Hubert Damisch: Thinking Aloud

2011 | 20mins | Colour
Directed by Mieke Bal

Genre: Documentary
French with English subtitles



In order to think clearly, one must consider the thoughts of others first

French philosopher and art historian Hubert Damisch (1928-2017) has had a profound influence on generations of art historians who sought to escape the confines of a discipline with rather strict methodological principles. But Damisch is not only an out-of-the-box thinker; he is also a responsible historian. It is in the name of history, not against it, that he defends the deployment of anachronism in our understanding of art from the past.

At the occasion of an academic workshop, organised as a collaboration between the French Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) and the American Clark Art Institute, I filmed Damisch in interaction with colleagues. While he seemed the most radical in his convictions, he also had more than anyone else to say about what matters in art. Not representation but a kind of operation; not what an image depicts but what it transforms; not a position “post’” the modern but trying to grasp what happened in modern art.

An extremely learned scholar, this original thinker takes into account what others have written. To me he seemed a model of what academic work is all about: thinking aloud, in dialogue, but thinking his own thoughts, using his capability to conjure up new visions. His interests range from abstract art to quattrocento painting; from exhibitions to perspective, and from psychoanalysis to architecture, photography and film.

Three days of intense discussion are compressed in a twenty-minute documentary that pays homage to a great thinker and a generous teacher.

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