Imagining the Image: Talking Back to the Media

Contact: Sven Lutticken
Limited places: please send a brief motivation to Sven Lutticken

Imagining the Image is a biennial course of the VU’s research master’s programme VAMA (Visual Arts, Media and Architecture), centering on the critical study of various theories of the image and visuality. This year, the course will take a specific case as its focal point: the 1985 project Talking Back to the Media, which took place in Amsterdam in different institutions, and in different media. Drawing on institutional critique, appropriation art, media theory and the more critical versions of postmodernist theorizing, Talking Back to the Media sought to give artists the opportunity to use a variety of media (photography and exhibition spaces, video and television, radio, print) for critiquing the dominant mass media.

How did the organizers and contributing artists conceive of “the media” and of “talking back”? On the one hand, this period saw a theorization of postmodernism in terms of a triumph of the image, or of a certain type of image—a flat, affectless simulacrum. In his classic 1984 essay on Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,”  Fredric Jameson analysed the postmodern condition in terms of “the logic of the simulacrum, with its transformation of older realities into television images.” On the other hand, Baudrillard’s notion of the simulacrum (which became virtually hegemonic at this historical moment) involves a “codification” of the image. Thus Sebastián López, in a contribution to the TBTTM publication that draws on Baudrillard and structuralism, analyses media culture in terms of a “language of images,” and television as being characterized by “the imperialism of a reading system.”

For Imagining the Image, we will draw on the archive of TBTTM as well as on media and art theory. The archive is maintained and has been digitized by LIMA and De Appel; we are collaborating with LIMA. During the seminar, we will jointly read some key texts and talk to participants (Saskia Bos, Raúl Marroquín). Each student will do research and write a paper on a specific aspect of the project; this can include the theoretical background and implications, specific artists’ contributions (Barbara Bloom, Ulises Carrión, General Idea, Hans Haacke, Barbara Kruger, Raúl Marroquín…), the critique and use of television, the project’s historical position and afterlife in later projects and practices.



This is not a NICA core activity but an elective announced on this site solely for  your information. You should register for this course through the university that offers it, and the credits you will earn will also be given out by that university. If your program includes a requirement to earn credits from a national research school, the credits for this elective do not count towards that requirement. You may need to acquire the permission of your program coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this elective.