chapter  10
13 Pages

Images and their Incarnations: An Interview with W.J.T. Mitchell


ASBJØRN GRØNSTAD AND ØYVIND VÅGNES: It would be very interesting to hear your thoughts about the iconoclasm of a number of the grand narratives of cultural theory in recent years, not least against the background of your idea of “living images” in What Do Pictures Want?. But let us begin with “the object”, and return to the more sweeping claims of theory later. In What Do Pictures Want? you describe critical practice as a way of responding to a “resonant” object, and this made us think about Mieke Bal’s description of the object that “talks back” in her Travelling Concepts of the Humanities (8-10). Bal calls for a “qualified return to ‘close reading’ that has gone out of style” (10); in What Do Pictures Want?, you suggest that answers to the central questions of visuality “must be sought in the specific, concrete images that most conspicuously embody the anxiety over image-making and image-smashing in our time”. We’d like you to comment on this, but perhaps you first could talk a little bit about what you in Picture Theory call the “metapicture”, since that conceptualization made us think about Bal’s notion of a “thinking” object in the first place?