Imagining the Image 2020-2021

Imagining the Image 2020-2021

VU University
Organiser: dr. S. Lutticken
Period: The course has been scheduled on Tuesdays from 13:30 17:15. We will have sessions approximately every two weeks from the first week of February to the last week of May. 

Course Objective

Participants in this course will:

  1. analyse and compare relevant theories of the image in art history, media studies, design studies and the history of architecture.
  2. actively apply theories to selected case studies.
  3. examine the historicity of theories of the image and the potential contemporary relevance of older writings.
  4. reflect on the wider social and cultural relevance of various conceptualizations of the image and visibility.
Course Content

This course examines different conceptualizations of the image in the context of historical transformations of the arts. If, from visual studies to Bildwissenschaft, images and the visual have received a significant amount of scholarly and theoretical attention, the use and reflection on the notion of form seems to have migrated from disciplines such as art history and architectural history largely to fields such as (cultural) history, philosophy and literary studies.

In modern art and theory, form became a master signifier that to some extent displaced the image, understood as representation. Form is the image become autonomous. However, even if the notion of form was key to formalist approaches that prized the autonomy of art, form always threatened (or promise) to flow over into life; the romantic notion of the Lebensform (life form or form of life) has recently staged a return in Giorgio Agamben’s work (but not just there), and Judith Butler theorize social forms, such as that of the assembly; an approach taken up by artists such as Jonas Staal.

But are the crucial forms that shape social reality really visible? Marx’s value-form was anything but directly perceptible, and in our 21st-century Capitalocene, the world is being pre-formed in ways that once again cast doubt on our ability to imagine and to image this world.

More information




NOTE: 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 programme coordinator and/or board of examinations in order to participate and earn credits for this elective.