Historical Analysis of Images, or Image Analysis of History: From "Mnemosyne" and "Passagen-Werk" to Morphology of Image TANAKA Jun

Today, I will consider the morphological metamorphosis of image memory in Warburg's "Mnemosyne" and Benjamin's "Passagen-Werk" using a morphological approach myself. And I would like to explore the contributions that the morphological method used for the historical analysis of images (or historical image analysis) can make to the methodology of "art history." Aby Warburg's renowned "Mnemosyne" image atlas project is a "constellation" of images which consists of the plates of books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements and other visual documents on black panels. It is a compressed record of the survival of the classical antiquity in Europe presented only by the images of Warburg's research activities thoughout his life, beginning with his Botticelli research and extending to the expression of pathos and the image of astrology in the fine arts of the Italian Renaissance. The panel itself has been lost. What can be seen now are only the photographs taken in some stages of the process of changing the arrangement of the images. The photograph thought to be the last version tells only the state of the panels at the time work on them was interrupted by Warburg's death, and is not complete. Warburg's original interest was in the kind of anachronism with which "antiquity" was revived during the Renaissance. His analysis, which pursued the survival of antiquity in image memory, became anachronistic, disrupted linear time, and juxtaposed "what has been" with "the now." Of course, he does not disregard either the process of tradition along a time-axis or influence relations, but they are not the purpose of his investigations. All that matters is the modification of images in the process of the tradition, propagation, and reuse of those images that go back to antiquity, and the differences for each epoch and area brought about as its result. In such a context, Warburg's maxim "God dwells in details" means "God dwells in differences." The social conditions and the mental tendencies peculiar to each epoch and area that went into action with the modification of images are interpreted through those differences. Warburg found the function of "selective will of the age (der selektive Zeitwille)" in the image modification process. For his "comparative psychology," Warburg pointed to the function of European collective memory as a formative force for the emergence of styles by using the civilization of pagan antiquity as "a constant."

they cross the panels and make a structure of mutual reference. In fact. the space of image memories of "Mnemosyne" potentially spreads three-dimensionally. This is how Warburg investigated "deferred action (Nachträglichkeit)" in the memory of European cultural history through his "Mnemosyne. and a motif. Warburg's researches into the rule of historical modification of images is analogous to the psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams. The relations of images cannot be closed only within each panel.The space of the social memory in which the images are accumulated. is. so to speak. Here. In order to establish such a retroactive meaning. "Mnemosyne" was often compared with the technique of the photomontage of Dadaism and that of Russian constructivism. The figure shows that the whole Mnemosyne has a tightly knit network. It searched for "the primary phenomenon (Urphänomenon)" of the gods of ancient paganism. but was produced retroactively through the process of reusing those images." The black screen of "Mnemosyne" is a table for such synchrony. similar to the Freudian unconscious. Each image was overdeterminated by the contiguous relations on the panel. a theme. This figure that I created based on the index of Der Bilderatlas MNEMOSYNE of Warburg's Gesammelte Schriften shows the links of the panels that share a name of a person or a place. He was influenced by Goethe's study of nature. and all must be considered as synchronic signifiants. Because of this character. Mnemosyne is not a mere two-dimensional table. Warburg exhibited panels similar to Mnemosyne at a lecture meeting and exhibition in the Warburg cultural science library (Die Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg) in its elliptical hall. and the missing link . a morphological analysis of symbols originating in antiquity. Warburg's iconology. which crystallized to form “Mnemosyne”. every historical phenomenon must once be isolated from the contemporaneous context based on linear time through which its meaning is usually given. Warburg called this space of memory "the interval (Zwischenraum)" where images are connected by a network. This image atlas was a technique with heuristic value. In "Mnemosyne. Rather. He created a space surrounded by numerous images." Warburg tried to illustrate the process of metamorphosis over thousands of years experienced by ancient symbolic images. and Warburg tried to investigate the process of the retroactive semantic formation of images from various angles by continuously changing the arrangement of images. Thus. The vivid meaning of the antique images discovered in the Renaissance or the Reformation was not a pure revival of the original antique meaning. transformed and connected to each other does not know time.

