I’m really excited to be one of the speakers of the forthcoming symposium Mnemonic Waves, to be held in London at the Warburg Institute next November 15.
I’ll intervene in the Gestaltpsychologie section of the conference, with a paper titled: Caricatures as Pathosformeln: Gombrich, Warburg and the Emotions.
Here’s the abstract:
In his essay on The Experiment of Caricature, Gombrich stated that caricatures deform human physiognomy to make mental and emotional states visible and rely on the instinctual capacity of the mind of recognising hints of psychological life in the alteration produced by moving lines.
This interpretation of caricature can be traced back to the link between motion and emotion established in Aby Warburg’s research on Pathosformeln, according to which artistic forms conveying extreme feelings and passions alter the static image of the human body, verging on deformation.
Bridging Gombrich’s and Warburg’s insights, caricatures can be seen as the Pathosformeln of modernity. Caricatures elaborate a modern tradition of recurring patterns and pathos formulae, which activates the same «inborn responses» embodied in ancient Pathosformeln. Gombrich’s analysis of caricatures assumes the «biologically conditioned» connection between body-reading and mind-reading that was implied in the idea of Pathosformeln, thus opening Warburg’s legacy to the confrontation with psychoanalysis as much as with cognitive and neurocognitive sciences.