Claudia Wedepohl will be coming to speak in the Book Arts Seminar Series, Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 on: “Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas’: the Story of an Unfinished Project.”

Dr. Wedepohl is currently Archivist at The Warburg Institute in London, a position she has held since 2006. She received her Ph.D from the University of Hamburg in Art History in 2005 She is the author of In den glänzenden Reichen des ewigen Himmels: Cappella del Perdono und Tempietto delle Muse im Herzogspalast von Urbino ( München: Scaneg, 2009) and editor, with Davide Stimilli, of Warburg’s “Per Monstra ad Sphaeram:” Sternglaube und Bilddeutung: Vortrag in Gedenken an Franz Boll und andere Schriften 1923 bis 1925 (Munich and Hamburg, 2008).

She is the author of many articles on Warburg including, most recently, “Wort und Bild: Aby Warburg als Sprachbildner,“ in Peter Kofler (Ed.): Ekstatische Kunst - Besonnenes Wort. “Aby M. Warburg und die Denkraeume der Besonnenheit, and Agitationsmittel für die Bearbeitung der Ungelehrten: „Warburgs Reformationsstudien zwischen Kriegsbeobachtung, historisch-kritischer Forschung und Verfolgungswahn,“ in: Gottfried Korff (Ed.), Kasten 117. “Aby Warburg und der Aberglaube im Ersten Weltkrieg.”

In this seminar Dr. Wedepohl will analyse three aspects of Aby Warburg’s much discussed Mnemosyne project, which was conceived in 1924, and left unfinished when the art and cultural historian died on 26 October 1929: its ideological origin, its genesis, and its aims. The picture-atlas – Warburg’s opus magnum – has often been misunderstood as a purely ‘visual’ product: as self-explaining constellations of images, arranged in an almost artistic fashion. Yet, the well-known picture-boards owe their design to the preliminary status of the project, and Warburg was determined to publish a substantial commentary. Of the envisaged accompanying texts only a drafted introduction to the atlas has come down to us. Other explanations and statements can be gleaned from dispersed records, in which Warburg addresses certain aspects of the project or formulates his notions about the psychology of human perception (in Warburg’s terms “orientation”) and expression in general. Among the sources for interpreting the picture-atlas are hundreds of folio sheets with notes: keywords or highly condensed aphorisms in Warburg’s characteristic, idiosyncratic shorthand. She shall use these mostly unpublished writings in order to shed some light on the little-researched period of conceiving the atlas, intended as both a summary of the scholar’s work, and a theoretical base for the earlier case studies. Additionally, the picture-atlas as a didactic medium in its own right, common as an instructional aid around 1900, will be discussed. Finally a case study will demonstrate how Warburg developed his ideas and how he used reproductions of artefacts to highlight his line of thought, which aimed at nothing less than a new cultural theory.