– Spring 2009

Knowing This...

Monika Szewczyk

Tags: documenta 12

MS: I wanted to talk about two projects currently in formation - one in preparation for your exhibition in January 2009 at Kunsthalle Basel, 'I AM BECOME DEATH', and the other in preparation for your exhibition at the Whitechapel, London in April 2009, which revolves around the archive material for Picasso's Guernica (1937), which was shown at the gallery in 1938. My hope is that since they are not completed yet, we will be forced to consider their potential as much as their final form. Maybe we could start with the figure of Aby Warburg, who plays a central role in the Basel project, and also perhaps in your approach to forging image relationships in general. Warburg always poses a problem for students and scholars - he makes connections between things that we might think are imposed, too far-fetched, and this makes his work easier to look at as a work of art. However, I think it's also too far-fetched to categorise him as an artist rather than a scholar. How do you see him?

GM: Warburg was a real academic, but he also was built out of controversies - and this is what's so interesting about him. He created his own systems of thought. He switched tracks, from studying art history to anthropology to biology, and he sought out knowledge about the world through his very subjective experience. I'm interested in that too - and also the way in which he worked with images and language, which I find innovative and important for its time, but also for our era of image overload. The connections he makes between things that we may think

  1. See Philippe-Alain Michaud, Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion (trans. Sophie Hawkes), New York: Zone Books, 1994 and Giorgio Agamben, 'Difference and Repetition: On Guy Debord's Films' (trans. Brian Holmes) in Tom McDonough (ed.), Guy Debord and the Situtationist International: Texts and Documents, Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2004. Originally delivered as a lecture on the occasion of the 'Sixth International Video Week' at the Centre Saint-Gervais in Geneva in November 1995.