In global visual cultures, images become increasingly charged with political and religious messages. This happens not only for provoking personal emotions, public debates, and new ideologies, but also for triggering a call to action. Images function as political and cultural agents on a global level of interaction with far-reaching consequences for society. The “Cartoon Dispute” caused by Danish caricaturists, and the execution of members of the editorial team of Charlie Hebdo by Islamist terrorists are the most prominent current examples for politically and religiously motivated contemporary image conflicts.
Contemporary art intervenes with its own strategies and goals in the public space in order to challenge existing power relations and gain political agency. These goals are manifested in an exemplary manner by the Rwanda Healing Project by Lily Yeh or the social and political urban projects of the Columbian artist collective Colectivo Cambalache. In historical visual cultures, politically and religiously motivated image practices have a long-standing tradition, for instance in grave rituals and memorial cultures. Image propaganda as an instrument of political governance and religious rule is characteristic for both historical and modern cultures. This conference is explicitly not dealing with practices of iconoclasm. We especially encourage contributions which focus their considerations on aspects of “images as agents”.
The observable dynamics between global integration and local diversification as a process of transculturalization of historical and contemporary political, religious and media-specific image cultures supports this tendency towards performative image acting as image activism. It calls for a historical and contemporary image-cultural reassessment which conceptually transcends the existent, to a large extent still unrelated approaches of image studies and the study of culture/Kulturwissenschaften also involving a global, transcultural perspective.
The symposium pursues two major goals. Firstly, it aims at creating the foundation for a newly defined theory and method of a political “image praxeology“ (Mersmann 2004) as a particular subfield of image-cultural studies focused on historical and contemporary global cultures. If culture in its generic form is understood as a practice of social life (cp. Bourdieu 1972 and Frows 1995), then image cultures can be conceived of as the entirety of visual (re)presentations and related image actions by which a culture constructs and transforms its societal and political reality. Accordingly, the exploration of historical and contemporary global image cultures requires addressing the imagineering (Holert 2000) as the visible and invisible practices of political, including religious image constructions from an integrated perspective of image-cultural and visual media studies.
The second aim of the symposium is to enable a comparative, including transcultural study of images that sheds light on their roles as agents in global cultural contexts. Since images have a huge impact on the perception and evaluation of cultures, a political image praxeology can help to geopolitically extend and sharpen the research horizon of the study of culture/Kulturwissenschaften. By exploring the diversity and alterity of image cultures, cross-cultural image studies can reveal processes of transmissions, entanglements, hybridizations, transformations, and also new demarcation lines.
On the basis of historical and contemporary examples taken from global images cultures, the conference will discuss the following topics and issues:
- Images and Counter-Images of Power: Which image genres are/were instrumentalized as political/religious agents? How are they employed for political/religious purposes? How is power and governance produced or destabilized by images? Which political goals can be attained and enforced through images? What role do art-born images play in constructing and exercising power?
- Visual Language of Image Propaganda. What are the visual means and image practices used for political, including sacred self-representation and self-performance in historical and contemporary global cultures? From which image-cultural areas is the visual language for the political and religious image propaganda derived?
- Visual Media of the Political: Which types of visual media (mass media – fine art; analogue – digital media) are used in the political realm for which specific strategies and purposes? What role do the fine arts play as a visual medium for political and religious messaging?
- Image Aesthetics of the Political: What aesthetic principles and models are applied by political regimes in historical and contemporary cultures in order to reach their goals?
We call for contributions to the above mentioned themes (1-4) that are based on enlightening case studies from historical and contemporary global cultures and deal with a political image praxeology from a theoretical and/or methodological perspective.
Please send your proposal (max. 300 words) to kruse[at]muthesius.de. The Muthesius University pays for travel and accomodation costs according to usual conditions.