Lecture by Helmut Draxler: State, Situation, Action. The Social Imaginary in Dutch and Flemish Painting
The concept of society is usually used with a certain matter-of-factness with regard to the coexistence of individuals. But it is precisely in this regard that the concept proves to be a historically specific and typically modern way of thinking. For neither have individuals always been individuals, nor does the term society necessarily describe their forms of interaction. Rather, in modernity, people are socialized as individuals; and as individuals, they in turn form conceptions of their coexistence, which often compete with each other. Thus society does not represent a concrete social form or order, but rather the symbolic horizon of a fundamentally individualised social imaginary. The processes of the formation of such a social imaginary can be studied using early modern painting as an example. In particular, the division of the Dutch provinces after 1585 forms a fascinating example of how the establishment of the two new political entities, related to each other in the act of demarcation, drives the need for collective forms of representation. From then on, Dutch and Flemish painting struggled to form an image of their respective conceptions of society, but without being able to definitively institute one. Precisely in the medium of painting, the individual attempts at collectivisation remain thrown back on the individualised act of imagination through which they could ultimately symbolise themselves as art.
Lecture in German
Helmut Draxler, Professor for Art Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna. Publications: Die Wahrheit der Niederländischen Malerei, Paderborn (Brill-Fink) 2021; Abdrift des Wollens. Eine Theorie der Vermittlung, Berlin, Wien (Turia + Kant) 2017; Gefährliche Substanzen. Zum Verhältnis von Kritik und Kunst, Berlin (b_books) 2007.