Peter Geimer (Paris): The colors of the past. How history becomes images

The past is unobservable. One has heard or read about it, one remembers it, sorts through its legacies, or makes an image of what it was after the fact. But none of these forms of remembrance recreates the past as such.

What we know or imagine of it, we learn through detours: narratives, documents, images, material remains. At the same time, however, the past is not simply absent: traces remain permanently, remnants intrude, memories return unasked. The past thus emerges in a complex interrelationship of appropriation and withdrawal, realization and disappearance, presence and absence. Against this background and using case studies from the 19th century to the present, the lecture asks about the special significance of visual media – painting, photography, film – for the representation and appropriation of the past. Where is their potential for visualization, where are their media-specific limits?

Peter Geimer (Prof. Dr.) studied art history, modern German literature and philosophy in Bonn, Cologne, Marburg and Paris. He received his PhD for his work on strategies of Afterwardsness in 18th century art and conducted research at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Berlin, the University of Konstanz, the ETH Zurich, the University of Basel (research focus “Bildkritik”) and at the University of Bielefeld (professorship). Since 2010, he has been Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Freie Universität Berlin, where he led the DFG Research Training Group “BildEvidenz. Geschichte und Ästhetik” From October 1st 2022, Peter Geimer will be director of the German Forum for Art History in Paris.

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