What is Visual History Now?
The visual is not a discrete sphere of human experience and it transcends the image. The introductory lecture and our seminar will reflect and expand on these contentions to ask the following question: What do we take to be the visual and how do we best analyse it?
My work starts from the visuality of things – of items of dress and appearances – and their ever greater medialisation since the Renaissance in different parts of the world as key processes in the formation of modern identities. They were linked to the increasing production of versatile, ingeniously visible things alongside contrasting discourses about the virtues of negating visibility. Yet these objects opened a dialogue with wearers and onlookers and were integrated in constitutive cultural practices, such as religious and political rituals, professional forms of identification, or gender demarcations. Things were cultural agents suggesting thoughts and feelings.
The visuality of materials in turn is best analysed with recourse to approaches to contemporary art, which has so fore grounded matter. Iconography serves only as a limited guide to our understanding of contemporary art. We need rather to grasp the propensity of matter and changeability as well as its historical meaning. This makes an art history of the contemporary fruitful for a cultural analysis and history of things, their visibility, power as well as their potential to disturb processes of identification through their temporality of disintegration – through Zerfall. (U. R.)
Dr. Ulinka Rublack, geboren 1967 in Tübingen, lehrt Europäische Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit am St John’s College in Cambridge/GB. Zahlreiche Buchveröffentlichungen, zuletzt: “Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe” (2010), sowie als Herausgeberin “Gender in Early Modern German History” (2010) und “A Concise Companion to History” (2011).