Cartography and art history in dialogue

Cartography and art history in dialogue. Reflections on the functions of maps in Warburgian iconology

Fifth session of the 2023-2024 CEFRES Francophone Interdisciplinary Seminar The map and the border
In 2023, we would like to start by beginning by questionning the very act of bordering and representing (a territory, a period, a trajectory), in short, thanks to the interdisciplinarity of our respective disciplines, to question the map and the border.

Location: CEFRES Library, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1
Dates: Friday, March 15th, 10 – 11.30 am
Language: French

Speaker : Lara BONNEAU, Institute of Philosophy of Czech Academy of Sciences (FLÚ – AV ČR), associate researcher at CEFRES
Discussant : Danièle COHN, Université Paris 1

Has the tendency towards ornamentation in the graphic gesture been an obstacle to the scientific development of cartography? In other words, has cartography had to liberate itself from the artistic dimension, which is too imbued with a sensitive end emotional life, to become a planimetric abstraction? These were central questions for the German art historian Aby Warburg, who saw the cartographic gesture as one of the ways of distancing oneself psychologically from the senses. By giving contours to what is presented as moving, changing, even chaotic in perceptual experience, by assigning it a place within an order (kosmos), and by presenting it in space rather than in time, mapping has a psychological function: it gives the subject points which help him to anchor himself and distance himself from reality. Nevertheless, as the demon-populated astrological natal charts demonstrate, cartography cannot totally abolish the dimensions of fear and desire of our relationship with the world and the universe. Maps have a sensitive “cosmetic” dimension, which is perhaps not directly opposed to the ambition to bring cosmic order. In order to study how these demons moved historically, providing lasting fertile ground for the iconographic tradition as much as for scientific attempts to conquer the space of thought, Aby Warburg was led to draw… maps. Maps of the migratory routes of motifs and styles, of the “formules of pathos” from Athens to Babylon, from Babylon to Southern and the Northern Europe. Drawing in particular on the recent work od Phillipe Despoix (2023), we shall try to present the function of cartography in Warburgian iconology.

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