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Title: On moths and butterflies, or how to orient oneself through images. Georges-Didi Huberman’s art criticism in context
Authors: IONESCU, Vlad 
Issue Date: 2017
Source: Journal of art historiography, 2017(16), p. 1-16 (Art N° 16/VI1)
Abstract: The essay discusses the motif of the butterfly and other Lepidoptera that Georges Didi-Huberman occasionally addressed in the two volumes of Essais sur l’apparition, Phasmes (1998) and Phalènes (2013). The hypothesis is that this motif can be viewed as a figural model of conceiving two essential elements of all art history, namely the nature of the image and its temporality. The fluttering butterfly becomes an occasion to explain Didi-Huberman’s art history by relating its fundamental dimensions to other key figures with which he is implicitly or explicitly in dialogue: Aloïs Riegl, Franz Wickhoff or Aby Warburg. Whereas the content of their specific art histories differs, they all resist the canonical conception of the image as an entity whose place and ‘immanent sense’ is fixed in a diachronic narrative. Alternatively, they develop an art historical prototype where the image is thought of as an essentially relational entity whose latency of sense emerges when it is dialectically superposed to other images. Art history does not function as the stable chronological juxtaposition of artefacts but as the extraction of a virtual sense through the anachronistic superposition of images kept in movement. When the diachronic arrangement of primary sources whose sense depends on the world where they emerged fails, art history interiorizes a speculative epistemology where sense is equivalent to an associative force of images. Reading Didi-Huberman nowadays confronts the art historiographer with a fundamental epistemological question: what is the structure of the interpretative process presupposed in all story of art?
Keywords: art historiography, image analysis, aesthetics, Aby Warburg, Aloïs Riegl, Franz Wickhoff, apparitions, appearance, visual sense, phenomenology.
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ISSN: 2042-4752
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial 4.0 International License
Category: A1
Type: Journal Contribution
Validations: vabb 2019
Appears in Collections:Research publications

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