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The Power of the Image

Emotion, Expression, Explanation

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Edited By András Benedek and Kristof Nyiri

We think primarily in images, and only secondarily in words, while both the image and the word are preceded by the bodily, the visceral, the muscular. This holds even for mathematical thinking. It is the entire motor system, including facial expressions and bodily gestures, that underlies not just emotions but also abstract thought. Communication, too, is a primordially visual task, spoken and written language only gradually supplementing and even supplanting the pictorial. Writing liberates, but also enslaves; after centuries of a dominantly verbal culture, today the ease of producing and accessing digital images amounts to a homecoming of the visual, with the almost limitless online availability of our textual heritage completing the educational revolution of the 21st century.
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Pictorial Representations and the Nature of Their Subjects

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Zsuzsanna Kondor

In my paper I will examine how emotion and consciousness make an appearance in pictorial representations and what kind of skills these representations require.

Brain imaging techniques are involved in the study of both consciousness and emotions. In the fine arts, we can encounter only emotions. I will suggest that this asymmetry is rooted in the difference between the two phenomena. Both emotion and consciousness are considered as being basic capacities. In the case of emotion, its expression is spectacular and indispensible in social interaction. Accordingly, a nomenclature evolved for its expression and representation.

Though scientists consider consciousness as being as important as emotions, we notice it on rare occasion in everyday intercourse, or more precisely, the difference between conscious and unconscious movements/actions are hardly recognizable.

The techniques applied in the fine arts are based on embodied experiences, therefore a basic-level understanding of artistic works does not need special expertise. Brain imaging techniques are highly artificial and their understanding requires specialized knowledge. Since consciousness is assumed to play a part in cognitive processes but is inaccessible to the naked eye, we consider it as a theoretical construct which is supposed to be accessible only via artificial means.

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