Wolfram Pichler Former Senior Fellow

Wolfram Pichler
October 2012 - March 2013


Wolfram Pichler (born 1968) is an Assistant Professor at the Institut für Kunstgeschichte of the University of Vienna since 2006. After his studies of art history and philosophy, mathematics and archeology, he did his habilitation in 1999 at the University of Vienna, followed by a research stay as visiting fellow at the Graduate School of Arts and Science at Harvard University in 2000. In 2003/04, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the Department of Art History at the Max-Planck-Institute in Florence. Furthermore, he was a member of the Research Project „Knowledge in the Making“ of the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and the Department of Art History in Florence from 2007 to 2011. Besides the organization of a multitude of conferences and lectures, Wolfram Pichler has been academic advisor for art exhibitions such as "Aby Warburg – Mnemosyne" in Hamburg and Vienna (1994). He also founded the Gesellschaft für Kulturwissenschaften und Bildtheorie of Vienna together with Werner Rappl and Gudrun Swoboda in 1996.

Dated from 2013

Fields of research

Picture theory; theory and History of Drawing; problems of art since 1800; topology within pictorial discourses.

IKKM Research Project

Picture theory, an introduction

Together with Ralph Ubl (Universität Basel), I am preparing to write an introduction to the heterogeneous field of research known as picture theory or iconic criticism. In view of some conceptual tools and historical insights provided by the current research on cultural techniques (not to mention the strong theoretical influences to be expected from the particular constellation of Senior Fellows in 2012/13), my stay at the IKKM will probably be of crucial importance for the realization of this project. – We will, in all likelihood, start off from the recurring question what images are or might possibly be and rehearse some classical arguments concerning the contested roles of similarity and recognition in the definition of images. So, on a first level, our introduction will deal with definitions. In order to prepare a second step it may be helpful to realize that the problem how to define images isn’t restricted to the field of theory, but is, in some sense, also inherent to the making of images. We shall therefore have a look at different framing devices and see how images are set off from – but also connected to – other images and things which aren’t images. This will lead to a more general discussion of different dispositives of images, including linear and planar orders, perspective etc. In the context of that discussion, it may become clear that neither the singularity nor the identity of the image can be taken for granted; and that, instead of asking „What is an IMAGE?“, it may sometimes be more revealing to allow for a little shift in emphasis, reposing the question thus: What is AN image? What are possible criteria of identity of images? And what are the conditions of their unity (if unity is an issue)? – If definitions and dispositives will be two main topics in our argument, we will, on a third level, probably be concerned with practices and/or cultural techniques. Images are among the conditions of – and are, vice versa, conditioned by – practices related not only to perception, communication and cognition, but also to acts of intimidation, provocation and, of course, representation (in the sense of: standing-in for). Considering these practices, we shall have to ask what could and can be done with images and what it means to say that certain images have an agency of their own. – All three topics – the consideration of definitions, iconic dispositives and practices – will, of course, provide us with lots opportunities to introduce and make use of concepts and arguments which have been developed in philosophy, theology, psychology (including psychoanalysis), art history, and the theory of media. But we don’t aim at something like a synthesis of various strands of picture theory. On the contrary, we want to stress their differences and see more clearly that (and why) the concept of the image remains both heterogeneous and contested.


Edited Books

with Richard Heinrich, Elisabeth Nemeth and David Wagner (eds.): Image and Imaging in Philosophy, Science and the Arts, 2 volumes (= Proceedings of the 33d International Ludwig Wittgenstein-Symposium in Kirchberg, 2010), Frankfurt/Paris/Lancaster/New Brunswick: Ontos, 2011.
with Ralph Ubl (eds.): Topologie. Falten, Knoten, Netze, Stülpungen in Kunst und Theorie. Wien: Turia und Kant, 2009.
with Friedrich Teja Bach (eds.): Öffnungen. Zur Theorie und Geschichte der Zeichnung. München: Fink, 2009.
with Edith Futscher, Stefan Neuner und Ralph Ubl (eds.): Was aus dem Bild fällt. Figuren des Details in Kunst und Literatur (Friedrich Teja Bach zum 60. Geburtstag), München: Fink, 2007.
with Marianne Koos, Werner Rappl und Gudrun Swoboda (eds.): Aby M. Warburg - Mnemosyne. Zur Ausstellung im Kunsthaus Hamburg. Hamburg/München: Dölling und Galitz, 1994. 2. erw. Auflage 2006.


Zur Kunstgeschichte des Bildfeldes, in: Gottfried Boehm and Matteo Burioni (eds.): Der Grund. Das Feld des Sichtbaren. München, 2011 (forthcoming).
Afterword. Configurations of the Image, in: Jim Elkins and Maja Naef (eds.): What is an Image? Chicago, 2011. Topologie des Bildes. Im Plural und im Singular, in: David Ganz and Felix Thürlemann (eds.): Das Bild im Plural. Mehrteilige Bildformen zwischen Mittelalter und Gegenwart. Berlin, 2010, p. 111-132.
Bildoberflächen, topologisch gewendet. Zur Kunstgeschichte des Möbiusbandes seit ca. 1935, in: Thomas Eder and Juliane Vogel (eds.): Lob der Oberfläche. Zum Werk von Elfriede Jelinek. München, 2010, p. 19-48.
Topologische Konfigurationen des Denkens und der Kunst, in: Wolfram Pichler and Friedrich Teja Bach (eds.): Öffnungen: zur Theorie und Geschichte der Zeichnung. München: Fink, 2009, p. 13-66.
Goyas Tele-Graphie, in: Inka Mülder-Bach and Gerhard Neumann (eds.), Räume der Romantik. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2007, p. 239-276. Metamorphosen des Flussgottes und der Nymphe: Aby Warburgs Denk-Haltungen und die Psychoanalyse (with Gudrun Swoboda and Werner Rappl), in: Lydia Marinelli (ed.), Die Couch. Vom Denken im Liegen (Ausst.-Kat. Sigmund Freud-Museum, Wien), München/Berlin/London/New York: Prestel, 2006, p. 161-186.


Georges Didi-Huberman: Der Strich, die Strähne (org.: Le trait, la traîne, with Miriam Lukasser), in: Wolfram Pichler and Ralph Ubl (eds.): Topologie. Falten, Knoten, Netze, Stülpungen in Kunst und Theorie. Wien: Turia und Kant, 2009.
Eric de Bruyn: Topologische Wege des Postminimalismus (org.: Topological Pathways of Post-Minimalism), in: Wolfram Pichler and Friedrich Teja Bach (eds.): Öffnungen: zur Theorie und Geschichte der Zeichnung. München: Fink, 2009.