Georges Didi-Huberman

Georges Didi-Huberman, a philosopher and art historian based in Paris, teaches at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Recipient of the 2015 Adorno Prize, he is the author of more than fifty books on the history and theory of images, including Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrière (MIT Press), Bark (MIT Press), Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, and The Surviving Image: Phantoms of Time and Time of Phantoms: Aby Warburg's History of Art.

  • The Eye of History

    The Eye of History

    When Images Take Positions

    Georges Didi-Huberman

    An exploration of the interaction of aesthetics and politics in Bertolt Brecht's “photoepigrams.”

    From 1938 to 1955, Bertolt Brecht created montages of images and text, filling his working journal (Arbeitsjournal) and his idiosyncratic atlas of images, War Primer, with war photographs clipped from magazines and adding his own epigrammatic commentary. In this book, Georges Didi-Huberman explores the interaction of politics and aesthetics in these creations, explaining how they became the means for Brecht, a wandering poet in exile, to “take a position” about the Nazi war in Europe. Illustrated with pages from the Arbeitsjournal and War Primer and contextual images including Raoul Hausmann's poem-posters and Walter Benjamin's drawings, The Eye of History offers a new view of important but little-known works by Brecht.

    Didi-Huberman shows that Brecht took positions without taking sides; he used these montages to challenge the viewpoints of the press and propose other readings, to offer a stylistic and political response to the inescapable visibility of historical events enabled by the photographic medium. Brecht's montages disrupt and scrutinize this visibility by juxtaposing representations of war found in magazines with his own epigrams—a “documentary lyricism” that dismounts and remounts modern history. The montages created meaningful disorder, exposing the truth by disorganizing—a process Didi-Huberman calls a “dialectic of the monteur.” These works are examples of “the eyes of history”—when seeing may simultaneously deepen and critique historical knowledge. The montages Didi-Huberman argues, are Brecht's most Benjaminian works.

    • Hardcover $34.95 £27.00
  • Bark

    Bark

    Georges Didi-Huberman

    A noted French thinker's poignant reflections, in words and photographs, on his visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

    On a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Georges Didi-Huberman tears three pieces of bark from birch trees on the edge of the site. Looking at these pieces after his return home, he sees them as letters, a flood, a path, time, memory, flesh. The bark serves as a springboard to Didi-Huberman's meditations on his visit, recorded in this spare, poetic, and powerful book. Bark is a personal account, drawing not on the theoretical apparatus of scholarship but on Didi-Huberman's own history, memory, and knowledge.

    The text proceeds as a series of reflections, accompanied by Didi-Huberman's photographs of the visit. The photographs are not meant to be art—Didi-Huberman confesses that he “photographed practically everything without looking”—but approach it nevertheless. Didi-Huberman tells us that his grandparents died at Auschwitz, but his account is more universal than biographical. As he walks from place to place, he observes that in German birches are birken; Birkenau designates the meadow where the birches grow. Didi-Huberman sees and photographs the “reconstructed” execution wall; the floors of the crematorium, forgotten witnesses to killing; and the birch trees, lovely but also resembling prison bars. Taking his own photographs, he thinks of the famous photographs taken in 1944 by a member of the Sonderkommando, the only photographic documentation of the camp before the Germans destroyed it, hoping to hide the evidence of their crimes. Didi-Huberman notices a “bizarre proliferation of white flowers on the exact spot of the cremation pits.” The dead are not departed.

    • Hardcover $16.95 £13.99
  • Invention of Hysteria

    Invention of Hysteria

    Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrière

    Georges Didi-Huberman

    The first English-language publication of a classic French book on the relationship between the development of photography and of the medical category of hysteria.

    In this classic of French cultural studies, Georges Didi-Huberman traces the intimate and reciprocal relationship between the disciplines of psychiatry and photography in the late nineteenth century. Focusing on the immense photographic output of the Salpetriere hospital, the notorious Parisian asylum for insane and incurable women, Didi-Huberman shows the crucial role played by photography in the invention of the category of hysteria. Under the direction of the medical teacher and clinician Jean-Martin Charcot, the inmates of Salpetriere identified as hysterics were methodically photographed, providing skeptical colleagues with visual proof of hysteria's specific form. These images, many of which appear in this book, provided the materials for the multivolume album Iconographie photographique de la Salpetriere.

    As Didi-Huberman shows, these photographs were far from simply objective documentation. The subjects were required to portray their hysterical "type"—they performed their own hysteria. Bribed by the special status they enjoyed in the purgatory of experimentation and threatened with transfer back to the inferno of the incurables, the women patiently posed for the photographs and submitted to presentations of hysterical attacks before the crowds that gathered for Charcot's "Tuesday Lectures."

