Metadata: how we relate to images


Metadata: how we relate to images

The Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins, Granary Square, London

10 January 2018 – 3 February 2018

Disentangled N°1, 2017 Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, Ditone print, Courtesy: Nora Al-Badri, Nikolai Nelles | NOME Gallery Berlin

An exhibition curated by the International Research Project “Bilderfahrzeuge. Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology’ and presented in cooperation with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

This exhibition arises out of a longstanding collaboration between artists and academics from Central Saint Martins and the Research Project Bilderfahrzeuge. It focuses on the role of metadata – data that provides information about other data – in art and art history. The show includes work by established and emerging artists, loans by the British Museum, NOME Gallery (Berlin), Herald Street Gallery (London) and private collections. They will stand alongside an imaginative reinvestigation of CSM’s own Museum and Study Collection, comprised of teaching objects relevant to the many arts disciplines taught at CSM as well as work by former students.

For all enquiries related to the exhibition, please contact:


The exhibition is accompanied by a series of panel discussions and a workshop in which curators, artists and academics will discuss some of the overarching themes of Metadata: how we relate to images. Weiterlesen

Lecture: The Relic as Image: Prophetic Aura in an Age of Technological Reproducibility

Schematic of the sandal of the Prophet Muhammad

Professor Finbarr Barry Flood

William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the Humanities

Institute of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences, New York University

London, 14 June 2017, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) here.

Among the most celebrated relics of the Prophet Muhammad was his sandal. Tracings made from the most famous sandal relic, kept in Damascus, were believed to circulate the blessings (baraka) of the Prophet. These indexes of the relic as outline were often copied in their turn, generating an enchained series that enabled the sandal and its blessings to travel well beyond the site of the relic’s enshrinement. This tradition continued into modernity, when new print technologies were applied to the reproduction of the sandal image. Such images raise significant questions about mediation and the ontology of the devotional image in modernity.

Lecture: Return of Images: Chance Encounters in the Afterlives of Antiquity

Alberto Giacometti, Study after a Sumerian Sculpture, 1937, blue ball point pen and paper

Professor Zainab Bahrani

Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology

Columbia University

London, 10 May 2017, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) here.

The chance encounter with images from the past can be understood as an aspect of the Nachleben der Antike, one of Aby Warburg’s scholarly preoccupations. In the ancient Near East, such encounters with images from a distant past had profound effects, both visual and theoretical.  Artworks transmitted historically specific forms and iconographies across time, but they were also forms of infinite presence without duration. This lecture addresses the status and influence of such rediscovered images beyond the traditional disciplinary boundaries, and brings ancient art into the current theoretical debates surrounding art and time.

Leonardo Adrift. Propaganda as “Bilderfahrzeug”

Blog Post – Victor Claass February 2017

Leonardo Adrift. Propaganda as “Bilderfahrzeug

In the harbor of Genoa in early December, 1929, under the intimidating gaze of “steel helmeted fascist militiamen”, a team of art handlers carefully loaded 350 masterpieces of Italian art into the aptly named steamer Leonardo-da-Vinci. Among them were the t
hree sculptures of David by Donatello, Michelangelo and Verrocchio, as well as major paintings by Duccio, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Pietro Lorenzetti, Raphael and many other celebrated old masters. Borrowed – thanks to the personal involvement of Benito Mussolini – from the Italian public and private collections, theses artifacts were meticulously placed in the ship’s cargo hold, “lashed firmly and wedged with mattresses
and lifebelts, preventing the slightest movement” (Sheffield Independent, 1929) . Escorted by several tugs, the Leonardo began its journey towards London, where its priceless freight was to be displayed at the much awaited Royal Academy’s exhibit, Italian Art 1200-1900.

The arrival of the Leonardo-da-Vinci in London. Upper left corner: Lady Chamberlain greeting Ettore Modigliani. Sheffield Independent, December 13, 1929.


Congratulations #20: Pablo Schneider (Ed.): Edgar Wind – Die Bildsprache Michelangelos

Edgar Wind – Die Bildsprache Michelangelos (Berlin 2017)

Pablo Schneider (Hrsg.)/(Ed.)

