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6. Images, apparatus, places: epistemological, hermeneutical and anthropological issues

Portrait of a Woman (détail), Adolph Menzel, c. 1846 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie - Andres Kilge

Theme 6 brings researchers together, whose individual work and collective projects place the objects of study in a complex network of meanings, by crossing hermeneutical, epistemological and anthropological approaches. Articulating theory, art history and visual culture, this strongly transdisciplinary positioning is based on the use and adaptation of analytical tools, methods and knowledge from the human, social and cognitive sciences.


This approach is necessarily accompanied by a redefinition and a widening of the limits of the disciplinary field of Art history and the studied objects: alongside creations in the artistic field - such as painting, sculpture, drawing or photography -, are also integrated artifacts and visual productions too often been neglected by art history in its traditional definition such as popular imagery, scientific illustrations or educational heritage. In this perspective, works of art, images and all practices and uses of the visual do not present themselves to the researcher and are not studied solely as so many aesthetic objects, but rather as complex documents. Their rhizomatic functioning makes it necessary to network images with other, visual and textual productions. The particular mode of expression of visual forms contributes in a specific and effective way to the understanding of cultural facts, societies, spaces and times.

Simultaneously, Theme 6 gathers together a completely different section of research and projects which constitute as many self-reflective questions on the discipline of art history: on art as an object of knowledge and as a mode of awareness on one hand; on the construction and methods of the sciences of art (such as art history, anthropology of the image, aesthetics, visual culture, etc.) on the other hand. This introspective practice of art history thus offers itself as a particular and fascinating field of investigation, allowing a better understanding of the historical formation, the metamorphoses of a discipline devoted to the study of forms and visual artefacts, the intertwining or even the porosity to other expressions of thought and other fields of human sciences. They preside over and have presided over the future of art history and its actors in the production of knowledge.

Finally, a significant part of Theme 6's activities is devoted to spatial apparatus and more comprehensively to places which prove, on an epistemological and anthropological as well as an ontological level, to be situated "beyond nature and culture" (Philippe Descola), such as gardens and landscapes, and which require today a ambition  of  interdisciplinary openness towards environmental humanities, in the spirit of the ecological turning point of human and social sciences.

Research and projects within Theme 6 thus explore both theoretical and scientific frameworks, imaginaries, poetics, cognitive and epistemic values, the modes of representation and finally, our perception of images, apparatus and places

Members attached to the theme

Teachers-researchers Sorbonne Université

PAST Sorbonne Université

CNRS researchers

Emeritus professor Sorbonne Université

Honorary members

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