Posts Tagged ‘atlas’



The term Atlas rings perhaps more familiar in the German language than it does in English, being defined since the end of the sixteenth century as a book format that complies and organizes geographical and astronomical knowledge. We are told that this format received its name from one of Mercator’s map collections in the 1585 which carried a frontispiece showing an image of Atlas, the titan of Greek mythology who holds up the universe at the threshold where day and night meet each other. But later, in the nineteenth century, the term had been increasingly deployd to identify and tabular display of systematized knowledge and one could have encountered an atlas in almost every field of of the empirical sciences: an atlas of astronomy, of anatomy, geography and ethnography, and titan who held up the heavens. When the confidence in empiricism and the aspiration towards comprehensive completeness of positivist systems of knowledge withered in the twentieth century, the term ‘Atlas’  seems to have fallen into a more metaphorical usage.

Benjamin H.D. Buchoh in Gerhard Richter’s Atlas: The Atomic archive, 1993


Atlas Sheet: 11

Atlas Sheet: 11

“Memory is thus conceived of Richter’s Atlas first of all as an archaeology of pictorial and photographic registers, each of which partakes in a different photographic formation, and each of which generates its proper psychic register of responses. While all of them operate separately (and in relative independence from each other) in the perceptual and the mnemonic apparatus of the subject, they all intersect, constituting precisely that complex field of disavowals and displacements, the field of repression and cover images within which memory is constituted in the register of photographic order.”

Benjamin H. D. Bucholoh in The Archive, Charles Merewether, 2006

Der Bilderatlas MNEMOSYNE – Aby Warburg



The atlas is fundamentally the attempt to combine the philosophical with the image-historical approach. Attached on wooden boards covered with black cloth are photographs of images, reproductions from books, and visual materials from newspapers and/or daily life, which Warburg arranges in such a way that they illustrate one or several thematic areas. Only the boards of the picture atlas have survived as photographed ensembles. Throughout the years since 1924, Warburg’s picture collection of circa 2,000 reproductions generated other configurations fixed and photographed on boards. In addition, specific themes were reconfigured for individual exhibitions or lectures. The last existing series originally consisted of 63 tableaus.
Today, Warburg’s working style would be categorized as researching ‹visual clusters›. Only these are not ordered according to visual similarity, evident in the sense of an iconographic history of style; but rather through relationships caused by an ‹affinity for one another› and the principle of ‹good company,› which let themselves be reconstructed through the study of texts (as for example, contract conditions or biological associations).

Rudolf Frieling