Visual symbols in art, anthropology and other sciences – P1

Opening: 09.12.2013 @2pm
Location: USSH
Linh Trung department,
D. Thu Duc, HCMc



In western art history, ‘symbolism’ is the study of symbols, or the details appearing on the artwork’s surface. This methodology is also called ‘iconography’ – meaning to describe the symbol and examine its related contexts. Such symbols are typically religious icons studied in the field of Iconography. While Art History is a young science compared to other social and humanity sciences such as philosophy, history, geography or literature, its sub-study Iconology is even newer. It was established with the German art historian Erwin Panofsky who systematized and defined Iconography in the early 20th century – the method used not only to describe but also to understand and interpret the artwork through its icons.


This workshop will present the history and the essential steps of Iconography, which are mostly based on Erwin Panofsky’s theories. In order to illustrate and practice Iconography, we will go through many examples, from art for religion’s sake, to art for the authorities, empires and business sectors. The examples given to workshop participants to analyze will also include non-Western art pieces such as Persian miniatures in 15th century or stylized scientific illustrations.


The last part of workshop will discuss post-modernist era – the crisis and transitional stage of Iconography today. The person who interprets the work has shifted from academic/religious discipline to now valuing the general views of the mass public. Contemporary art does not function purely to worship religion or empire, and the public does not passively receive one single message of the artwork. Art is rather artist’s progressive tool to engage differently with the public and to provide critical reflection on particular topics and issues.

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This workshop belongs to ‘Unconditional Belief‘, an invited project of Prod/Ponder ,which is part of a large artistic endeavour called ‘Conscious Realities’, initiated and organized by San Art in partnership with Prince Claus Fund.