research > Jan van Eyck Academie > Post Pensive Image
Anthony Auerbach

‘Post Pensive Image’ was a series four seminars in the Theory Department of Jan van Eyck Academie, 10 September, 8 October, 5 November and 3 December 2008, led by Anthony Auerbach. These seminars followed on from the ‘Pensive Image’ series initiated by Hanneke Grootenboer. The themes and materials of the seminars are outlined below.

The Figure of the Frame

Alberti’s On Painting (1435) is probably one the of all-time most influential books of art theory and is widely credited with establishing the ‘perspective paradigm’ so much debated since the twentieth century. While Alberti purports to describe the general case, secured by the geometry of vision, he slips in, without explanation, a figurative specification of the frame: ‘a quadrangle of right angles [...] which is considered to be an open window through which I see what I want to paint’ (56). I would like to look a bit closer at Alberti’s sleight of hand and consider its iterations (e.g. the grid) and its consequences (e.g. mise en abîme) in connection with Wittgenstein’s thinking (and re-thinking) of the form of a ‘picture’ or ‘proposition’. I propose some passages from the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1918) and from Philosophical Investigations (1945), where Wittgenstein reflects critically on the earlier work.

Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, trans. by John R. Spencer (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1956). [e-text at]

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961), §§ 2.1-3, pp. 8-10 and § 4.5, p.36. [e-text at Project Gutenberg (use the paragraph numbers for reference)]

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. by G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell, 1953), § 65, p. 31 and §§ 90-115, pp. 42-48. [e-text at]

The Graphic Hypothesis

In this session I’d like to discuss diagrams. While diagrams frequently purport to explain or display thoughts (or at least help persuade the reader of a thesis), a theory of diagrams is hard to come by, and would, in any case seem to be a risky business. I would like to consider in what sense a diagram is an image of thought, or thinking image. I don’t propose a particular text to read, but a look at diagrams in and out of context, e.g. you might flick through any edition of Lacan’s Seminar (XI: ‘L’identification’, for instance); you might remember similar drawings in maths textbooks; you might compare Freud’s sketches (in ‘The Dissection of the Personality’ in the Standard edition, Vol. 22, for instance); you might recall how Deleuze latches on to the way Bacon used the term ‘diagram’ to refer to an irrational gesture; you might be reminded of Picabia’s Dada diagrammatics; if by chance you opened René Just Haüy’s Traité de la Minéralogie (1801) you might be struck by the graphic aspect of his ‘Partie de raisonnement’.

John Mullarkey, Post-Continental Philosophy, (Continuum, 2006), Chapter 5, 'Thinking in Diagrams', pp.157–186. [browse at GoogleBooks]

Francis Picabia, Poèmes et dessins de la fille née sans mère, (Lausanne: Imprimeries réunies, 1918). [view at International Dada Archive]

René Just Haüy, Traité de minéralogie (Paris, 1801), Vol. 5 [figures] [digitised at BNF]

The Theoretical Eye

In this session I would like to discuss an article by Hubert Damisch entitled ‘L’oeil theoetricien’ (1988), while keeping Josef Albers — whose work the article is supposed to be about — in the conversation. Where the work itself (not just the theory) appears to be abstract, Damisch asks himself what could be the point of such ‘illusionistic games’. The answer, he claims won’t be found in art history and criticism. Instead, with reference to the languages of geometry and of psychoanalysis (arguably the stock in trade of art history and criticism anyway), Damisch sets himself up for a repetition of a Lacanian gesture already indebted to art history. But are Albers’ works images, or what?

Hubert Damisch, ‘L’oeil théoricien’ in Josef Albers [exhibition catalogue] (Tourcoing: Musée des Beaux Arts, 1988), p. 11–17.

The Discontinuity Announcer

This session borrows its headline from Sean Cubitt’s introduction to Timeshift: On Video Culture. This book is an early contribution to the underdeveloped field of video theory. If video theory demands a break with film theory and something other than media studies (sociology with semiotics), then what could be the implications for video of thinking through (thinking) images? Conversely, what does video have to say or show us about the relations of image and thought?

Sean Cubitt, Timeshift : on video culture (London: Routledge,1991)

... return... return: On theory
... return... return: Jan van Eyck