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The Concept of the Image: A Genealogy

A geneology of the concept of the image in Western thought.
by

Cliff Caines

on 28 December 2012

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Transcript of The Concept of the Image: A Genealogy

Plato
Phaedo/Rebublic
Greece, 380-360 B.C.E.
True knowledge can only be a knowledge of what is real.
no image, representation, or craftsman's object can approximate reality.
the image is a form of 'appearance' (phantasia)
the image is the same as its model; but it is also different. Aristotle
Metaphysics/De Anima
Greece, 384-322 B.C.E
Questions Plato's glorification of 'eidos' as pure form.
Forms cannot be separate from the 'material' object
Locates the image within the inner, psychical life of the individual. Kant, Immanuel
Critique of Pure Reason
Germany, 1781
the schema is the image of a concept (not of an object), insofar as a concept has no empirical basis, being a pure product of thought
the schema is pure transparency
Kant rejects the image. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques
Julie, ou la nouvelle Eloise
France, 1761
Presents the authentic image as a pure transparency.
yet, the image was distorted and presented as a thing in its own right.
e.g. the Parisian 'mask'
an image is not an object and an object is not an image.
the image is a source of error and superficiality because it is essentially visual Diderot, Denis
Encyclopedie
France, 1751-72
Critic
Played with the ambivalence of the image.
studied both the illusion of painting, and how that illusion was achieved (i.e. brush strokes).
the image is ultimately not an object Hume, David
A Treatise of Human Nature
Scotland, 1739
Opens the relationship between beholder and the external object.
and the relationship between impressions and ideas.
thus introduces the role of memory.
the visual is conceived as the initial and necessary starting point to an understanding of reality. Whitehead, Alfred North
Process & Reality
U.K./U.S. 1929
Shift from materialism
physical bodies are really forms of internal relationships between actual occassions
Organic Realism Sartre, Jean-Paul
Imagination: A Psychological Critique
France, 1936
The image is not an thing.
The image does not exist in its own right independently of consciousness.
the thing pertains to perception, whereas an image pertains to the imaginary.
the image is something which brings to presence what is absent; it is not simply a copy of the real.
To make an image into an object or thing in general is then to commit the error of the 'illusion of immanence'. Bergson, Henri
Matter and Memory
France, 1911
Everything passes via the image, but an image which is imperceptible (i.e. time).
photograph is incapable of capturing or encapsulating the dynamism of life.
To perceive signifies to immobilise
perception is spatial and photographic Bazin, Andre
"The Ontology of the Photographic Image."
What is Cinema? Vol. 1
France 1967
Photography embalms time and the cinema (objectivity in time) can see the image in its duration.
photography as an instrument can perfectly represent reality, which freed Western painting from the obsession with realism
this helped achieve aesthetic autonomy in the plastic arts. Benjamin, Walter
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Germany, 1931
The image is not a simulacrum.
Concerned with the 'optical unconsciousness', or what the photographic image reveals that is unavailable to naked human perception.
The 'Aura' of a work is absent in its reproduction.
The reproduction (as a separate object) is now primarily treated as a thing (rather than as an image). Barthes, Roland
Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
France, 1980
Dedicated to Sartre
Analogue photography is an 'emanation of the referent.'
the photograph is literally an emanation of the real - or of what is imaged.
the photograph as 'effigy'
the photograph is not a "copy" of reality, but an emanation of past reality: a magic, not an art.
the photograph is a pure contingency. Sontag, Susan
On Photography
U.SA. 1977
exploration of photographs as a collection of the world, mainly by travelers or tourists
modern photography has created an overabundance of visual material
the art of photography is as much an interpretation of the world as painting and drawings are. Deleuze, Gilles
Cinema 1: The Movement-Image
Cinema 2: The Time-Image
France, 1986/89
the whole image has to be 'read', no less than seen, readable as well as visible.
Removes the cinema image from any connection with natural perception
time cannot be contained in natural perception, but only in an image that is distinct from it.
photography provides an analogy of analytic thought based in space, while cinema provides an analogy for synthetic thought based in time. Kittler, Friedrich
Computer Graphics: A Semi-Technical Introduction.
Germany, 1999
'There is no longer a phenomenal image, only disembodied information waiting to be configured'
sees autonomy in technology and therefore disagrees with McLuhan's reading of media as 'extensions of man'. Aumont, Jacques
The Image
France, 1994
'There are images because we have eyes.'
concept of the image limited to 'vision' and perception.
The 'image' is an 'object'. Baudrillard, Jean.
Simulacra and Simulation
France, 1981
Meaning is created through difference.
objects, images of objects, words and signs are situated in a web of meaning
one object's meaning is only understandable through its relation to the meaning of other objects (self-referentiality)
Argues that today there is no such thing as reality
All is composed of references with no referents, a hyperreality. Derrida, Jacques
Dissemination
France, 1972
"There is nothing outside the text".
Deconstruction Doanne, Mary Ann
The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive.
U.S.A., 2002
Cinema, representing the singular instant of chance and ephemerality in the face of the increasing rationalization and standardization of the day, participated in the structuring of time and contingency in capitalist modernity. Foucault, Michael
The Archaeology of Knowledge
France, 1966
Analysis of the 'statement' which is the rules that render expression.
the statement is an existence function for discursive meaning.
it is not the expression itself, but the rules which make an expression discursively meaningful. Hegel, G.W.F.
Science of Logic
Germany, 1812-16
The finite has to become infinite in order to achieve reality.
The idea of the absolute excludes multiplicity so the subjective and objective must achieve synthesis to become whole Husserl, Edmund
Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory
Germany, 1898-1925
There is a clear difference between meaning and object.
acts of thought" (the noesis) and "intentional objects of thought" (the noema) Descartes, Rene
The World
France, 1630-33
Mind separate from body
Discards perception as unreliable instead admitting only deduction as reliable, eg. the Wax Argument. Spinoza, Baruch
