The reflection on images is a crossing point of many different theoretical fields and disciplines: art, aesthetics, symbolism, iconology, psychology, sociology and religion. This ample range of disciplines might be a trace of the complexity and vitality of the notion of image itself. It is not surprising that in the centuries different interpretative tools and different attitudes towards images have been developed, sometimes there have been even clashes between an iconoclastic and a philo-iconic attitude. Needless to say, in the contemporary age the media – with their powerful use and sometimes even abuse of images – challenge the thinking on this ground, calling the attention once again on the status of images.

Generally speaking, the problematic nature of images may be summarized as follows: on the one hand, an image appears eminently self-explanatory, its meaning immediately understandable beyond any linguistic content (it is not by chance that images were used as didactic and educational tools on the walls of Christian churches, or that they are the focus of contemporary political propaganda and marketing). On the other hand, however, an image manifests something which is not there, as it is implied in a cultural, theoretical and/or political context which has to be recalled and referred to in order to fully understand the image itself. In this sense, the meaning of an image is actually the invisible behind it, which has to be investigated, explained and brought to light, in order to fully catch it. Also, the image can lay claims to a unique mode of signification: to capture what is otherwise ineffable, either intrinsically or temporarily. Finally, an image can be evoked through a linguistic expression (metaphors, allegories, visualization practices), thus becoming evidently and intrinsically linked to the linguistic context itself, but even integrating – or overcoming – it.

Thus, an image cannot be fully understood at a first glance, or just on the basis of its appearance: it needs a careful and long reflection, aiming at grasping the meaning lying in the image and beyond it, at the same time.

In English

Kinga Araya
Mimma Congedo
Irene Cusmà
Antke Engel
Sara Fortuna
Marcello Ghilardi
Manuele Gragnolati
Markus Ophälders
Cinzia Pieruccini
James Adam Redfield
Paola Maria Rossi

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An ICI Event organized by Mimma Congedo

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