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Seminar 2014: Images as Socio-Religious Practices, Trento 28-30 August 2014

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Introduction of the new topic: images as socio-religious practice

Paolo Costa, Why do practices need images? inaugurated the new focus on images as socio-religious practices with a philosophical overview on the role of images as a necessary part of meaning making processes that motivates and establish social practice. His contribution, developed in reception of Charles Taylor and Ludwig Wittgenstein, outlined the dimension of practice within Taylor’s concept of imaginary and in this sense offered an excellent possibility to introduce the new topic of the group by considering the previous research.

The second introductory paper, given by Baldassare Scolari, Practices of visualisation of the body. Some theoretical reflections on the iteration of images in the public space, focused on images as performances in real and virtual space we share socially. According to Michel Foucault, he prosed an approach to images as discoursive practices and illustrated his approach with conventional and innovative representation of politicians in press photography and the internet, by focusing particularly on the representation of the body.

Critical review of existing approaches

During our review of existing approaches to images and practices, we emphasized that we think it is important that images are to be addresses not only from the perspective of materiality. The concept of representation has to be seen as a practice where viewers and images are involved on multiple levels. The act of looking itself is crucial and at the core of a visual approach to religion. Around an image different practices are deployed and should, therefore, be reconstructed in the analysis. A particularly important aspect of the discussion focused on the hermeneutical challenge of considering images as social practices and the necessity to combine different perspectives by avoiding a reductive empiricistic attitude.

Case studies

Anna-Katharina Höpflinger and the Photographer Peter Eschbacher explored the performative dimension of images by practices linked to ossuaries. In Perception of death: Swiss ossuaries and religious practices, they focused on the transformations in dealing with death and dead during the last centuries.

Marie-Therese Mäder, Instruction for a happy and successful life, presented an advertising campaign produced by the LDS church. “I am a Mormon” aims at the one side at contrasting prejudices and stereotypes toward Mormons and on the other side to gain new members for this religious community. The case study outlines the different practices of productions and reception of audio-visual media circulating in the Internet on a global level.

Alexander D. Ornella explored in Bodies, images, technologies. (Religious) images and symbols as lived practice different representations of the body associated in a implicit way to religious practices in critical or assertive perspective: the political multi-media project Everyday Rebellion and the forming and staging of the body in CrossFit activities.

Alberto Saviello, Charisma and the aesthetics of the foreign in Medieval and Early Modern Christian Art, analysed different functions of images by considering their aesthetic and iconographic character. In reception of Max Weber’s concept of charisma, he explored the effect of different representations: the Pentecoste mosaic in San Marco in Venice and a reliquiary. The key aspect of the analysis of the selected example is the tension between the unique revelation and its diffusion and the significance of the image as a dimension of liminality.


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