The Ethics
Netherlands, 1677
Opposed Mind/Body duality
Viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality.
In the universe anything that happens comes from the essential nature of objects, or of God/Nature.
If circumstances are seen as unfortunate it is only because of our inadequate conception of reality. Phenomenology 18th C. 17th C. Empiricism Rationalism Leibniz, Gottfried
The Monadology
Germany, 1714
Metaphysics
Monads are elementary particles with blurred perception of each other 19th C. 20th C. Cinema 21st C. Metaphysics 4th C. B.C.E Semiotics Lacan, Jacques
The Seminar, Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis.
France, 1953-54
Return to Freud (psychoanalysis)
The Imaginary is the field of images and imagination, and deception
The Symbolic order structures the visual field of the Imaginary, which means it involves a linguistic dimension
The Real is not synonymous with reality, it is an ontological absolute, a true being-in-itself. Nietzsche, Friedrich
Twilight of the Idols
Germany, 1888
Intro of Secularism (God is Dead).
Return to Iconoclasm
the image is nothing more than a material object
The enchanted image becomes disenchanted
argues for the opacity of the image 1826: First Photograph introduced (Joseph Nicephore Niepce). 1851: Introduction of the Typewriter. 1877: Introduction of the Phonograph. 1895: First public viewing of motion picture in Paris (Cinema). Homer
The Iliad
Greece, 7-800 B.C.E.
The greek concept of the image emerges with Homer as effigy or ghost (i.e. 'eidolon') 8th C. B.C.E Existentialism Merleau-Ponty, Maurice
Phenomenology of Perception
France, 1945
the primacy of perception: all consciousness is perceptual consciousness
the body is a permanent condition of experience Post-Structuralism Heidegger, Martin
Being and Time/Nietzsche
Germany, 1927
Image is linked to 'subjectivism'
the 'coming to fore' or 'coming to presence', the appearance of the thing
'to be' since Plato has been misunderstood in Western Philosophy
a more authentic analysis of 'being' would investigate 'that on the basis of which being are already understood.' Pierce, Charles Sanders
Reasoning and Logic of Things
U.S.A., 1898
Father of Pragmatism
Anything is a 'sign'
The 'sign relation' is the key
an image has a sign structure and is embedded in meaning and qualities. Hansen, Mark B.N.
New Philosophy for New Media
U.S.A., 2004
'We are able to perceive images only because we sense ourselves as form.' (p. 176)
Examines issue of materiality in relation to the digital image.
defines the image in digital art in terms that go beyond the visual
the digital image encompasses the entire process by which information is made perceivable
he places the body in a privileged position - as the agent that filters information in order to create images
he counters prevailing notions of technological transcendence and argues for the indispensability of the human in the digital era. The Greek Image The Byzantine Image The Renaissance Image The Industrial Image The Photographic Image The Time Image The Digital Image 6-7th C. The Enlightened Image Rodowick, David Norman
The Virtual Life of Film
U.S.A., 2007
considers the fate of film and its role in the aesthetics and culture of moviemaking and viewing.
explores how digital technologies are serving to perpetuate the cinematic, and at the same time, how they are preparing the emergence of a new audiovisual culture
cinematic duration is no longer present in digital cinema. Ranciere, Jacques.
The Future of the Image
U.S.A., 2007
Contemporary theorists are suffering from religious tendencies
argues that art can either reinforce a radical democracy, or create a new reactionary mysticism
there is never pure art. Cavell, Stanley
The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film
U.S.A., 1979
the material basis of the media of movies is a succession of automatic world projections Manovich, Lev
The Language of New Media
U.S.A., 2001
the phenomenal image is irrelevant withing the field of information technology.
the image becomes 'interactive'
the cinema image no longer has to be a recording of reality but can be completely autonomous because it is fabricated by a computer. Lechte, John. Genealogy and Ontology of the Western Image and its Digital Future. New York and London: Routledge, 2012. Print. Four concepts of the image are found in ancient Greek thought: 1. 'eidos' (outward form or look or idea), 2. 'eikon' (image, double or simulacrum), 3. 'phantasia' (appearance), 4. 'phantasma' (semblance, apparition linked to aisthesis as perception or sensation). The model is the product of the unreal world of semblances. The model may approximate reality to an astonishing degree; but it still only approximates it. Plato considered the image as generally evil. Constantine V
Iconoclasm
Greece, 718-775
to claim that Christ could be present in the icon was a threat to his divine nature. Nikephoros
Iconoclasm
Greece, 802-811
Contrary to Constantine V
Introduces formalist approach to the icon which enables the presentation of it as a likeness to what is depicted using Platonic argument Byzantine Iconoclasm is said to have constituted a ban on - and destruction of - religious images by Emperor Leo III (although, this view was recently challenged). The early church, rather than presenting Christ directly in a representation, instead used symbols and signs to bring Christ to mind indirectly, i.e. the lamb, the Cross, and the Son of God. The proclaimed veneration of God ends up being the veneration of the (material) image. There can thus be no image adequate to God. The Byzantine image can be related to the contemporary debate over the 'icon' as either image (evoking its prototype) or 'idol' (a thing/object with no links outside itself). The idol is akin to Baudrillard's 'simulacrum'. 1992: First photo uploaded to World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee) 1982: Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) was standardized and introduced. 1957: First Digital Image stored as data (Drum Scanner by Russell A. Kirsh). 1946: First general-purpose electronic computer (ENIAC) became operational. 1834: First Photo Negative Introduced (Fox Talbert). 1927: First electronic television (Philo T. Farnsworth). 1920: First digital image produced (Harry G. Bartholomew and Maynard D. McFarlane). 1975: First Digital Camera invented and built (Steven Sasson, Eastman Kodak). 1439: Gutenberg Printing Press Introduced (Johannes Gutenberg). 12th C. "Medievel images were based on the imaginary conception of the object, whereas, due to the Humanist outlook, Renaissance images are said to be on the way to becoming naturalistic (Lechte 47)". According to Foucault (The Order of Things 1973), there is no separation between language and things. However there was an absolute transparency between images and things. 'Analytico-referential' thinking vs. 'resemblance' or 'patterning' thinking. 'Thought organizes world' vs. 'world organizes thought'.

