One of the approaches to the problem of the image and text is the understanding of them as sign systems. Meaning is created in them in different forms – if we stick to the classical Peircean distinction, text is primarily at the level of symbols, images represent icons, indexes and symbols according to the type of depiction – however this does not in any way prevent the interaction of image
and text, through which the field of meanings is enriched. In the cultural historical reality “pure” images and texts do not exist and for the most part a researcher comes across a combination of both systems, in simple terms from medieval images with their descriptive bands up to modern art which would often be unthinkable without its accompanying text, since it is only the text which gives it its intended meaning. Text thus becomes the go-between for an image, which however can also apply in reverse, since visualisation can make concrete abstract textual expressions. These are not however just images in material form and texts fixed in writing. When reading we convert the text into mental images in our mind, and conversely we verbalise our internal images, for it is only by this route that we can establish understanding when communicating. In his accurate summary, J.-C. Schmitt talks of the road from image to the imagination, which French historiography (but not only) in particular devoted great attention to over the last few decades, since it offered the opportunity for a more precise grasp of the past, as opposed to the vague concept of mentalities. Schmitt’s concept does not represent a simple development of imagination on the basis of observed or intermediated images, but a generally internal visualisation of ideas which made up the constitutive elements of a given cultural system, whether it be the system of the three estates of medieval society, the image of the ideal ruler, the true faith or the republic. Visualisation of these ideas took place (and still does) through the use of symbols (the king, Marianne, parliament, etc.), into which visual creation values, closely linked with the given cultural elements, are accumulated.
Extensive research into medieval and early modern emblematics, established after the Second World War in the growing field of iconographic research, has brought about a number of stimuli for monitoring the interaction between word and image. Following the classic work of Mario Praz, there has developed a research direction in the field of emblem studies, which reaches into many disciplines. Modern emblematic research has also brought a number of important impulses into Czech historiography. The changes in mutual interaction between text and image within historical development represent a multi-layered problem, rich in content, which may be viewed from many angles. One of the main aims of the module is the attempt to respond to those questions which have arisen during previous research into the topic of the relationship between image, text and imagination and to look at them from a broader platform of opinions, and from a cross-disciplinary perspective over a longer timescale, again from a position of the three here mutually interpenetrating methodological approaches, summarised under the concepts of image – communication – behaviour. The assumptions expressed bring up two fundamental questions which will represent the leading line linking the specific individual topics: How does the representation of reality using texts and images happen and what are the relationships between verbal and image systems? How are the means and implementation strategy for verbal signs in images connected and by contrast what is the connection of image elements in texts when retaining the concept not only at the level of “image in text – text in image” but also in the broader area of imagination and image perception?
Within the project we define the following topic areas: Pieces of research done recently on the relationship in early modern art to period art work descriptions issued in print or intended for printing have shown a certain independence of the textual message from the visual messages, that is, that a text which apparently precisely describes an image in truth is creating a certain parallel reality. For this reason research will be directed to monitoring that disproportion, with the aim of determining the more general nature of these deviations and to attempt to explain their reasons in relation to the contemporary social and political situation and to the functional nature of the particular text and image messages. Attention will be focused on several specific areas, into which the given more general questions will be placed. The research will follow the descriptions of major fresco works and wall paintings (using the example of the preserved descriptions of the Premonstratensian monasteries at Louka near Znojmo and Strahov in Prague), the influence of French descriptions of works of art of an apologetic nature and their transformation through visual and textual means here; the form of renaissance and early baroque chateaux in the interaction between symbolic image and practical functions; the problem of baroque monuments and 19th century monuments (the communication of texts on the pedestals in interaction with the depiction itself, the use of means through which it was possible to achieve control over the “power” of the image; the reciprocal changes between the role of images and words in the modern art (relativization of words and the dominant role of images in the avant-garde art; rejecting and substitution of image by the word and imagination in the conceptual art etc.); the relations between logocentric and pictorial communication of power in respect of the
controlled society from 1945-1989 (the significant role of visual means in Nazi propaganda raises numerous questions on the topics of totalitarian deformation of language and its influence on its image-creating potential, the deformation of language as a platform for imposing ideological propagandistic images, the confrontation of created images of reality with a visual-empirical reality).
The issue of recent and current media strategies makes current the needs to research the disproportion between textual and visual messages and its impact. These bring up the need for thought, for example, over comparing the influence of historiography and the reproduced image document in communicating an image of the recent past. In addition to the spectacular depiction of wartime scenes which have totally dominated the interpretation of the Second World War and other conflicts, we also have in mind television mining of its own archive in the form of reruns of old news reports, mixes of various retro programmes, documentaries and fictional serials. The question which has been put and to which attention will be devoted, remains to what extent the current status and problems (lack of cohesion) of the historiography of the latest history is connected to the incursion of visualisation technologies into the depiction of images of the past, or more precisely, with the predominantly visual nature of contemporary culture.
The divergence of visual and text communications and the degree of autonomy of text and image bring about reflections on the nature of different messages for various recipient groups and on grasping the role of images and imagination in communications strategies. Different ways of perceiving an image naturally have a social background and lead to other questions: how was the idea of image further preserved in a community? In what ways were information on images circulated and what forms did their descriptions take. The image thus becomes an instrument for the development of imagination, which can differ from the original concrete image in substantial features. In the research, the issue of imagination will be concentrated especially into the following areas, which are based on previous research by members of the research team: means of meditation and perception of the image in post-Tridentine graphic art and literature, conditions for reception and imagination in connections with the early modern theory of perception; dreams in medieval and early modern society (differences between pictorial and textual depictions of dreams, stereotypes, the influence of the function which dreams performed in given societies, on the ways they were captured; the development of dreams in imagination); grasping the role of images and imagination in the communication strategies of the early modern Church and ecclesiastical orders; the strategy and socially and otherwise determined reception of image and visual expressions in ideologies and totalitarian regimes in the 20th century.