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The Collegium

The Collegium for the Advanced Study of Picture Act and Embodiment

Who we are

The Collegium for the Advanced Study of Picture Act and Embodiment aims to transform the prevailing mimesis theory of pictures, which argues that images are conceived as likenesses, into a Picture Act Theory. Its focus lies in research on the specific form of images, their vitality, and the substitution of body and image. These themes are explored from two interrelated research perspectives: the theories of “Picture Act” (Prof. Bredekamp) and “Embodiment” (Prof. Krois) (†). The Collegium for the Advanced Study of Picture Act and Embodiment is associated with the Institute for Philosophy and the Department of Art and Visual Historyof Humboldt University Berlin. The goal of developing a new and comprehensive picture theory is approached through a number of case studies carried out by art historians and philosophers working in close cooperation. As the results are not meant to be limited to specific historical periods or questions of method, characteristic examples ranging from some of the earliest known pictures to contemporary works of art have been chosen. The philosophical approach applies an analogous method in its attempt to connect problems of epistemology, emotion-, and action-theory. Not the media-specific distinction between old and new imaging techniques (Bildverfahren) is at stake, but historically founded and nonetheless diachronic practices dealing with pictures (Praktiken der Bilder), which range from pre-historic cave paintings to present-day computer-aided simulations, and which are placed in relationship to new insights gained from the cognitive sciences.


The successful founding of the Collegium is the culmination of a discussion that reaches back 15 years, to the time between 1991 and 1992, when both grant applicants were fellows at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. The following appointment of both Horst Bredekamp and John Michael Krois (†) to Humboldt-University offered them an opportunity to pursue their discussions regarding images and theories of embodiment, though initially only within an informal framework. Their mutual interests, especially regarding the work of the circle surrounding Aby Warburg (Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Cassirer et al.) on art and cultural theory, brought them into regular contact. In February 1996 they organized a conference for the Einstein Forum about a member of the Warburg group (“Edgar Wind. Art historian and philosopher”) during which the theory of embodiment was extensively discussed as the potential basis for a historical Bildwissenschaft. Their common interest in questions pertaining to image-theory prompted them to hold a joint advanced seminar on “Image and Philosophy” during the spring semester of 1998, which was attended by philosophers and art historians alike. During this seminar, the position of images in relation to philosophy as well as image-theoretical questions ranging from Plato to Goodman were discussed at length. These discussions were continued by the Wissenschaftskolleg’s first focus group for Bildwissenschaft in 2004/2005. In this context, Prof. Krois (†) worked on “Charles Pierce as Image Scientist,” focusing on Pierce’s (pragmatic) approach regarding the theory of embodiment. These collaborations gave rise to the idea of creating a Collegium for the Advanced Study of Picture Act and Embodiment in its present form.


In 2008, a new funding modelwas introduced by the DFG with the Humanities Centers for Advanced Studies, which are intended for individual researchers and adapted to their specific needs. Prof. Horst Bredekamp and Prof. John Michael Krois (†) of Humboldt University were successful in the first round with their fund application for the Collegium for the Advanced Study of Picture Act and Embodiment as one of those Humanities Centers for Advanced Studies. Humanities Centers for Advanced Studies are supervised by scholars with extensive experience in the management of research projects. They are headed by specially designated researchers with comprehensive experience in carrying out research projects. These researchers should, as appropriate, collaborate with other colleagues to tackle a topic that is broadly defined enough that it should, according to the German Council of Science and Humanities, “tie into existing interests and strengths at the site, while remaining capable of providing a framework for the association or integration of different individual research concepts.” As specialist centers for research in the humanities and social sciences, Humanities Centers for Advanced Studies can attain their specific profiles and enhance their attractiveness by, in particular, deliberately adopting comparatively more open-ended approaches or decidedly experimental characters. No thematic or interdisciplinary direction is prescribed. With this in mind, Humanities Centers for Advanced Studies are characterized by the following four aspects:
 1. The funding is granted to specific persons who “represent” the chosen subject and are influential in this area on an international level. 2. They are characterized by working models which are free of external constraints and instead shaped only by the requirements of the research itself. They do not demand large-sized projects, nor need they follow standard procedures for project management. The aim is much rather to offer an environment which allows the researchers to immerse themselves into their work while entering into an intensive exchange with colleagues, junior researchers, and diverse forums beyond the more narrowly defined scientific community.
 3. Humanities Centers for Advanced Studies are meant to identify relevant areas of research which are widely visible within their field and develop momentum for contemporary scholarship. The most important instrument for achieving this aim is the Fellowship Program for national and international visiting scholars, who are invited for a period of 1-2 years, after which they continue their association with the Humanities Center.
 4. The Humanities Centers for Advanced Studies are not constructed around narrowly defined topics, but rather around general themes and research areas.