The Face by Dürer: Intermedial Genealogies of German Physiognomic Science from Printed Book to Digital Art Bridged through an Online Keyword Thesaurus

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

From a theoretical framework of cognitive semiotics, emotion history, and image science, Schiller’s scholarship focuses on the media genealogies of physiognomy, the science of facial expression, and digital biometrics. He analyzes how artists and scientists use media to interpret from the outside physiological behavior of the face the psychological phenomena inside an individual; the visual rhetoric of these methodologies; and how face images can inform display rules, social scripting, and truth claims for emotion in society. Schiller is also an internationally exhibited artist. Across the media genealogies of physiognomic science in the German-speaking countries, artists researching at the intersection of art, science, and technology have from the “form” [Greek physis] of the face “interpreted” [gnṓmōn] characteristics such as temperament and emotion. To historicize how media is the method for this grammatical view of the facial language–long called an art and today known as a science–I problematize the connections and conflictions between ‘face-reading’ in the tetradic humoural ‘theory of everything’ of the Northern Renaissance, and automatic facial expression analysis in the digital information society of the Cognitive Revolution. Using a new online Media Art Research Thesaurus, I probe the intermedial prestige of Albrecht Dürer’s The Four Apostles (1526) and its references to physiognomic ‘books on the face,’ by comparatively analyzing the semantic bridges that link the transposition of this artwork in Johann Nepomuk Strixner’s master study (1815), and combination into Julius von Bismarck’s Public Face (2008).

(Source: Author's Abstract ICDMT 2016)

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Hannah Ackermans