Note about Picture Theory and W.J.T. Mitchel analysis

The starting point of W.J.T Mitchel`s book “Picture Theory” {W.J.T. Mitchel. Picture Theory. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago. 1994} is what the “National Endowment for the Humanities” called in 1988 the problem of “word and image”. The book researches the tensions between visual representations and verbal representations since they are inseparable of the problems in cultural policy and political culture. Mitchel explains that tensions of genre, race, class, political horrors and the production of beauty, truth and excellence converge in questions about representation (page 3).

But words and images not exclusively determine two different kinds of representations, they carry different cultural values as well. Nevertheless Mitchel stresses that representations usually mix images and words: “Interaction of pictures and texts is constitutive of representation as such: all media are mixed media, and all representations are heterogeneous; there are no purely visual or verbal acts, though the impulse to purify media is one of the central utopian gestures of modernism” (page 5). Those interactions and their relation with political power is one of the topics that the author explores.

Politics, in a society that aspires to democratic values, is deeply connected with issues of representation and mediation “not only the formal linkages between representatives and constituences, but also the production of political power through the use of media” (page 3). In this context, the Visual Literacy comes to be a central issue in Mitchel research.



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