This time our congratulations are due to Philipp Ekardt for the publication of his chapter in the edited volume Mouvement – Bewegung. Über die dynamischen Potenziale der Kunst.
The representation of movement, or, more exactly, the depiction of the human figure in movement, stood at the center of Aby Warburg’s interest as a scholar and thinker. The topic gave rise to some of Warburg’s most iconic terminological coinages, such as the concept of ‘bewegtes Beiwerk’ (animated parerga). It is less well known that Warburg also sought to envision the mechanism through which such depictions of figures in motion – in the static image-media that were the prime object of his research – could evoke the sense in the viewer that she or he was actually beholding a moving object.
This article first briefly situates the topic of movement in Warburg’s thought, to then analyze two important sources through which Warburg developed his own theory: Robert Vischer’s theory of Einfühlung (empathy); and Gottfried Semper’s theory of ornament. His reading of Vischer enabled Warburg to posit hypothetical movements of perception within the subject, which reproduced – within the sentient and perceiving individual – the depicted kinetic events. Semper’s concept of Richtungsschmuck (directional ornament) allowed Warburg to theorize the mediation of directionality between pictorially depicted kinesis and the viewer – a process in which Semper’s concept of ornament as a diagrammatic visualization of cosmological laws and regularities was effectively transformed into a theory of textile vectors that transmitted kinetic qualities in the medium of perception.