Reconstruction of Image Studies


“What is an image?” Although countless answers have been and will continue to be proposed, today this time-honored question seems to demand a radical rethinking as we enter an age in which an ever-expanding array of new technologies ceaselessly alters and complicates the conditions of our visual experience. The University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy’s (UTCP) new program, “Reconstruction of Image Studies,” seeks to meet this challenge by reframing the problem from a broader—aesthetic, philosophical as well as anthropological—perspective, in tandem with the preexisting UTCP programs. Art history, with its well-established techniques of visual analysis, will remain our basis. Our ultimate aim, however, is to go beyond the traditional confinements of that discipline, by deconstructing and reconfiguring it into a fresh methodology; to open up new field of inquiry without relinquishing rich possibilities art history still offers us. To this goal, four avenues of investigation, centered on (but not limited to) pictorial images, will be proposed. The first, “Meta-Images,” takes up images with a self-referential function, such as mirrors depicted in a painting, pictures-within-pictures, and artists’ self-portraits or portraits of other artists. The second, “The Parergon,” addresses the role and modality of those constituents in a picture which are generally considered as auxiliary, for example signature, frame, and seemingly insignificant details. The third, “Genetic Analysis,” unpacks the multivalence and ambiguity of pictorial images, taking into account the complex process of its making and reception. The fourth, “Image and Writing,” looks at varied relationships between pictures and words by examining such instances as art criticism or letters incorporated in a painting. Liberating images from the constriction of conventional art history, throwing a new light on their meaning and function, and in doing so developing a close collaboration with scholars, both domestic and international, who share our interest—such is the goal of this program. Our hope is to establish a forum in which education and research link seamlessly with one another, generating a flow of creative discussions on art and many other forms of our contemporary visuality.
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