Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source Lecture Visual Studies @ La Scuola Open Source

teachings / x — Lecture

Visual Studies

Tommaso Guariento — Researcher @ Sorbone of Paris University

Visual Studies Visual Studies Visual Studies

Category: Lecture

Level of difficulty: intermediate


  • visual studies
  • antropology
  • iconography
  • memetics

Mode: 2 cycles of 3 consecutive days each


19-05-201711.00 / 17.00

20-05-201711.00 / 17.00

21-05-201711.00 / 17.00

26-05-201711.00 / 17.00

28-05-201711.00 / 17.00

27-05-201711.00 / 17.00

Meeting duration 4 hours
for a total of 24 hours

Cost: 175 €

Output: skills

Recommended for
teens, students, researchers, professionals, retirees, immigrants, unemployed

Min. number of partecipants to start: 10

Max. number of partecipants: 30

Held by:

  • Tommaso Guariento

    Researcher / Sorbone of Paris University

    Tommaso Guariento (Padova 1985) studied contemporary philosophy at the University of Padua and at Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne. He is a PhD in European Cultural Studies at the University of Palermo. He’s carried out researches in the field of contemporary French anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales under the guidance of professor Carlo Severi. He has written various articles and collaborated on collective works in the field of visual studies, philosophy and contemporary anthropology. He writes for several online magazines, including Prismo, Effimera, L’indiscreto and Il Lavoro Culturale. His recent researches concern the relationships between ethnographic studies and philosophy, the study of contemporary mythologies through the tools cognitive and cultural anthropology, and post-working man and accelerationist political philosophy. Among his recent publications: “Macchina gnostica, macchina orfica: decostruzione e montaggio delle ideologie” (Tricontre, 2015) and “Le rovine del tempo. Catastrofi, previsione, Singolarità e Realismo Speculativo: dalla crisi dell’immaginario all’immaginario della crisi” (Lo Sguardo, 2016).

What is it about?

Visual studies is a discipline born in the 80s / 90s in Anglo-Saxon countries as a subset of Cultural studies. It is a subject that challenges the aesthetic and formalistic approach of art history to focus on the iconographic and iconological content of the analyzed works. Note that one of the best introductions to the subject (Andrea Pinotti, Antonio Somaini, “Cultura visuale : immagini, sguardi, media, dispositivi”, Torino, Einaudi, 2016) is now available in Italian. Visual studies also provide a way to analyze the imaginary field in all its forms (not just those specifically 'artistic', but also film, advertising, scientific, ethnographic, computer ones etc.). It is a method of study of the function and migration of images that is ebb adapted to an interdisciplinary design-oriented project, as the open source school.

What will we work on?

Skills in communication, philosophy, linguistics and anthropology.

How does it work?

The course will aim to develop an introduction to the overall contents of Visual Studies through a four-phases scan: Recognition (3 + 3), Migration (3 + 3), Iconoclash / Images war (3 + 3), Memetic / digital humanities (3 + 3) for a total of 24 hours .

In the first part of the lessons we’ll address the issue of the iconographic method, that is: how to break down an image into discrete units (people, objects, movements, symbols, etc.)? In this part it may be useful to refer to a manual of visual semiotics (eg. Piero. Polidoro, “Che cos’è la semiotica visiva”, Roma, Carocci, 2008), or an introduction to methodological iconography (eg. Roelof van. Straten, Introduzione all’iconografia, Roberto Cassanelli (cured by) , Milano, Jaca book, 2009). An easier introduction could also fit, as: John Berger, “Modi di vedere”, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2004. This would explain the iconographic approach to image, and how to divide a visual text into coded elements, related to an authorial project or to a significant isotopy. We could then explain how this approach – specifically born in the art history of the twentieth century, can be used to decrypt heterogeneous types of content (such as advertising, film, series, comics, meme).

The second part will start talking about the image migration. Here you will answer the question: how to move the symbolic representations (Warburg’s 'pathosformel’) into a diachronic frame? Having acquired the basics to understand that you can break down a visual text into meaningful units interconnected, in the second part we’ll try to show how these units are not static but dynamic, because they’re constantly moving in the field of history and geography. The best way to explain how to recognize the images migration is through the analogy with the detective’s abductive method (tCarlo Ginzburg, Miti, emblemi e spie. Morfologia e storia, Einaudi, 2000, but also W.J.T Mitchell, Method, Madness, Montage project). In this part of the course it might be interesting to refer to narrative / visual material taken from films or TV series (such as the tracks reconstruction method in True Detective).

In the third part we’ll analyze the hostile aspect of the iconic field. Not only images are broken down into units that can transform and change over time, but they’re also constantly facing each other in a strategic war to conquer a space of visibility. Here you can move on visual anthropology studies (Carlo Severi, Il percorso e la voce : un’antropologia della memoria, Torino, Einaudi, 2004; Serge. Gruzinski, La guerra delle immagini : da Cristoforo Colombo a Blade Runner, Milano, Sugarco, 1990) and Bruno Latour’s theme of Iconoclash (Bruno Latour, Peter Weibel (curated by), Iconoclash, Karlsruhe; London, ZKM, 2002). This step will allows us to understand that images are not archetypal unity which remain unchanged in the history of culture, but that they influence each other, they’re polarized, they hybridize, divide, etc. as an effect of social, economic and political dynamics.

In the last part we’ll be able to see how the skills learned in the first three can be applied to the interaction sphere of images in new media. Here the question is open. You can talk about memetic – in a genealogical sense - thus showing his origins in cognitive anthropology (Limor Shifman, Memes in digital culture, 2014; Dan Sperber, Il contagio delle idee : teoria naturalistica della cultura, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1999). But you can also talk about digital humanities and the use of big data and neuroscience (eg. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, Che cosa sappiamo della mente, Milano, Mondadori, 2006). A naturalistic, phylogenetic and algorithmic approach to the problem of images dissemination completely alters the possibilities and outcomes of iconographic research and visual studies methodology, while providing new tools for understanding phenomena that were completely dark until a few years ago. One might conclude with a comparison of Warburg “Images Atlas” project (http://www.engramma.it/eOS2/atlante/) and Google arts & Culture experiments (https://artsexperiments.withgoogle.com/).


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