"The pathos formula (Pathosformel)". 4). Benjamin said: "I pursue the origin of the forms and mutations of the Paris arcades from their beginning to their decline. but also Benjamin grasped the "prototype" of the history. For example. they become such only insofar as in their own individual development-"unfolding " might be a better term-. these facts would not be primal phenomena. His "Passagen-Werk" is also the pursuit of the "origin" in such a meaning. Warburg found out the "prototype" of Perseus in a figure of the fresco of the Schifanoia palace. but to research economical facts as morphological "primary phenomena (Ur-phenomenon). means the same "prototype." His task is not to clarify causal relationships. memorizes a "family resemblance" (Wittgenstein) to various other images through repetitive contact with them. The symbolic image of antiquity in this morphology of is a primary image corresponding precisely to Goethe's "original plant (Urpflanze)" and "prototype (Typus). it is "dialectics at a standstill. Seen from the standpoint of causality and however (and that means considered as causes). The similarity between Warburg's "Mnemosyne" and Benjamin's "Passagen-Werk" is often pointed out.and after-history" by their encounter with actuality." In his "Passagen-Werk. which corresponds to Goethe's "primary phenomenon" as visual "image (Bild). Because of this ambiguity. Every dialectically presented historical circumstance polarizes itself and becomes a force field in which the confrontation between its fore-history and after-history . so to speak. First of all." Such a "prototype" is not necessarily a historical "origin. it is important that not only Warburg who analyzed visual images." and we can follow its metamorphosis in various phenomena in European culture." Benjamin called the form of the origin as historical object a "dialectical image. both Warburg's "Mnemosyne" and Benjamin's "Passagen-Werk" use a montage of quotations as their constituting principle. and I locate this origin in the economic facts." Benjamin argues that the concept of "the origin (Ursprung)" which he used in his thesis "The Origin of the German Tragic Drama" is the Goethean concept of Ur-phenomenon "extracted from the pagan context of nature and brought into the Jewish contexts of history" (N 2a. However." Benjamin wrote that historical facts become "polarized" to "fore." It is rather an image formed of the act which. and he also found out the "prototype" of the Nymph in a female figure in an modern advertisement.between heterogeneous expressions of them." Recognizing the origin means to catch this image with its ambiguity. Warburg's original concept.they give rise to the whole series of the arcade's concrete historical forms and just as the leaf unfolds from itself all the riches of the empirical world of plants.

on the other hand. And so. The "prototype" of antiquity as the "origin" is found out retroactively through morphological "isomorphism. which made the constellation of countless images emerge on the sky of black panels? On this image atlas." It is not a ." (N 7a. Carlo Ginzburg is a very conscious historian on this problem of the methodology of history. not each image alone but the network of intricately related images. the existence of symbols shared a priori as collective memory and remain same universally and eternally is difficult to prove. What would he have found in "Mnemosyne"." and its after-history was an advertisement of a travel company. Warburg too might have lapsed into this trap. However. As he argued: "And thus the historical evidence polarizes into fore-and after-history always anew and never in the same way.is played out. forms the dialectical image as a constellation in the sky. The image in which the fore-history and the after-history are represented is the site of "confrontation" in which many historical powers encounter each other. His work Storia notturna investigates the possibility of the morphological method in historical study. the fore-history of Baudelaire's poetry was the 18th century allegory. When the problem of the survival of antiquity was related to the social or collective memory of Europe. in the comparative study for an extensive diachrony. we can say that Warburg tried morphologically to catch the Benjaminean "origin" in ancient symbolic images as a "prototype" which dwells in the visual culture of Europe. not vice versa". In Benjamin's dialectical image. However. Warburg does not take the simplified positivistic view that the spread of influence of antiquity can be based only on the process of propagation with historical evidences. "isomorphism establishes identity. 1) To grasp history in this way is to be attentive to anachronistic "deferred action (Nachträglichkeit)" that smashes the continuity of the historical time of propagation and tradition. this method risks lapsing into non-historical speculation.and after-history”. For Benjamin. which make each other its “fore. what has been and what is now come together in a flash to form a constellation. Benjamin pursued the perceptibility or graphicness (Anschaulichkeit) of historical description in "Passagen-Werk". So Benjamin strove to distinguish the dialectical image as the "origin" clearly from Jungian archetypes. the fore-history of Ghirlandajo's Nymph was ancient "Victoria. (N 2a. As Ginzburg points out. 3) The dialectical images are produced from their arrangement of the plural powers at tension. For Warburg. and its after-history was Jugendstil at the end of the 19th century.

