Year 1 Phd Overview

Theoretical framework

My research seeks to re-contextualise pieces of the Catholic heritage into the contemporary, post-religious landscape.

1 Overview

My intention is to find and repurpose their solace and spiritual gravitas for the 21st century, when the phenomenon of dwindling Christian communities meets the increased connectivity, confusion, and recent rapid changes (socially, environmentally, politically).

In order to:

1) extract meaning from these inherited images and spaces beyond credo;

2) put them into dialogue with contemporary art and visual culture.

I am re-approaching Aby Warburg's legacy.

2 Denkraum as scenography

Firstly, I will re-define the Denkraum so that it becomes a scenography, containing:

1) the atlas of my own research;

2) body/ies in motion (not only in images, but also those of Warburg's stand-ins, spectators and interlocutors with the Atlas).

Furthermore, this way, the "room for thought" opens itself towards non-figurative installations. 

3 Embodiment and minor memories

This turn towards the present body calls for a theory that becomes practice, a way of engaging with ideas that does not forget the physical, complex people that offer them. 

Looking to build bridges between the embodied experience and cultural theory, together with Kris Pint, my supervisor, we have coined the term "minor memories". These describe the briefest flashes of sensorial impressions and have become a useful part of our lexicon to talk about images, gestures, interactions, and recollections.

4 Juxtaposition

Faithful to Warburg's Atlas, the idea of juxtaposition as a methodology for meaning-making remains central to the project, both in practice and in theory. 

5 Interval

Given the renewed emphasis on spatiality and the Denkraum, the interval does become more central as well. The in-between is key as an interactive "space" where the interlocutor activates the juxtaposition, but is also a moment of uncertainty (see 7).

6 Auto-theory and Vita

I am incorporating the relatively new "auto-theory" phenomenon, mostly present in literature, as a sense through which to study and process the above. This biography-ed approach to knowledge is singularly well-suited to engage with Warburg, whose Atlas was a direct result of his personal obsessions. What is more, auto-theory can tie into the Catholic notion of vita, creating a distinct connection to the images the whole project is based on. 

7 Collapse, reflection, and uncertainty

The ultimate connector of this framework - conceived almost as a set of Russian dolls (Catholic images, in an Atlas, in Warburg's methodology, and so on); is a notion and (e)motion of collapse (etimologically, co-lapse, sliding together).

From the Virgin mothers crumbling at the feet of crucifixions; to Warburg needing to create distance between him and images; to the untethered digital-era of self-fashioning, collapse is understood as a figure and a movement where an exterior reflects an impacted interiority.

Collapse in this sense can be emotional and physical. In fact, the Virgins in collapse are half-way to flexing their bodies, which can be read as a reflection - in all senses, re-flexing: bending back, rebounding light (metaphor for divinity and knowledge), and thinking, ruminating. The reflecting collapse implies a body that in its fall creates a space for thought, a Denkraum.

Visualizing theoretical relationships

To enlarge, click on one, and it will appear as a pop up, you can then zoom into it with "pinching" gestures on the mouse pad. 

Artistic Practice

A question that emerged earlier on was not so much how to do practice-based research, but rather: 

How can research be my practice?

What makes research by an artist different?

Can theory be a medium, or even a material?

My so-called traditional practice, then, has been rather limited and very tentative.

Some experiments emerged as a response to observing issues of emotional and physical gravity, memory, juxtaposition (of existing images and works), secular devotion, and transformation. The vast majority of these have been created in dialogue with paintings by Rogier Van Der Weyden and Fra Angelico.

Currently, I am looking into working into 2 directions:

1) with .gifs, looping movements, lenticular images (referencing minor memories).

2) with beads (inspired by Barroque crystal tears), creating figures with weight and layers.

Below is a sampler of the diverse approaches I have initiated since last October. 

Selected Visual References

Catholic imagery:

Ex-votos and votive images, Fra Angelico, Rogier Van der Weyden, Spanish Barroque sculpture.



vernacular religious spaces, internet phenomena (gif., memes, ASMR, clips from music videos and movies), current affairs

Contemporary 3D work:

Eva Hesse, Edith Dekyndt, Angela de la Cruz, Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, Karla Black, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Kiki Smith, Rachel Whiteread, Wolfgang Laib

2D work:

Tantra images, Georgia O'Keeffe, Tauba Auberbach, Penny Siopis, Agnes Martin


Selected Textual References

  • Agamben, G. (1999). “Aby Warburg and the Nameless Science”, Potentialities, pp. 89-103. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Baert, B. [ed.] (2009). Fluid Flesh: The Body, Religion and the Visual Arts. Leuven: Leuven University Press.

