At være alene med eremitter

  • Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen


To be alone with hermits
By Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen

The subject of this article is partly how images, in this case decorations of spaces, can be considered to be performative, and partly some views about what it is, these pictures can be said to actually do in the viewer. The question is, therefore, what it means for decoration of a space as a whole to include a performative layer in the interpretation. To answer this, we start at Chateau Gaillard in Vannes, Brittany, and then continue to some Danish church interiors, and then return to the French castle again. A chronological and geographic hop that may appear drastic, but which should emphasize the principle of the considerations introduced here. Within a Christian art tradition, you can point to several types or categories of
pictures that are somehow relevant to the thoughts here. However, the kind of pictures, which are to be covered in particular, are the large-scale decorations with saints such as those we for instance find I chapels. The argument is that the performativity of these decorations lie in the context and not in the image itself. It is the context that creates the framework for the image’s intervention and influence on the beholder. Or put it another way, it is the viewer’s expectation or understanding of the image that creates the interaction and performative situation. The performative qualities of the image are thus quite specific and locked to specific situations. Changing the conditions or situations, changes the performative qualities. Of course, the iconography has great importance in this because it is the iconography that dictates what can be communicated, but the performative itself is not in the picture, it lies in the experience frame set for the viewer. The performativity of the decorations that have been presented here, which are to be seen as case studies or examples of the way in which you can generally understand the decorations, lies in the whole. That is, instead of turning the look specifically towards a single motif or understanding the decoration as composed of many small images, it is advisable to consider the broader lines and to look at how images or image programs complement the viewer’s perception and spur it as a catalyst. It is through the study of such situations that we can actually approach an interpretation of how the images without obvious mechanical properties can be regarded as performing and not least how this performative quality can be perceived as a concrete tool for the sender of the images in his or her attempt to affect the viewer and thereby create identification, acknowledgment and perhaps compliance.


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