06.05.2010 · 22.00 Uhr

Idolatry: Nietzsche, Blake, Poussin

Ort: KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Auguststr. 69, 10117 Berlin
Organisiert von W. J. T. Mitchell

This lecture aims at a diagnosis of the return of idolatry and its "evil twin," iconoclasm, in contemporary global political culture, and especially in the contemporary tendency to conceive of war in religious, Manichean terms, as a struggle between Good and Evil. Working through the transvaluations of the idolatry/iconoclasm complex in the philosophy of Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols and Thus Spake Zarathustra) and the paintings of William Blake, the lecture stages a re-reading of Nicholas Poussin’s classic "scenes of idolatry" in The Adoration of the Golden Calf and The Plague at Ashdod. This reading is designed to overturn the canonical view of Poussin as a conventional moralizer whose pictures endorse the brutal iconoclasm mandated by the Second Commandment, and reveal him (as in Blake’s description of John Milton) as "a true poet, and of the devil’s party." The lecture concludes with a return to contemporary scenarios of ethnic cleansing in the war for possession of the "holy land" of Israel-Palestine.

W. J. T. Mitchell

Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He is editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. A scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature, Mitchell is associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). He is known especially for his work on the relations of visual and verbal representations in the context of social and political issues. Under his editorship, Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Morey Prize in art history given by the College Art Association of America. In 2003, he received the University of Chicago's prestigious Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. Since 2008 W.J.T. Mitchell is one of the Honorary Members of the ZfL.

Selected Publications

  • The late Derrida (Ed., Critical Inquiry 33:2 2007)
  • What Do Pictures Want? Essays on the Lives and Loves of Images (Chicago 2005)
  • The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon (Chicago 1998)
  • Picture Theory (Chicago 1994)


Bilderdienst und Bildzerstörung

WJT Mitchells Inaugurationsvortrag als Honorary Member des ZfL. Blogeintrag von Torsten Flüh, in: nightoutatberlin.jaxblog.de vom 8.5.2010