Remembering Activism: The Cultural Memory of Protest in Europe


6 May 2020
16:00 - 17:30
Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21, Utrecht

CANCELLED: A public lecture by Professor W.J.T. Mitchell (Chicago): Metapictures: For an Atlas of Visual Culture



Metapictures: For an Atlas of Visual Culture(See W. J. T. Mitchell, “Metapictures,” in Picture Theory (Chicago 1994).)

1. The Concept of the Meta- applies to all forms of secondariness, reflection, self-reference. Metalanguage, metatheater, metapsychology. Philosophy itself is constituted by the move to meta-: abstraction, generalization, and second order thinking.
2. Metapictures renders the move to meta visible, even palpable and sensuous. In that sense, it is a precise contrary to philosophy’s retreat from images and metaphor into increasingly abstract language. It is an effort to focus on the concrete examples, the cases, and the metaphors that inexorably pull abstraction back into concreteness.
3. Metapictures provide a method for locating within an argument the key instance, the key constellation that radiates out through all abstract claims and narratives.
4. Four basic kinds of Metapictures: 1) strict self-reference (Steinberg and Escher); 2) generic self-reference: Alain’s cartoon, Las Meninas; 3) multi-stable images (Duck-Rabbit, etc); 4) Wild cards: any image can become a metapicture if inserted into a context that insists on its theoretical power and exemplarity.
5. Exhibitionary versions: the atlas, forensic evidence wall, assemblage, array, gallery installation, ceiling hang, floor scatter, and screen-based Metapicture on the Prezi platoform.
6. Pedagogical Uses: Tracking of itineraries through the Metapictures Atlas; production of new topical clouds.
7. Fractal, viral effect of a the metapictures concept. The risks of “Atlas Fever”; the rewards of imagination unbound.



W.J.T. Mitchell is distinguished professor in the Departments of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He is long-time of the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences.  He is internationally renowned for his work on the relations of visual and verbal representations in culture and iconology (the study of images across the media).  His many monographs include Metapictures: A Cloud Atlas of Images (forthcoming 2020); Image Science: Iconography, Visual Culture, and Media Aesthetics (Chicago, 2015); Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present (Chicago, 2011); What Do Pictures Want? Essays on the Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago, 2005); Picture Theory (Chicago, 1994); Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago, 1986).

The lecture is organized by ReACT and is funded by the ERC.

The lecture is open to all interested students and faculty, and will be followed by drinks.  No registration necessary.