Project

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Visual Contagions

English title Visual Contagions
Applicant Joyeux-Prunel Béatrice
Number 192821
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Faculté des lettres Université de Genève
Institution of higher education University of Geneva - GE
Main discipline Visual arts and Art history
Start/End 01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024
Approved amount 1'028'116.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Visual arts and Art history
General history (without pre-and early history)

Keywords (6)

Images; Globalization - Mondialisation; Visual Circulations - circulations visuelles; Centres & Peripheries; Digital Humanities

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Le projet VISUAL CONTAGIONS étudie la circulation mondiale des images à l’ère de l’imprimé sur un siècle, des années 1890 à l'avènement d'Internet. Il décrit et analyse comment certaines images ont plus circulé que d’autres - en reproductions, copies, pastiches, imitations -, par quels canaux et selon quelle chronologie elles se sont diffusé. L’ambition est de comprendre ce qui fait qu’une image eut du succès, mais aussi de cerner comment la circulation des images a contribué à la mondialisation des cultures, et si elle révèle ou non la domination symbolique de certains pays et cultures sur d’autres selon les époques.
Lay summary

Ce projet est possible aujourd’hui grâce à des corpus d’images numériques sans précédents (catalogues d'exposition, magazines illustrés, affiches, œuvres d'art, banques photographiques). Ces sources peuvent être étudiées à l’échelle quantitative, mondiale et sur la longue période, avant d’appliquer des approches plus traditionnelles. Nous pouvons identifier quelles ont été les images les plus récurrentes du siècle passé, même si elles ont été oubliées ; ce qui différencie leurs auteurs ; les propriétés visuelles de ces images, leurs médiums de circulation. Nous pouvons mettre en évidence la géographie et la chronologie de leur diffusion, les facteurs de succès historique des images. Il s’agit aussi d’interroger l’idée d’une homogénéisation culturelle mondiale par l’image, et avec elle la question des centres et des périphéries.

Trois axes sont privilégiés : la circulation mondiale des styles sur 2 siècles, la diffusion par l’affiche des vocabulaires visuels radicaux (des révolutions de 1917 à la fin de la Guerre froide), et l’expansion mondiale de nouvelles images de la femme dans la presse illustrée depuis 1945. Nous voulons définir ce qui a fait qu’une image « marche » au XXe siècle, et si l’idée d’une mondialisation - américanisation culturelle a un fondement dans l’histoire des images.

Nous proposerons à des artistes contemporains de reprendre nos travaux pour produire, avec des logiciels d’intelligence artificielle, de nouvelles images hypothétiquement réussies. Les images à succès d’hier et les images à succès du futur seront exposées ensemble. L’expérience doit faire réfléchir à la mémoire collective, sa capacité d’oubli, à la puissance des images, et à penser la géopolitique contemporaine des images. Elle doit aussi inciter à interroger la création visuelle aujourd’hui, alors que tout semble avoir déjà été imaginé.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.09.2020

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
The project VISUAL CONTAGIONS studies the global circulation of images over a century, from the 1890s to the advent of the Internet. It describes and analyzes how some images circulated more than others - in reproductions, copies, pastiches, imitations -, through which channels and according to which chronology they were disseminated. The ambition is to understand what makes an image successful, to identify how the circulation of images has contributed to the globalization of cultures, and whether or not it reveals the symbolic domination of certain countries and cultures over others over time.
Lay summary
This project is possible today thanks to unprecedented digital image collections (exhibition catalogues, illustrated magazines, posters, artworks, photographic banks). These sources can be studied quantitatively, globally and over the long term, before applying more traditional approaches. We can identify the most recurrent images of the past century, even if they have been forgotten; what differentiates their authors; the visual properties of these images, their mediums of circulation. We can highlight the geography and chronology of their diffusion, the factors of historical success of the images. We also want to question the idea of a global cultural homogenization through images, and with it the notion of centres and peripheries.

Three axes are privileged: the worldwide circulation of styles over two centuries, the dissemination of radical visual vocabularies through posters (from the revolutions of 1917 to the end of the Cold War), and the worldwide expansion of new images of women in the illustrated press since 1945. We want to define what made an image "work" in the 20th century, and whether the idea of globalization - cultural Americanization has a basis in the history of images.

We will propose to contemporary artists to take up our work again to produce, with artificial intelligence software, new hypothetically successful images. The successful images of yesterday and the successful images of the future will be exhibited together. The experience should make us think about collective memory, our capacity to forget, the power of images, and to think about the contemporary geopolitics of images. It should also encourage us to question visual creation today, when everything seems to have already been imagined.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.09.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Abstract

VISUAL CONTAGIONS focuses on the global circulation of images from the 1890s to the 1990s, prior to the advent of the Internet and the immense paradigm shift in the circulation of images it brought about. The project is hosted by the new Chair of Digital Humanities of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), led by Prof. Dr. Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, in collaboration with the international project Artl@s (https://artlas.huma-num.fr/en/), with a team in Computer Vision from the École des Ponts Paris Tech, one in Computer Sciences at the UNIGE, and one in Neurosciences at the Ecole normale supérieure Paris. The raison d’être of VISUAL CONTAGIONS is to understand how images have contributed to the globalization of cultures, and their role in the diffusion of symbolic dominations. It poses challenges to the history of art, the visual studies, to global history, the Digital Humanities (DH), and to the cognitive sciences and finds inspiration in the methods of epidemiology. For the period since the 1890s to the arrival of the internet, we start from the unprecedented availability of massive digitized corpora containing images, such as exhibition catalogues, illustrated magazines, posters and works of art. These sources can be crossed with press reviews and archival material, to explain how artistic and media images circulated over the world and how they have helped to disseminate styles and visual patterns, as well as new ideas about politics and about the body. Our objectives are 1) To identify the most recurrent images of the past century, their visual and cognitive features, the characteristics of their authors; 2) To study their channels of circulation, and to highlight the process of global cultural homogenization through images, to assess its limits, and to question the model of prescriptive centres and imitative peripheries; 3) To study the impact of images in copies, imitations, visual quotations and the subsequent diffusion of new styles and new ideas about politics and gender; 4) To offer an innovative methodology to analyse iconographic and stylistic diffusions, that can be applied across periods, languages, and disciplines, and later on, for subsequent projects on visual circulation on the Internet, with a specific visual research tool with spatiotemporal result visualization. To do so, a) Textual descriptions of images (exhibition catalogues, art databases) will be analysed with text mining, semantic analysis and digital mapping, to trace first the circulation of themes; b) Images contained in illustrated documents will be extracted and described automatically. They will be labelled according to their content, place and date of reproduction. Then, all images will be compared using pattern recognition algorithms. The methodology has been validated within the Artl@s Project in collaboration with the Ponts-Paris Tech in France (Mathieu Aubry, EnHerit). c) The hypotheses drawn from digital analyses will be confronted with the historical analysis of archives and press on 3 particular cases: the global circulation of styles (1890-1990), the transnational diffusion of a visual language of political engagement, and the global convergence/divergence in the representation of women in illustrated periodicals over the same period. VISUAL CONTAGIONS will enrich debates on intercultural encounter by including the question of image in globalization. It will help launch subsequent projects for which further funding will be searched: we think of a replicable digital visual search engine to search for and visualize the dissemination of images.
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