Research Associate, Bilderfahrzeuge Project

1936 stellte der Kunsthistoriker und Philosoph Edgar Wind sein Manuskript zu Michelangelos Deckenfresken der Sixtinischen Kapelle fertig. Wind begriff den christlichen Erlösungsgedanken als fundamentales Thema des gesamten Raumes und erkannte ein polares Beziehungsgeflecht, welches ihm das Bildprogramm vollständig erschloss. Methodische Ansätze Aby Warburgs aufnehmend, dessen Mitarbeiter Wind in Hamburg war, analysierte er die Themenwahl Michelangelos. Obwohl fertiggestellt, wurde das Werk nie veröffentlicht. Es liegt nun erstmals in gedruckter Fassung vor, begleitet von einem ausführlichen Nachwort des Herausgebers.

Congratulations #19: Andreas Beyer: „Thinking in Pictures: What Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky have in common with Aby Warburg“

“Thinking in Pictures: What Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky have in common with Aby Warburg” in „Kandinsky, Marc & Der Blaue Reiter“, Fondation Beyeler Basel/Riehen 2016, Hajte Dantz Verlag, Berlin 2016, S. 18-23.

Andreas Beyer

Speaker of the Bilderfahrzeuge Project

In this essay, Bilderfahrzeuge Speaker Professor Andreas Beyer traces the origins of an integral element of contemporary art theory – the possibility of an intellectual and theoretical discourse based entirely on images – ‘art speaking for itself’.


‚Ghost Objects‘ – 19th century paper mould techniques and the portability of antiquities

Blog Post – Anna McSweeney July 2016

Among the members of the Bilderfahrzeuge group, we have been thinking recently about  ‚immutable mobiles‘ and the object-oriented theories of Bruno Latour in relation to our work on image vehicles, the movement of images. In his essay ‚Visualisation and Cognition‘, Latour casts inscriptions as the explanatory principle of modern scientific culture. He uses the term ‚immutable mobiles‘ to describe objects which are characterized by the properties of mobility, immutability, presentability, readibility and combinability with each other. He claims that the history of these objects is the history of scholarship in visualisation and cognition.

It seemed to me that paper moulds are a good example of an immutable mobile. Using layers of wet paper to make a negative impression of a building or object, from which a positive could be cast in plaster, paper moulds were used by archaeologists and antiquarians in the mid-nineteenth century to copy the façades of monuments that were far away, at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Palenque in Mexico or the Alhambra in Spain, for example. Described as ‚facsimiles‘ by the inventor of the technique, Lottin de Laval (1810-1903), paper moulds allowed explorers to transport a version of a building or sculpture with all its details back to the museum in the age before both digital reproduction and cheap and reliable photography. Weiterlesen

Warburg on Tapestries

by Isabella Woldt

My research project in the Bilderfahrzeuge group focuses on tapestries as mobile vehicles. The main investigation concerns the reflecting of Petrarch’s “Trionfi” in tapestries and discusses the textile as an instrument of the transfer of ideas and cultural contexts by the manufacture of elaborate materials like gold thread into the tapestry, for instance. The project arises from many years of study on the works of the Hamburg art and cultural historian Aby Warburg. Moreover, the term “Bilderfahrzeuge” has its roots in Aby Warburg’s research on tapestries. The essay below should encompass Warburg’s main discourse on that topic.

The term “Bilderfahrzeuge”, meaning ‚image vehicle‘, refers to Aby Warburg’s research on the “afterlife of antiquity”. Warburg investigated the process of the migration of cultural elements as a material embodiment of the function of human memory. He observed how these cultural objects implement expressions that are the result of the human process of memorising, and how through perception these objects evoke a creative process in the human brain, which produces new thoughts. Warburg asked and investigated how that process was organised and which elements were the most influential in that practice of creation, and he called those elements the “pathos formula”. Weiterlesen

Adjø, Matisse! Abschiedsfeier für ein migrierendes Gemälde

Oslo Ausstellung

Es wird gemeinhin angenommen, dass ein Museum die letzte Station auf dem Wanderweg eines Kunstwerks ist; allerdings gibt es auch Fälle, in denen es zum Ausgangspunkt einer neuen Reise wird. Das kann zum einen freiwillig, durch Verkauf, geschehen, zum anderen auch unfreiwillig, durch Plünderung im Krieg oder durch Raub. Nicht selten muss ein Kunstwerk aber auch deswegen weiterziehen, weil es vor seinem Eintritt in die Sammlung ein Beutestück war. Bei der Dame in Blau vor einem Kamin (1937) von Henri Matisse war das der Fall. Als der Gründer des Henie Onstand Kunstsenters (HOK) in Oslo das Bild vor über 60 Jahren erwarb, Weiterlesen