation, illustration, and mimesis.