In this video, Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation with Professor Bill Sherman, Director of the Warburg Institute, and author, philosopher and director Alexander Kluge discuss the new virtual tour of two major exhibitions devoted to Aby Warburg’s unfinished magnum opus.
By the time of his death in 1929, Warburg had arranged 971 images on 63 large black panels. This project is at once a map of ancient images and one of modernity’s foundational projects. Known only from the black-and-white photos taken shortly before Warburg’s death, the Bilderatlas has become an inspiration for scholars, artists and curators: a recent feature in Der Spiegel called it ‘the holy grail of the humanities’.
The exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt [HKW] reconstituted the 63 panels of the Atlas for the first time since 1929 from Warburg’s original working materials preserved at the Warburg Institute. Parallel to the exhibition at HKW, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin presented in the Gemäldegalerie, Kulturforum, an unprecedented collection of 50 objects pictured in Warburg’s Atlas, gathered from 10 of Berlin’s state museums. The Bilderatlas is a masterpiece which draws on Warburg’s intellectual preoccupation with the afterlife (‘Nachleben’) of images and motifs, and how their continuity or metamorphosis as emotionally charged visual tropes resonates from antiquity to contemporary society.
The virtual tour, available to view on the Warburg Institute website, has been launched to provide a digital afterlife to two exhibitions dedicated to pioneering cultural historian Aby Warburg (1886-1929) and his unfinished magnum opus, the so-called Bilderatlas Mnemosyne—a visual map of cultural memory named after the Greek goddess of remembrance. The virtual tour consists of over 100 viewpoints created from over 1000 high-res photographs, alongside audio and video commentaries with directors, curators and experts.