How to carry the world on one’s back?
Curator: Georges Didi-Huberman
In the visual arts, the Mnemosyne Atlas of images, composed by Aby Warburg between 1924 and 1929, and yet left unfinished, remains for any art historian – and even for any artist today – a reference and an absolutely fascinating case-study.
Warburg completely renewed our way of understanding images. He is to art history what Freud, his contemporary, is to psychology: he opened the understanding of art to radically new questions, those concerning unconscious memory in particular. Mnemosyne is his paradoxical masterpiece and his methodological testament: it gathers all of the objects of his research in an apparatus that is also a reaction to two fundamental experiences: that of madness, and that of war. It can therefore be considered a documentary history of the Western imagination (as such, the inheritor of the Disparates and the Caprichos of Goya) and as a tool for understanding the political violence of images in history (comparable, as such, to a collection of Desastres).
ATLAS. How to carry the world on one’s back? is an interdisciplinary exhibition which crosses the 20th and 21st centuries by taking the Mnemosyne Atlas as its point of departure.
In spite of the differences of method and content which might separate the research of a historian-philosopher from the work of a visual artist, what is striking is their common heuristic — or experimental — method when based on a montage of heterogeneous images. We discover that Warburg shares with the artists of his time the same passion for an operating visual affinity, which makes him the contemporary of avant-garde artists (Kurt Schwitters or László Moholy-Nagy), of photographers of the “documentary style” (August Sander or Karl Blossfeldt), of avant- garde filmmakers (Dziga Vertov or Sergei Eisenstein), of writers who employed literary montage (Walter Benjamin or Benjamin Fondane), or even surrealist poets and artists (Georges Bataille or Man Ray).
The ATLAS exhibition was not conceived to bring together beautiful artifacts, but rather to understand how certain artists work – beyond the question of any masterpieces – and how this work can be considered from the perspective of an authentic method, and, even, a non-standard transverse knowledge of our world… More informations here.