    Charcot did not stop at voyeuristic observation. Through techniques such as hypnosis, electroshock therapy, and genital manipulation, he instigated the hysterical symptoms in his patients, eventually giving rise to hatred and resistance on their part. Didi-Huberman follows this path from complicity to antipathy in one of Charcot's favorite "cases," that of Augustine, whose image crops up again and again in the Iconographie. Augustine's virtuosic performance of hysteria ultimately became one of self-sacrifice, seen in pictures of ecstasy, crucifixion, and silent cries.

    • Hardcover $43.00 £29.95
    • Paperback $33.95 £27.00

Contributor

  • Appropriation

    Appropriation

    David Evans

    Important documents and appraisals of appropriation art from Duchamp's readymades to feminist and postcolonial critique.

    Scavenging, replicating, or remixing, many influential artists today reinvent a legacy of “stealing” images and forms from other makers. Among the diverse, often contestatory strategies included under the heading “appropriation” are the readymade, détournement, pastiche, rephotography, recombination, simulation and parody. Although appropropriation is often associated with the 1980s practice of such artists as Peter Halley, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Cindy Sherman, as well as the critical discourse of postmodernism and the simulacral theory of Jean Baudrillard, appropriation's significance for art is not limited by that cultural and political moment. In an expanded art-historical frame, this book recontextualizes avant-garde photomontage, the Duchampian readymade, and the Pop image among such alternative precursors as Francis Picabia, Bertolt Brecht, Guy Debord, Akasegawa Genpei, Dan Graham, Cildo Meireles, and Martha Rosler. In the recent work of many artists, including Mike Kelley, Glenn Ligon, Pierre Huyghe, and Aleksandra Mir, among others, appropriation is central to their critique of the contemporary world and vision for alternative futures

    Artists surveyed include Akasegawa Genpei, Santiago Álvarez, Art Workers Coalition, Ross Bleckner, Marcel Broodthaers, Victor Burgin, Maurizio Cattelan, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Douglas Gordon, Johan Grimonprez, Peter Halley, Hank Herron, Pierre Huyghe, Mike Kelley, Idris Khan, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Glenn Ligon, Steve McQueen, Alexandra Mir, Keith Piper, Richard Prince, Jorma Puranen, Cindy Sherman, John Stezaker, Retort, Martha Rosler, Philip Taaffe.

    Writers include Malek Alloula, Jean Baudrillard, Walter Benjamin, Nicolas Bourriaud, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Johanna Burton, Douglas Crimp, Thomas Crow, Guy Debord, Georges Didi-Huberman, Marcel Duchamp, Okwui Enwezor, Jean-Luc Godard, Isabelle Graw, Boris Groys, Raoul Hausmann, Sven Lütticken, Cildo Meireles, Kobena Mercer, Slobodan Mijuskovic, Laura Mulvey, Jo Spence, Elisabeth Sussman, Lisa Tickner, Reiko Tomii, Andy Warhol.

    • Paperback $24.95 £16.95
  • Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion

    Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion

    Philippe-Alain Michaud

    The purposeful discontinuities and juxtapositions of Aby Warburg's iconography and how they can be used to analyze other imagery.

    Aby Warburg (1866-1929) is best known as the originator of the discipline of iconology and as the founder of the institute that bears his name. His followers included such celebrated art historians of the twentieth century as Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, and Fritz Saxl. But his heirs developed, for the most part, a domesticated iconology based on the interpretation of symbolic material. As Phillippe-Alain Michaud shows in this important book, Warburg's own project was remote from any positivist or neo-Kantian ambitions. Nourished on the work of Nietzsche and Burckhardt, Warburg fashioned a "critical iconology" to reveal the irrationality of the image in Western culture. Opposing the grand teleological narratives of art inaugurated by Vasari, Warburg's method operated through historical anachronisms and discontinuities. Using "montage-collision" to create textless collections of images, he brought together pagan artifacts and masterpieces of Florentine Renaissance art, ancient Near East astrology and the Lutheran Reformation, Mannerist festivals and the sacred dances of Native Americans. Michaud insists that for Warburg, the practice of art history was the discovery within the art work itself of fracture, contradictions, tensions, and the energies of magic, empathy, totemism, and animism. Challenging normative accounts of Western European classicism, Warburg located the real sources of the Renaissance in the Dionysian spirit, in the expression of movement and dance, in the experience of trance personified in the frenzied nymph or ecstatic maenad.

    Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion is not only a book about Warburg but a book written with him; Michaud uses Warburg's intuitions and discoveries to analyze other categories of imagery, including the daguerreotype, the chronophotography of Etienne-Jules Marey, early cinema, and the dances of Loie Fuller. It will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the origins of modern art history and the visual culture of modernity.

    • Hardcover $26.95 £21.00
    • Paperback $26.95 £21.00