Jonathan Gilmore

  • Art and the New Biology of Mind

    THE DREAM of discovering a science of art once took the form of attempting to render systematically the variety and appearance of the visible world, an endeavor intimately entwined with Renaissance developments in mathematical perspective, anatomical drawing, and optics, and, later, with seventeenth-century catalogues of nature. In more recent times, the project has turned inward—to the body and mind—expressed as a desire to hunt art and aesthetics back to some allegedly biological source, motivating work ranging from Hermann von Helmholtz’s thesis that the mechanics of the human eye made it in

  • William Kentridge, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse, 1998. Performance view, John Jay College Theater, New York, 2004. Fourie Nyamade (puppeteer) and Furio Zanasi (vocalist). Photo: Johan Jacobs-LaMonnaie.

    Jonathan Gilmore on William Kentridge’s Ritorno d’Ulisse

    ALTHOUGH IT STANDS as a paradigm of a Gesamtkunstwerk, opera has largely relegated the visual arts to only a subsidiary role: as costume, scene, and setting, both literal and figurative background to the expressive voice. In William Kentridge’s multimedia production of Monteverdi’s 1640 masterwork Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (which premiered in New York in March), this hierarchy is undone. For here, as in several other theater productions he has directed (Ubu and the Truth Commission, 1997; Woyzeck on the Highveld, 1992; Faustus in Africa!, 1995; Zeno at 4 a.m., 2001), Kentridge does not so much clothe

  • Hans Belting

    IN HIS 1990 LIKENESS AND PRESENCE, Hans Belting offered a magisterial narrative of the social, political, and religious contexts of imagemaking in late antiquity and the Middle Ages while adamantly refusing to view the creations of that time through the conceptual lenses of artistic autonomy, individual expression, and historical progress that developed only later. Not so much an early history as a prehistory of art (as implied in the subtitle, “A History of the Image Before the Era of Art”), the book served as a touchstone in Germany’s emerging debates over the place of images in contemporary