The discussion of fear, sorrow, outrage or contempt, but as well of faith, hope, compassion, empathy or sympathy, as political forces is presently increased. A consensus seems to exist on the central role of emotions in political processes: They are presumed to be a driving force both of protest movements as well as in democratic processes of opinion-forming, they seem to guarantee for the cohesion of political entities, they are accountable for psychological group phenomena such as subversion and revolution or for a turning of such movements into terror and fright. Yet, assessments of this phenomenon differ greatly. Whereas some deplore a lack of ›political passion‹, others warn of hysteria, of ›angry citizens‹ and of politics driven by emotions. Are ›politics of sentiments‹ legitimate, then, or is there instead a call for general skepticism towards strategies of emotional overwhelming? Should political decisions be taken rationally and is that possible, at all, or are politics simply unthinkable without emotions?
The Focus Topic »Political Emotions« aims to provide a space for the discussion of these questions at the Warburg-Haus. The lecture series in the first half of 2018 focused on political cultures of emotions in democracy, on compassion, as well as on its darker sides, and on social states of affects in war (Hans-Peter Krüger, Sigrid Weigel, Fritz Breithaupt and Alexander Honold). The lecture series is accompanied by cooperation events on the representation and role of emotions in film, media, literature and the arts. The program of the first half of the year concluded with a special theme day on the cultural perception of (natural) catastrophs, jointly organized by the Warburg-Haus and the Research Centre Images of Nature at Universität Hamburg at the Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg Art Museum). The Warburg International Seminar in October 2018 is dedicated to ›Political Emotions in the Arts‹: Which iconographies do current politics of emotions draw on, what are well established, codified dramaturgies that social movements move along, what well-known narratives are taken up in order to mobilize or contain political emotions? The lecture series in the second half of 2018 addresses representations of political affects in traditional and digital media: Genre cinema as space of experience for community sense, processes of emotionalization in journalism and politico-iconological strategies in the age of internet memes (Hermann Kappelhoff, Irene Neverla and Andrea Pinotti).
Piero della Francesca, Pala Montefeltro, 1472-74 (Detail)
Concept: Cornelia Zumbusch
Our modern lifeworlds or lived realities change at breakneck speed – and yet things that seem outmoded, the things we believe to have discarded, do not just disappear from the world. So what happens to the things that were there before? How does something fall into oblivion, then continue to exert influence subliminally, and what laws determine how it subsequently re-appears? This process, described variously by Warburg as ‘Mnemosyne’, ‘cultural memory’, and ‘afterlife’, has particular relevance to our contemporary world – since it describes the power of forgotten texts and images to exert an unseen influence and then, without warning, to become a manifest presence once more. This process is the inspiration for this focus topic, Latency in the Arts, which hopes to spark a discussion on the phenomena surrounding latency: patterns of hiding and delaying, becoming invisible, and the hidden influences brought to bear upon cultural and artistic processes.
The aim is to explore the (mental) totems of latency around which these modern experiences crystallize: remains and reminiscences, anachronisms and relics, ghosts and revenants, layers of depth and sedimentation, hesitation and delay. Given their shifting figurations, the discussion will focus in particular upon the limited opportunities to observe these latent elements and pose the question: what happens to things once they have entered the latency phase? How is it possible to recognize ‘latency’ once the latent force has returned to the surface? Which rules determine the way it comes back to light? And what is the logic underlying latency that makes it so singularly relevant to the arts – whether in terms of concealing the sources, devices, and methods used, or its tentative reception by artists and the unexpectedness with which it can lend renewed relevance to the traditional canon?
In 2015 and 2016, the Warburg Haus is focussing on the subject of ‘Art in Times of Conflict’ following in the tradition of Aby Warburg, who firmly established political images in all media as a research topic within the canon of art history and was also aware of the distribution potential of such artworks. Combining different areas of research undertaken at the Warburg Haus, from the work on the Image Index of Political Iconography and the ‘Degenerate Art’ research centre to the project ‘Bilderfahrzeuge: Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology’, this project aims to open up new perspectives on historical and current political conflicts: today, new iconographies of the political image are created on and through the Internet, for example, with affirmative and subversive images being presented, manipulated, and distributed online. A new faith in images has emerged, but also a new scepticism. A picture, which can make both banal and significant events visible to the entire world the very moment they occur, has become a weapon with immense power in every sense of the word.