The main objective of the research centre is a cross-disciplinary analysis and interpretation of mechanisms, which may explain the cultural-historical reality throughout its long duration from the Middle Ages up to the present. The centre intends to develop a synergistic link between research teams in the cultural-historical field at universities in Brno and Olomouc, which have for some time now been prominent in their use of such approaches. In addition there is also the intention to draw on cooperation with the most important Czech Republic researchers as well as with leading experts abroad. In this sense the project endeavours to link up various methodological approaches with subjects in the field, which will be monitored within the particular modules: Theory and practice of cultural-historical disciplines; Image, cult, space; Imagination, image and text; Representation, places of memory. Outputs from the project will be a series of monographs, articles and a final, methodologically targeted volume, in which all the modules will be involved.
Fundamental Initial Thesis
The present day has to come to terms with an expansion of visuality, and is thus very often characterised as the “Age of the Image”. This idea covers up the significance which contemporary society attaches to visual perception of the world and secondarily to the visual rendering of its own values and ideas. It is clear that the image of today is easily accessible for everyone, and still carries substantial communication functions; one might even suggest that today we are closer than earlier generations to an understanding of what the image was in history, in what sense it could become one of the central problems of society in various periods and different contexts. In spite of the fact that “images” of the world around us are changing constantly and at significant speed, in reality this is a long-term phenomenon, characterised in time by a spread-out change in its external forms. Put in line with the title of the well-known work by J. A. Comenius, the world is perceived by Man by means of images. However, as a rule these images do not have unambiguously assigned meanings. Often, images are symbolic, or more precisely, they bear a hidden message. Man, or human society, represents his/ her cultural system through them. If we wish to understand a particular culture, it is not enough just to describe these images. On the contrary, there is a need to get under the surface, to the mechanisms by which they are created. In view of the fact that visual perception of the world, like that of mentality, changes over time, space and history, current knowledge of them cannot be separated from knowledge of their historical development.
Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Research into Cultural Phenomena
In the Czech Republic there naturally exist various contacts with leading representatives of cultural history interpretation from abroad and current theoretical and historical literature is being published. Nevertheless to date there has not been a research platform on which different researchers could combine to do joint work on the analysis and interpretation of cultural history phenomena and which could contribute to a confrontation and linkage of the differing methods from both fields. The project applicant is led to found this research centre mainly by the need for a cross-disciplinary and country-wide need to analyse and interpret systems and mechanisms which may explain the diverse cultural-historical reality throughout its long duration from the Middle Ages up to the present. The proposed centre of excellence intends to develop a synergistic link between leading research teams and specialists in the cultural-historical field in university departments in Brno and Olomouc which have for some time now been prominent in their use of these approaches to subjects under study. In addition, there is also the intention to draw on cooperation with the most important Czech researchers active in the university and academic spheres and partially also with leading experts abroad.
In this sense the project endeavours to link up various methodological approaches with fundamental subjects in the field, which will be monitored within the particular mutually interconnected modules:
- The theory and practice of cultural-historical disciplines
- Image, cult, space
- Imagination, image and text
- Representation, places of memory.
In its research aims the project submitted is not limited in programme terms to the nar- row boundaries of a single period of history. On the contrary, it plans to research the identified phenomena over the long term and intends to emphasise comparison and confrontation of the entities being monitored from the early Middle Ages to the present day. This concept will permit us to differentiate those items, which are linked to specific historical events, phenomena or defined periods from phenomena determined by long-term tendencies and by changes in duration. In addition to its stated interdisciplinary nature between history and the history of art, the research project thus also crosses over the divide between individually chronologically defined fields of historical scholarship, which are today often perceived as separate firmly defined disciplines determined by their own objects, sources and their interpretational systems and methodologies. This approach thus cuts across not only the boundaries of traditional chronologically divided disciplines such as medieval studies, early modern history, modern history and contemporary history, but also across the more broadly understood line between earlier history and the history of the 19th and 20th centuries. The visual culture is extremely significant for the modern period and for the twentieth century in particular; the current state of research, however, seems to be at variance with this presumption. The objectives of the proposed centre, thus, include not only research into the pre-modern periods, but emphasise and include the research into the 19th and 20th centuries. The staff of the centre is, consequently, build up to match these aims both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
The source base for research into cultural phenomena and thus the make-up of the research team naturally reflects Central Europe as a specific cultural space, but one, which is nevertheless open to the outside world. The cross-disciplinary research of the team will be based – though not entirely – on specific source material of Central Europe. However, the context of close or more distant areas will not be neglected in the research.
Direction and objectives
The aforementioned theoretical prerequisites and practical approaches of the team gathered under the Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Research are directed towards specific outcomes and results. The separate pieces of research concentrated into four modules will focus on a concentrated understanding of chronologically or materially defined aspects of the issue under study. The materially focussed research components will later serve as the basis for wider interpretation in the context of the key concepts of “image”, “communication” and “behaviour” which are often given as the characteristic elements for the study of the phenomenon of visuality in cultural history. The aforementioned basic research, with its interpretation and placing in context, will concentrate on formulating more generally applicable methodological innovations and theoretical concepts in the field of cultural history and the history of visual culture. In addition to a series of individual monographs and articles, the crucial output from the project will be a theoretical and methodological targeted collective joint monograph.