The Archæology of Radical Pictoriality

Whitney Davis


The talk deals with the interaction between – the recursion of – depiction as a representation of imaging (natural vision and “mental imagery”) and the imaging (the natural vision and mnemic [re]visualization) of pictures. This interaction or recursion ishistorical; it takes time, it requires work, it varies in agents's experience, and it can fail. It is often overlooked by psychology, philosophy, history, or art theory that concentrate exclusively either on imaging (seeing, visualizing) or on depiction (including modes of representation, such as linear perspective, and media, such as painting), despite the fact that pictures must be imaged in a certain way in order for their pictoriality to be seen (for them even to be seen as pictures) and images must be pictured in a certain way for the information available in them to be realized, replicated, and retrieved. Particular interactions or recursions between imaging and picturing are constituted socially within historical forms of life, and can therefore be regarded as culturally variable despite biopsychological and logical-semiotic constants in image structure and pictorial representation. In historical social life, the interaction between imaging and picturing is phenomenally experienced at a particular standpoint, a physical location of embodied seeing or viewing to which the basic interaction is usually oriented intentionally. Once the context of a standpoint in a form of life has dissipated, changed, or disappeared, however, the interaction or recursion between imaging and picturing ceases to be visible in itself as human visuality. Instead it must become the object of analytic and historical reconstruction--the proper activity of “visual-cultural studies” as conducted by art historians and others. Nonetheless it can be assumed that such reconstruction is also constantly carried out in our daily intercourse with pictures: their recursions in imaging must be discovered and replicated.


20th century philosophy; epistemology; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; depiction; duck rabbit; illusion; image; image game; picturality; picture; seeing

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.