Composing the Symbolic

Daniela Sacco


An excerpt from Sergei M. Eisenstein's memoirs describing a night visit to the museum of Chichén Itzá in Mexico is set forth as a real life example reflecting, both from a visual and theoretical perspective, the architecture of Aby Warburg's Bilderatlas Mnemosyne and his concept of Denkraum. Drawing upon Warburg's own writings and F. T. Vischer's theory of symbol, the paper looks at Eisenstein's experience at the museum as highlighting the dynamic relation between man's religious/magical and scientific/rational psychic poles, and the in-between space of thought inherent to the concept of Denkraum and visually represented by the empty dark intervals separating the images in the Bilderatlas. Adding significance to its argumentation, the paper also hints at an affinity between Eisenstein's film montaging and Warburg's image assembling criteria.


Aby Warburg ; Sergei M. Eisenstein; Denkraum; theory of symbol

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