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.
Is the Qur’an an exclusively Islamic text? In this talk, Angelika Neuwirth, a Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin and a Member (2009) in the School of Historical Studies, contends that it is both Islamic and late antique. Before the Qur’an was recognized as Muslim scripture it was communicated to an audience whose education was based on late-antique traditions—Judeo-Christian, Hellenic, and Arabian. Read as a movement within this triangle, the Qur’an turns out to be a Near Eastern–European text.
Support for this lecture was provided by the Dr. S. T. Lee Fund for Historical Studies.
Peter Paret, Professor Emeritus, School of Historical Studies. From 1933 to 1945, a culture war was waged between National-Socialism and modernism in the arts. In this lecture, given in conjunction with a performance by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra featuring works by Mendelssohn, Schulhoff, and von Webern, Peter Paret explains that although their compositions were stylistically different, they were attacked for the same underlying reason: Hitler’s concept of the arts as an arena of ideological, racial, and political conflict over Germany’s present and future.
Nicola Di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies, School of Historical Studies. This lecture will provide an overview of the production and characteristics of alien history in early China, while acknowledging and attempting to gauge the cultural influence of these accounts among the alien people themselves, as "consumers" of histories they did not produce, but were used politically and in other ways.
Yve-Alain Bois, Professor, School of Historical Studies. The lecture examines how, rather than always leading to the myth of the death of painting (or sculpture), as Alexandr Rodchenko had it, the idea that the artist should erase all traces of him- or herself was a dictum that helped sustain many different artistic practices during the past century, from Kasimir Malevich's Black Square of 1915, Jean Arp's collages "according to the laws of chance" of 1916-18, and Piet Mondrian's modular grids of 1918-19, to Pop Art, Minimalism, Process art, Conceptual art, and beyond.