If image there be in this circumstance, it is not an image as object, but an image that is entirely integrated with the world, constituting the very condition of possibility of the world's mirror-like structure (Lechte 53).

Signs, signatures - language - must be studied 'as a thing in nature' (Foucault 1966). Signs are not images, but there is an image aspect to the sign.

Colour is the central agent the production of 'volume', which is becoming more important that figuration (Kristeva 1982 260) Alberti, Leon Battista
De Pictura (On Painting)
Italy, 1435
Study of Perspective
Regarded mathematics as the common ground of art and the sciences.
Relied on classical optics in determining perspective as a geometric instrument of the artistic and architectural representation. Brunelleschi, Filippo
One-point Perspective
Italy, 1413
Architect and Engineer
Demonstrated the geometrical method of perspective Bacon, Francis
Novum Organum (New Method)
England, 1620
Creator of Empiricism
'Man', by seeking knowledge of nature, can reach power over it.
Printing, gunpowder and the compass have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world Newton, Sir Isaac
Opticks
England, 1670-1672
Theory of colour
demonstrated that a prism could decompose white light into a spectrum of colours Giotto di Bondone
Florence Cathedral
Italy, 1266-1337
Painter and Architect
Introduced the technique of drawing accurately from life
represented a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style 13th C. 1895: First X-ray (Wilhelm Rontgen). 1879: Introduction of the Zoopraxiscope, first motion pictures (Eadweard Muybridge). Iconoclasm 2004: Google Earth Introduced for public use. 2004: Facebook launched. The most elemental process of modern times is the conquest of the world as images (Heidegger1980 92).

Never before has the world of images around us changed so fast as over recent years, never before have we been exposed to so many different image worlds, and never before has the way in which images are produced changed so fundamentally (Grau 2003 3).