  • Baert, B. (2014). Nymph: Motif, Phantom, Affect, a Contribution to the Study of Aby Warburg 1866-1929. Leuven: Peeters.

  • Baert, B. (2016). Nymph Motif, Phantom, Affect: Aby Warburg's Butterflies As Art Historical Paradigms. Leuven: Peeters.

  • Bohme, G. (2017). Atmospheric Architectures: The Aesthetics of Felt Spaces. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Cooey, P. M.(1994). Religious Imagination and the Body: A Feminist Analysis. New York e.a.: Oxford University Press.

  • Didi-Huberman, G. (1990). Devant l’image: Question posée aux fins d’une histoire de l’art. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit.

  • Didi-Huberman, G. (2000). Devant le temps: Histoire de l’art et anachronisme des images. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit.

  • Didi-Huberman, G. (2002). L’image survivante: Histoire de l’art et temps des fantomes selon Aby Warburg. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit.

  • Didi-Huberman, G. (2018, forthcoming). Atlas, or the Anxious Gay Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Elkins, J. (1996). The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing. New York: Harvest Books.

  • Elkins, J. (1999). Pictures of the Body: Pain and Metamorphosis. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Elkins, J. (2001). Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings. New York: Routledge.

  • Elkins, J. (2004). On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art. New York: Routledge.

  • Esquirol Calaf, J. M. (2015). La resistencia íntima. Barcelona: Acantilado.

  • Griffero, T. (2016). Atmospheres: Aesthetics of Emotional Spaces. Oxon: Routledge.

  • Gombrich, E. H. (1970). Aby Warburg: An intellectual biography. London: The Warburg Institute.

  • Hirsch, A. [ed.] (2014). Negative space: Orbiting inner and outer Experience. Burnaby: SFU Galleries.

  • Johnson, C. D. (2012). Memory, Metaphor, and Aby Warburg's Atlas of Images. Cornell: Cornell University Press.

  • Kristeva, J. (1987). Soleil Noir: Depression et melancolie. Paris: Gallimard.

  • Michaud, P. A. (2012). Aby Warburg et l’image en mouvement. Paris: Macula.

  • Nelson, M. (2009). Bluets. Seattle: Wave Books.

  • Nochlin, L. (2001). The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor in Modernity. New York: Thames & Hudson.

  • Pallasmaa, J. (2009). The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture. Chichester: Wiley.

  • Pallasmaa, J. (2012). The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Chichester: Wiley.

  • Rütinger, I. and Schmidt, E. (eds.). (2012). Dear Aby Warburg, what can be done with images? Heidelberg: Kehrer.

  • Warburg, A. (1999). The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.

  • Warburg, A. (2003). Der Bilderatlas Mnemosyne. Berlin: Akademie Verlag GmbH.

  • Warburg, A. (2018). Werke. Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag.

  • Weigel, S.; Gaines, J.; and Wallach, R. (1995). “Aby Warburg's Schlangenritual: Reading Culture and Reading Written Texts”, New German Critique, No. 65, pp. 135-153. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Weigel, S. (2013). “Epistemology of Wandering, Tree and Taxonomy”, Images Re-vues [Online], Hors-série 4, document 15, Online since 30 January 2013, connection on 02 October 2016. URL: http://

  • Weigel, S. (2015). Grammatologie der Bilder. Berlin: Suhrkamp.


Since Oct 2017:

  • I Spy, I spy, a little lie; group show at Marres, Maastricht, program here.
  • Presentation at Jan Van Eyck Academy, Maastricht (images for presentation, inspired by Atlas, here).
  • THE SCOUT (what we figure comes from beyond the beyond, and what we see are always ghosts),Visual Essay for Collateral Journal, published here.
  • Presentation at Theory of Knowledge Conference, United World College, Maastricht.
  • Presentation at TEDx Youth, Maastricht, can be watched here.
  • Flash Presentation at 31th Joint Doctoral Seminar in History and Theory of Architecture, Hasselt.


  • Wherever you go, you will be a city. Minor memories and tactics of empathy in the work of Lisa Robertson. Article co-authored with Kris Pint for Writing Place Journal.
  • Norma; group show at Maison Pelgrims, Brussels.