Philipp Ekardt


Dr. Philipp Ekardt
Scientific Collaborator
The Warburg Institute
University of London
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB
Tel. +44 (0) 20 7862 8746


Philipp Ekardt studied Comparative Literature and Art History in Berlin, Paris and at Yale University where he received his PhD with a dissertation on Walter Benjamin’s image theory and Alexander Kluge’s image practice. Before taking up his current post in London he worked as a research associate at the Freie Universität Berlin and was editor-in-chief of the journal Texte zur Kunst. His first monograph Toward Fewer Images. The Work of Alexander Kluge is forthcoming with MIT Press, and he is currently completing his second monograph, to appear with Bloomsbury, tentatively titled Fashion Forward Benjamin, which analyses the writings of Walter Benjamin in relation to fashion. (For summaries of both books please see below.)

In his Bilderfahrzeuge-project, Ekardt looks at theories of image circulation in Germany around 1800, focusing in particular on Goethe’s novel The Elective Affinities and attendant visual and textual manifestations. The project accounts for a transformation of what constitutes images and their circulation, in which an earlier model of a single body and its replications – the model of the statue – is replaced by a mode in which images enter temporary stages of embodiment in material arrangements to travel onward, in which the category of contour comes to signify a strangely formal, yet also concrete manifestation that safeguards memorability and transmission beyond material permanence (as in Lady Hamilton’s attitudes, for instance), and in which the tableau vivant emerges as an aesthetic model that needs to be thought no longer under the premises of a gestural paradigm, but, rather, through an investigation of its compositional aspects. Its stillness is the condition on which the circulatory traffic of goods, images, and texts is made visible. The historical moment under investigation can be seen as anticipating our own digital present.

Ekardt has also published and lectured extensively on the works of Aby Warburg, in particular on Warburg’s theory of affective and kinetic movement, emotions, and gesture, and he is an expert in contemporary art and fashion, where one of his central concerns lies in what could be called ‘style politics’, i.e. engagements with styles, subcultures, looks and other phenomena that mark an outside to the institutionalized dealings of the art and fashion industries. His writing has appeared in publications such as OCTOBER; Texte zur Kunst; Poetica; Benjamin-Studien; Culture, Theory, and Critique; the Alexander Kluge-Jahrbuch; Ilinx; and Frieze; and he has lectured internationally at universities such as Cambridge, the Courtauld Institute, EIKONES Universität Basel, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Lausanne, Leiden, Princeton, Oxford, University College London, and the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin, at art schools such as Central Saint Martins, the Royal Academy Schools, the Universität der Künste Berlin, Umea Art Academy, and at cultural institutions such as Museumsquartier Vienna and the Staatsoper Munich. He has contributed essays to catalogs for art institutions such as Tate St. Ives, Museum Ludwig Cologne, Mumok Vienna, and MMK Frankfurt/Main.

Ekardt’s first book, Toward Fewer Images. The Work of Alexander Kluge (forthcoming with MIT Press) investigates Kluge’s production as a filmmaker, author, television producer, digital entrepreneur and public intellectual across various media. The book delineates Kluge’s image theory and montage practice which rest on the category of discernment between its constituents, emerging partly in an engagement with the history of film, while recently being rearticulated under digital conditions in the figure of the constellation; it reconstructs Kluge’s definition of feeling as discernment that leads to alternative deployments of a politics of affect and the poetics of the close up; it charts the meeting of media-archaeological concerns with a commitment to heterochronicity; and it profiles a model of artistic production and authorship that is based on redifferentiation, rather than sequential addition, to match a diagnosis of capitalism as based on a principle of permanent accumulation, which Kluge proposes in his joint work with Marxist philosopher Oskar Negt. Developing the concept of what Kluge calls ‘still images’ the book also contains studies of the works of Caspar David Friedrich and Gerhard Richter.

Fashion Forward Benjamin (to appear with Bloomsbury) analyses the writings of Walter Benjamin in relation to fashion, focusing on a number of questions including fashion as a chronotechnics that allows, among other things, for a temporal differentiation of theories of society and philosophy of history along what Benjamin calls “differentials of time”; Benjamin’s engagement with morphology by way of accounting for line and silhouette in fashionable cuts, which – in contrast to other morphological strands of thought – incorporates discontinuity; a reconsideration of a politics of sex; an investigation of Benjamin’s fragmentary theory of material that pits the model of elegance and textile animation against an aesthetic of deadness and obtuseness; and the parallels that align Benjamin’s model of the dialectical image structurally with fashion’s temporal recursions, as well as the overall historico-temporal thrust of the Arcades Project as a working-through of the 19th century concretely with the returns of 1930s Paris couture to the Belle Epoque. Attending to a number of theoretical arguments, this study also reconstructs concrete implications with the writing, criticism, visual mediation and practice of fashion, from writers and artists such as Helen Grund to the Surrealists, from photographers such as Wols to couturiers such as Schiaparelli and Patou.


  • Gesten vor Gericht. Gefühl und Unterscheidung in Alexander Kluges “Die Macht der Gefühle”. In: Alexander Kluge-Jahrbuch 4 (2017).
  • Certain Wonderful Gestures. Warburg, Lessing, and the Transitory in Images. In: Culture, Theory, and Critique. Vol. 57. No. 2 (2016.)
  • Material und Eleganz. Über einige modetheoretische Gegensätze bei Walter Benjamin und Helen Grund. In: Barbara Vinken (Ed.): Blumen der Mode. Stuttgart (Klett-Cotta) 2016.
  • Jungle Jap in St Johann (and Chanel in Salzburg). Fashion Fates of the Austrian Loden Jacket. In. Hawser/Hofer. Eds. Barbara Rüdiger, Karola Kraus. Vienna, Cologne (Mumok/Walther König) 2016.
  • Fiorucci Made Me Normcore. Five Observations on Art, Style and Scenes Today. In: Texte zur Kunst 96 (March 2015).
  • In Defense of Styling. (Notes on the Difference beween Art and Fashion-Images and the Work of Bernadette Corporation). In: Texte zur Kunst 95 (September 2014).
  • Starry Skies and Frozen Lakes. Alexander Kluge’s Digital Constellations. In: OCTOBER 138 (Fall 2011).
  • Returns of the Archaic, Reserves for the Future. A Conversation with Alexander Kluge. In: OCTOBER 138 (Fall 2011).
  • Die Bestimmung der Aufnahme. Licht und Graphie bei Walter Benjamin. In: Benjamin-Studien 2. Hrsg. Daniel Weidner, Sigrid Weigel. München (Fink) 2011.
  • Sensing – Feeling – Imitating. Psycho-Mimeses in Aby Warburg. In: Ilinx. Berliner Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft. 2. Mimesen. Hamburg (Philo Fine Arts) 2011.
  • Passage als Modell. Zu Walter Benjamins Architekturtheorie. In: Poetica 37. No 3/4. (2005).
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