[...] we must remain aware of the essential enigma surrounding the image, but in the recognition that it is for this very reason that the image calls upon us to think. The image calls upon us to think in a way that is not limited either to the intelligible or to the sensible. It is both dimensions (Lechte 2012 7). 2012: Introduction of Femto-Photography (Ramesh Raskar). Conceptions of the image oscillate between posing the image as a transparent medium which would seemingly give immediate access to the object (e.g. nature) and the image as an inevitable source of opacity. The Enlightenment could not decide whether the image was a means to something else, or an an end in itself. At the center of the Enlightenment debate is the play between 'appearance' and 'reality'. For Kant, appearance is the 'undetermined object of an empirical intuition.' (Critique of Pure Reason). If five points be set alongside on another, thus, ..., I have an image of the number five. But, if, on the other hand, I think only a number in general [...] this thought is rather the representation of a a method.' (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason) 1832: introduction of the stereoscope. Conceptions of the image become entwined in technical support, i.e. photography and cinema. As such, technical support becomes the image. The astonishment of a frozen moment of a photograph or motion picture derive from the Newtonian and previously held notion of time as reversible. The philosophy of secularism influences the concept of the image from something enchanted to nothing more or less than a material object. Baudelaire, Charles
Salon de 1859
France, 1859
industrial technology (i.e. photography) takes away from the artistic value of the image produced.
to take an image with a machine is to get an image of the machine.
the mechanical image is the bane of imagination
imagination is the link to the soul (as the iconic Byzantine image was a link to the divine). Photography Stiegler, Bernard
Technics and Time, Vol. 1-3
France, 1998
Orthographic and temporal aspects of the photographic and cinematographic image. Couchot, Edmond and Norbert Hillaire.
L'Art numerique: Comment la technologie vient au monde de l'art.
France, 2003
digitization profoundly alters the 'traditional status' of the image. The photographic image cannot be separated from its technical support. The 'double character' nature of photographic image is especially considered, i.e. both self and other, one and the many, being and non-being, word and meaning, death and life, etc. Concepts regarding the photograph return to the ancient Greek experience of the image as 'eidolon', where semblance exists in conjunctions with likeness (Lechte 126). The question reversible vs. irreversible time arises. The question of whether photography is an art form also arises. The concept of the image continues with two approaches: the technical reproducibility of the image gives rise to a simulacrum, where there is no essential link between image and reality; and 2. there is a orthographic aspect of technologies of reproducibility, where the image becomes a transcription of the real itself. As per Kant, the relationship between time and image is problematic. According to Kant's schema, there can be no image of time (because an image is always an image of a determinate object or thing. For Kant, an image seems to be separable from what is imaged. Because an image is inevitably determinate, it will thus be incapable of presenting time as such. However, Deleuze proposes a direct time-image in modern cinema - the time-image is no longer empirical, nor metaphysical; it is 'transcendental': time is out of joint and presents itself in the pure state (Delueze 1986 271). Time gives moments, moment do not give time. The gap between two images (i.e. Godard's 'jump cut') now becomes the immediate and direct presentation of time. However, the issue still remains whether or not time can be circumscribed in an image - just as, in the Byzantine era, it was a question of whether or not the divine could be circumscribed in an image (Lechte 168). Analogue images were thus once analogues of the thing imaged. The image now becomes a virtual thing/reality - a simulacrum. Attempts to characterize the nature of the digital image evoke a version of the image as Sartre's 'illusion of immanence'. Whereas the image was once real and had the quality of a phenomenal artefact, it is now virtual, i.e. information.

"... a digital image is just as much an image as anything previously because the real nature of the image tends to be revealed in the digital. The image has always had a virtual aspect which enabled it to gel with digitization." (Lechte 113)

"... a possibility opens up in which the digital form of the image, which has never been a direct recording (never an orthographic schema) or transcription of reality (as in perception), becomes the incarnation of the image in its essential form." (Lechte 113) Crowther, Paul
Ontology and Aesthetics of Digtial Art
U.K., 2008
digital images are simulacra with no discernible link to an original or prior model
digital image as 'token' (as a representative of an original model) is indistinguishable from the 'type' of which it would be a token.
the digital idiom is essentially capable of eliminating any trace of the history of changes that may have been effected
navigation and user-transcendent autonomy are unique to digital art 21st C. 20th C. 19th C. 18th C. 17th C. 13th C. 12th C. 6-7th C. 4th C. B.C.E 8th C. B.C.E Perspective The Concept of the Image: A Genealogy Primary Reference: Cliff Caines

Prof. Janine Marchessault

FILM 7000: Key Concepts in Cinema and Media Studies

December 2012 Saussure, Ferdinand de
Course in General Linguistics
Switzerland, 1916
language may be analyzed as a formal system of different elements, apart from the dialectics of real-time production and comprehension
introduces notion of linguistic sign, which is composed of the signifier and the signified. McLuhan, Marshall
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
Canada, 1964
proposed that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study
medium affects society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself Media Theory Technology Debord, Guy
The Society of the Spectacle
France, 1967
All that once was directly lived has become mere representation
the 'spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people.
The spectacle is not a collection of images rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.
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