Maps and cartography as objects of research
The project is concerned with the role of the visual in scientific practices of 19th- century classical archaeology. As an object-based science, archaeology had an inexorable need to produce and refer to reproductions to facilitate comparative research, since the objects of archaeological inquiry were dispersed all over the world in different places, museums, and institutions and often could not be carried to archaeologists home institutions. Moreover, archaeologists had to retrieve their objects from the ground.
Archaeologists and architects transformed in situ objects through complex processes of visualization into objects of scientific archaeology. In this project, I recover precisely these multi-level steps that enabled researchers to move these finds across different media and ultimately, from the ground onto the desk.
By the mid-19th century, different instruments of replication and reproduction were being tested and improved; photographs, drawings, prints, and plaster casts were used side-by-side. The fact that different techniques were tried and became available at the same time, had direct and indirect consequences for the formation of knowledge in the archaeological discipline. In my project, I show how different representational techniques conveyed specific aspects of the object under consideration and construction; line drawings were often used to evoke common iconographic references, while photographs were relied upon to offer exact and “naturalistic” representations of surface features and particularities. In this way, different media and modes of staging and representing were deployed to create rich and inter-connected associations between objects and audiences.
The main questions which are addressed in the project are: what scientific practices are relevant to a history of visualization in archaeology and how did the transformation of objects into images take place in the different stages of archaeological practice: from the excavation to the published results, to the collection and classification of material objects in books and museums, and to the broader reception in popular books, exhibitions, and journals. The archaeologists’ working processes involving images are analyzed on the basis of the prominent mid-19th century German excavations, Olympia and Pergamon. In this context I examine the communication between scholars, draftsmen and photographers, in order to differentiate and explain the different contexts of pictures in the scientific field of archaeology.
The relationship between drawing and photography is of special importance for understanding the role of images in archaeology. Although photography was applied soon after its invention for archaeological purposes, drawings would remain in use as one of the main working instruments. The project analyzes the specific styles of drawings, including archaeological and architectural approaches and shows that the architectural way of drawing was highly dependent on the professional training of the architects in copying ancient architecture and its orders. These classical models were considered canonical in their education. In the second half of the 19th century more and more architects became interested in the history of concrete pieces of architecture and their development, which in turn changed their drawing conventions. Thus, over the course of my study, I trace how architects shifted attention from representing ideal types to focusing and rendering specific objects
Taking Rome as an example, the workshop will survey the different modes of the perception and organizing of the urban space in written and visual sources during the 15th and 16th century. In particular we will put the focus on texts in which the perspective of a person wandering through the city is adopted, as well as on cartographic views, in order to discuss their (possible) reciprocal interdependencies.
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The Platonic dialogues allow for different constellations and possibilities for examining the forms of interaction between imaginations of space and non-spatial concepts. In the literary-mythological context of space and spaces, the boundaries which demarcate reality can be extended even into the realm of the fantastic; this is achieved through the medium of pictorial imagination. The fantastic and mythical spaces and places can later have an effect on the perception of real spaces and on the sensible-perceptible cosmos. In philosophical theories and contexts, spatial elements and pictorial images can be used to convey more easily states of affairs or entities which are non-pictorial, like the human soul and its immortality, or even purely intelligible and conceptual principles and ideas. In all of these cases, there is a substantial interaction between an imagined spatial ordering of something that exceeds the dimensions of the perceptible and imagination based on the spatial order of sense perception and socio-political reality. The project analyzes the multi-faceted complexity of these reciprocal relationships in myths, psychology, cosmology as well as the natural sciences in general. As Plato’s dialogues are the starting and focal point of the individual analysis, we also pose the question how the spatial dimension in the scene of the dialogue interacts with philosophical positions posed in the dialogue and the content of individual discussions. On account of this, the project takes a variety of different approaches and perspectives and combines various methods. In addition to the philological methods of close-reading and source criticism, there are genuine philosophical concerns in the Platonic dialogues and questions dealing with the social context which forms an important framework for the dialogues and their reception. Plato’s dialogues do not just portray the relationship between spatial imagery and non-spatial conceptual thought using the means of philosophical argumentation and myth but reflect on these categories as well. In using Plato as a starting point to reflect on how these categories are conceived in his philosophy, we will also have to examine these conceptions and clarify how they explicitly function in his predecessors’ and successors’ philosophies, which will also shed more light on Plato himself.
The group’s research has focused on the following:
- A comparison and synthesis of different methodological approaches to the specific type of imagination and spatiality in Platonic myths and a scholarly exchange on various topics and selected ideas which the individual projects focus on, i.e. the argumentative structure of the dialogues; theories of the skopos; the concept of literature presupposed in the dialogues; the ordering of information in the dialogues and myths; narratology.
- An exchange on the different technological possibilities and methods for interpreting the relevant texts and composing a corpus of supplementary texts and passages.
- Platonic myths in the context of other Early Greek and Classical texts, e.g. cosmological models of the Presocratics, Herodotus’ Histories.
- Situating and discussing the concept of imagination and visual representation in Platonic myths and its relationship to conceptual, non-visual content within the parameters of modern discourses on the image, otherwise known as the iconic turn. This discussion takes place in a systematic, historical and historically affected context. For the success of the project it is essential that the research group not only take into account different approaches and methods unique to classical philology, but also conduct this discussion in the context of present-day literary and philosophical debates on account of the general nature of the question, i.e. what is the specific nature of the way Platonic myths spatialize and visualize conceptual, non-visual elements and what is its relationship to “literature”. The collaborative efforts of the group as a whole and the individual projects have been coordinated with this goal in mind.