Iconology and Visual Culture

Current disputes about the status of visual culture are not new. In fact, the tension between art history and visual culture/studies accompanied the discipline from the very beginning. Pioneers of the field like Aby Warburg for instance conceived the history of art as a cultural history of images, regardless of their form and social status. For him paintings, tapestries or frescos had the same value as stamps or posters. What unified them was their capacity to act as media or carriers of ideas and emotions. The study of the history of art was thus ultimately the study of the "survival" of ideas. At stake were/are issues of collective memory, an interest which linked Warburg with Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer. Informed by these intellectual traditions current faculty research on visual culture ranges from the history of images of African heritage to the relation between photography and trauma.