Poses have power
April 8, 2015 10:53 PM   Subscribe

But anyone who looked into the turbulent, shifting waters of Warburg’s actual beliefs knew that there was something more, and much stranger, there. At a minimum, there was something compellingly incongruous: on the one hand, his vision was haunted by half-clothed women dancing ecstatic Dionysian dances; on the other, it was devoted to minute archival research meant to record their choreography through time.

An example of the eclectic, iconographic approach: looking for laughter in the Warburg Institute.

More on the classification scheme used by the Warburg.

Search the Iconographic Database for your own theme, or browse the classifications. Remember, only about 12% of their photographic material is digitised, so it really is just the tip of the proverbial.

More on Warburg's unfinished Mnemnosyne Atlas, including guided pathways through the panels.
posted by Athanassiel (7 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Warburg and his library were very important to another refugee from Nazism, the philosopher of culture Cassirer:

The library itself was, as Skidelsky observes, the “objective correlative” of Cassirer’s own developing theory of symbolic forms, for its collection of books was presented as a system of symbols. “Iconography replaced authorship or chronology as the basic principle of organization. The aim was to make visible the fundamental symbolic patterns underlying the individual works of art and literature.” Warburg’s stormy personality, Skidelsky argues, was also a beneficial influence on the often too-serene, too-patrician Cassirer. Whereas Cassirer looked for mediation and conciliation among the symbolic forms, Warburg discerned the possibility of real conflict and so forced Cassirer to be more realistic in his assessment of cultural and political realities, a realism evident in his last book, The Myth of the State (1946), written in exile and published just after his death.
posted by thelonius at 11:51 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Strangely, I misread that as the Wahlberg Institute and all sorts of images flooded my mind. Is it only Mark that teaches and lets Donnie run the cafeteria, or is the whole family involved? What sort of classes do they offer? Who are these dancing girls, are they the back up dancers from the Funky Bunch or sad old New Kids groupies that just hang around all the time waiting for their Bostonian sempai to notice them? I was very confused until I clicked through.

Just thought someone besides me should know that.
posted by gideonswann at 12:04 AM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

In its “last version,” the Mnemosyne Atlas consisted of sixty-three panels (Tafeln). Using wooden boards, measuring approximately 150 x 200 cm and covered with black cloth, Warburg arranged and rearranged, in a lengthy combinatory process of addition and substraction, black and white photographs of art-historical and cosmographical images.

It's a shame that he couldn't use color photos; that must have been not practically possible at the time.
posted by thelonius at 4:54 AM on April 9, 2015

I just imagine Warburg, Carl Linnaeus, Joseph Campbell, Melvil Dewey and other master sorters and organizers in a huge warehouse, human knowledge all around them on the floor as tiles, and them as mosaic-makers . . . probably moving each other's stuff when they're not looking . . .
posted by pt68 at 7:10 AM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Warburg site appears to be down. Or we broke it.

The references to Kenneth Clark are very interesting. The Nude is a fascinating book and I would dearly love to read the "Motives" mentioned by Gopnik.
posted by CCBC at 4:27 PM on April 9, 2015

Warburg site works fine for me.

As for Clark's lectures, if you're ever at the Tate maybe you can try to look them up. The entry in the Archives Hub indicates they're open to all registered researchers, whatever that means.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:41 PM on April 9, 2015

Okay. Works for me now, too.
I doubt I will be able to make it to the Tate in this lifetime.
posted by CCBC at 1:07 AM on April 10, 2015

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