Time and Rhythm in Pictures: An Aesthetic Concept and Its Implications from the Point of View of Reception Aesthetics
Around 1900 philosophers and art historians strikingly often referred to the notion of rhythm in order to describe visual phenomena in pictures. The project takes up this debate on pictorial rhythms and tries to unfold its latent temporal implications. The traditional distinction between spatial and temporal arts has contributed to the tendency to neglect the temporality of pictures or to reduce it to problems of visual narration. The fact that pictures, because of their material and sensorial properties, can strongly influence the temporal act of viewing, has hardly been investigated. Among the few approaches which show a deeper interest in the temporal process of perceiving pictures is precisely the debate on visual rhythms around 1900 and, more specifically, the hypothesis that even images can profoundly be characterized by rhythmical constellations. Leading experts in empirical aesthetics and in the field of the »Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft« (general art history) have attributed rhythmical qualities to pictures. If this historical discussion on rhythms attracted more interest in recent years, it has not yet been systematically investigated for a better understanding of the temporality of images.
The project tries to answer this question by reconceptualizing pictorial rhythms from the point of view of reception aesthetics (Rezeptionsästhetik). In our view, the idea of rhythms in pictures necessarily implies the assumption that pictures have their own temporality which is rooted in the process of perception. Looking for rhythms in pictures only makes sense, if we concede that pictures, due to their formal properties, influence and structure the temporal process of viewing. The project seeks to contribute to an adequate understanding of the pictorial rhythms and their inherent temporality. By reconstructing selected theoretical approaches that were discussed around 1900, and by critically referring to more recent positions, the project shall demonstrate how the notion of pictorial rhythms can reasonably be integrated into a more general concept of the temporality of the image.
Two historical case studies shall lay the basis for this new conceptualization of pictorial rhythms. The first study aims to reconstruct, from the point of view of a history of culture and knowledge, various concepts of rhythms in aesthetics, psychology and visual arts around 1900. Particular attention will be given to the problem of rhythm in East Asia visual culture and its European reception. The second study will analyze the function of rhythm in the art of Max Klinger, especially in his cyclical works, taking particular account of the local debate on rhythm in Leipzig. Finally, a more systematically oriented study will develop the conceptual and analytical framework of a visual reception aesthetics that shall help to explain why it is reasonable to talk about rhythms in pictures.