with the patronage of:
voir aussi la bibliographie "La Fabrique des images : visions du monde et formes de la représentation"
salon de lecture
Les visées de la figuration : un cycle mensuel de rendez-vous au salon de lecture autour de l'exposition la Fabrique des images : le dernier samedi du mois à 17h
The making of images
Collections ticket - full price 8.50€ and discount price 6€
From Tuesday, February 16, 2010 to Sunday, July 17, 2011
Curator: Philippe Descola, anthropologist, director of studies at EHESS and professor at the Collège de France
After Qu’est-ce qu’un corps ? and Planète métisse, the 3rd major anthropology exhibition of the musée du quai Branly proposes the discovery of a "making of images" spanning 5 continents to the public. With 160 works and objects, the exhibition deciphers large artistic and material productions of humanity to reveal what is not seen directly in an image.
This comprehension of images is based on 4 major iconological models created by Man, which go beyond any geographical or chronological classification, whether in Africa, in the 15th to 16th century Europe, in the Americas of the Indians from Amazonia or of the Inuits of Alaska, right up to the Australia of the Aboriginals. The exhibition unravels these 4 models – translating 4 major world views – which are totemism, naturalism, animism and analogism.
With the making of images, the visitor discovers the different principles of decryption according to which civilizations see the world and account for the world.
The exhibition has been undertaken in partnership with the Musée du Louvre
extracts of the audioguide
4 objets décryptés en vidéo
une coproduction de Connaissance des Arts et du musée du quai Branly
Discover a narrated selection of some of the works presented in the exhibition
The exhibition visit
The exhibition The Making of Images helps the public to understand and decipher 4 great world-views created by Man, called "ontologies." The exhibition invites the visitor to move through 4 sections corresponding to 4 ontologies: the part “an animated world” is devoted to animism, “an objective world” to naturalism, “a sub-divided world” to totemism and “an entangled world” to analogism. A fifth section, meant for comparison, demonstrates with some examples of “false friends” that formal processes and iconographic layouts very similar in appearance actually respond to completely different intentions for representation.
“a world brought to life”: animism
The first section of the exhibition is focused on animism, that is, the general idea that non-humans have a human-like innerness. Every being -- animal, plant, artifact -- is granted an interior life, with its own intentions and its own ability to act or to judge. On the other hand, the physical appearance changes from one entity to another. The animist model makes the interiority of the different sorts of the existing beings visible and shows that this interiority is lodged in bodies with dissimilar appearances.
“an objective world”: naturalism
The idea behind naturalism is the opposite of the one behind animism: it is not by their bodies, but by their minds, that humans are distinguished from non-humans, just as humans can be distinguished from one another by their minds as well.
As for bodies, they are all subject to the same natural laws and do not allow beings to be distinguished by the type of life they lead, as was the case in animism.
Thus this vision of the world, which has been dominant in the West for centuries, must represent two features:
- Distinctive innerness of each human
- the physical continuity of beings and things in homogenous space
“a subdivided world”: totemism
This section presents the world of totemism, which is made up of a large number of classes of beings including humans and various kinds of non-humans, with the members of each class sharing different sets of physical and mental qualities that the totem is said to incarnate.
In aboriginal Australian societies, the set of qualities that characterize the class stems from a primitive prototype, traditionally called "Dream being." The totemic images thus reveal the deep identity of humans and non-humans of the totemic class: internal identity (they incorporate the same "essence" whose source is localized and whose name expresses the common qualities they possess) and physical identity (they are formed from the same substances, are organized according to the same structure, and have the same kind of personality and moods).
To understand what totemic images are, we must first examine the general status of images in Australia. They are always linked to the Dream beings and to the actions of these prototypes when putting the world in order and making it fit the subdivisions that they themselves incarnate.
The representative objectives of Australian totemism are implemented through two very distinct strategies:
- the body appears as if at the origin of the image that it has given rise to; it is for example “imprint of the body” of a painting on bark,
- the 2nd strategy shows how the world was formed by beings that one cannot see but which have left traces on the landscape; this is what we call “the imprint of movement”.
“a tangled world”: analogism
The 4th section of the making of images proposes the discovery of the iconological model of analogism to the public, the opposite model to the preceding model. To hold an analogical point of view on the world implies perceiving all those who occupy it as being different from one another. Thus, instead of merging entities sharing the same substances within the same class, this system distinguishes all the components of the world and differentiates them into singular elements.
Such a world, in which each entity makes up a unique specimen, would become impossible to inhabit and to imagine if one did not strive to find stable correspondences between its human and non human components, as between the parts that they are made up of. For example, as per the qualities that we attribute to them, a few things will be associated with heat and other with cold, with day or with night, with dry or with wet.
Analogist thinking thus aims at making networks of correspondence between discontinuous elements present, which implies multiplying the components of the image and demonstrating their relations. However exact the representation of details may be, it is not so much an attempt to imitate accurately a "natural" prototype with an objective existence, but rather to reconstruct the web of affinities within which this prototype takes meaning.
We can find numerous contemporary illustrations of animist ontology among the great Oriental civilizations, in West Africa or in the Indian communities of the Andes and Mexico.
Appearances of resemblance: the deceptive cognates
The itinerary culminates with a didactic presentation, side by side, of images having similar formal properties, but whose figurative conventions meet completely different principles. This last stage of the exhibition explains to the public how to decrypt these images in order to weigh the differences, drawing its attention to the fact that a purely formal approach of images does not allow demonstrating the different world views that they express.
4 themes are treated in this way:
- Landscape painting: a Dutch landscape painting (the naturalist imitation of nature) and a Chinese landscape painting (an analogist replica of the cosmos)
- Human representation: man inscribed in the divine circle of the cosmos (according to medieval analogism) and man inscribed in the circle of his own measure (according to Renaissance naturalism)
- The portrait: an ancestor bust represented in realist fashion (from analogist connectedness) and a sculpted portrait (naturalist painting of the soul);
- Bird-shaped masks: a mask from the Pacific northwest representing a human-type interior life in an animal body (animism) and an Oruro carnival mask, made of composite features (an analogist chimera).