morphology was the way to discover resemblances between many phenomena in different epochs. In Warburg's "Mnemosyne" and Benjamin's "Passagen-Werk. and had a large influence on research methods and on the appearance of art history books." In his essay. and to observe the metamorphosis of the "prototype" in the modifications. In this context. but through the modification of metaphorical replacements of the forms of symbols themselves. "Mnemosyne" and "Passagen-Werk" are more than a "history of works of art" or "history of a city. Benjamin discussed this change in his essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. "Mnemosyne" itself was a laboratory for the metamorphosis of images by duplication technology. For Warburg. With their enlargement of parts of pictures. Furthermore. and the work of Japanese Rimpa and KITAGAWA Utamaro. In other words. are connected by their resemblance in the forms of details. which enables the reduction of images and the expansion of details. figures influenced similarities between Botticelli's details. for example." the most important thing is neither the real work of art nor the urban space of actual Paris. The unconscious creates the isomorphic phenomenon of images not through universal and eternal symbols. Japanese art historian Yukio Yashiro's book "Sandro Botticelli” is also important. Benjamin analyzes the modification of the images of the work of art by modern media such as photography and cinema. "Mnemosyne" was premised on photographic technology. which is inherited hereditarily. Warburg's "selection" by "the will of the age" is exactly such an unconscious process of transfer and modification. his decorative flowers.fundamental symbol (archetype) in the unconscious. and Warburg himself also edited images by framing and layout. As we all know. If Yashiro's book had contained not only the figures of . Warburg too was taking notice of the role of such media as movable tapestries in the Italian Renaissance and the social function of reproducible prints in the Reformation." The background of this move from art history based on the work of art to such a "morphology of images" in the 1920s and the 30s was changes in the media environment surrounding the works of art. The works. we can discover a resemblance between these pictures of the Renaissance and the lacquer work of OGATA Korin through the enlargement of the iris drawn on the right corner of Botticelli's “Spring (Primavera)”. This research published in English in 1925 attracted attention because it used partial photographs of Botticelli's works in large quantities. It is rather the metamorphosis of their images. For example." they are "morphologies of images. which do not originally have a direct influence relation.

still photographs. Godard told the "history of the cinema" on the one hand. predella) -. It is the method focusing on the "perceptibility or graphicness (Anschaulichkeit)" which Benjamin demanded of historical description. What made it possible was video technology. Because this method is developed in an interval in which thinking by images and scientific thinking by signs are interwoven. and references. What kind of methodological contribution can the morphology of images make to art history? As for Goethe. ." In this movie.Yashiro wrote about a similar tendency between them --. the study of nature and art were deeply related each other. characters and the audio-information of narration and music are connected and compressed by montage containing many gaps in a very short interval. he tried to constitute a "cinema of the history. but on the other hand. and if. thus the morphology of images weaves a new relation between "art" and "history." The purpose of the morphology of images is to create a space where the scientific analysis of history and knowledge through art meet and unite. the visual information such as classical films and films by Godard himself. The technology to transform visual images also changes our knowledge about those images. cinematic art has gained a new relation with the knowledge about history of 20th century. Through many quotations of images. but also were able to discover details for the first time by turning their own camera eyes to works of art.Botticelli's works but also those of Korin and Utamaro. Furthermore. Warburg named his method "iconology of interval (Zwischenraum)". Jean-Luc Godard's "History of Cinema (Histoire(s) du cinema)" can be interpreted as an example of such a method. which can be appreciated along a linear time-axis. for example. Neither Yashiro's work on Botticelli nor Warburg's "Mnemosyne" could have been realized without photographic media." and "Histoire(s) du cinema" is itself a form of thinking. chapters. it might have become the forerunner of Warburg's "Mnemosyne". The montage in "Mnemosyne. For example." "Passagen-Werk. In the work. Thanks to photographic framing. pictures. and could not be divided easily. he had arranged Red Fudo of Koyasan beside Botticelli's “Death of Saint Ignatius” (San Barnaba altarpiece. while "Histoire(s) du cinema" is a movie. They not only needed the photograph as a technical condition. its DVD has become an archive of images with the index. Can it serve as a new method of history? "The morphology of images" by "thinking through montage" must become a heuristic chance to reexamine the methodology of art history and to connect art history with the new technologies. certain details retroactively turned into cryptograms or symptoms in which God (or a Demon) dwells.

the new form of isomorphism seems to have appeared from the rapid stream of images flowing by information technology globally and instantaneously in an overwhelming scale. Hans Belting's "Image-Anthropology (Bild-Anthropologie)" is a similar approach (but in a more moderate way). it will constitute an “art of the history” like Godard's “cinema of the history. through the analysis of the concept of "survival" of images in Warburg's thoughts.” . For example. There. he seeks the possibility of anthropological history of images (not works of art). we need not only historical narrative but also a morphological method that works with new technologies of image processing. This anthropological approach can and should be applied not only to the prehistoric age. Didi-Huberman and Belting are trying to find in this complex intermingling a kind of "after-history" of art history in the Benjaminean sense. in this age." This also means the "intermingling" of history and anthropology. Ginzburg argues that the constant re-elaborations to myths and rituals illustrate the "intermingling of history and morphology. which the discipline of art history needs as presupposition. Even if this science may be not an art history in the traditional sense any longer. In order to grasp the meaning of this isomorphism. Didi-Huberman criticizes Panofskian iconology and deconstructs the concept of time. but also rather to the present age.As a similar attempt in the methodological reconsideration of art history. we can refer to the studies of Georges Didi-Huberman. About the isomorphic phenomena in myths and rituals. Because.