Michael Sappol: "How to get modern with scientific illustration. Flow-charts, cutaways, photomontages and Fritz Kahn’s visual rhetoric of modernity 1915-1940”
- Date: –17:00
- Location: Engelska parken - Eng6-0031
- Organiser: The Department of Literature
- Contact person: Mats Rosengren
The General Seminar - Rhetoric
Michael Sappol, EURIAS Senior Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study: “How to get modern with scientific illustration. Flow-charts, cutaways, photomontages and Fritz Kahn’s visual rhetoric of modernity 1915-1940”
Presentation (for illustrations, please see the attachment below)
Fritz Kahn (1888-1968), a German Jewish physician and popular science writer, was a pioneer of the conceptual scientific illustration—illustrations that were metaphorical, allusive and self-consciously modern. His publications of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s featured thousands of images, using a variety of modern methods, in a variety of modern styles: Dada, Art Deco, photomontagery, Bauhaus functionalism, Neu Sachlichkeit, etc. It was a novel approach to popular science, informed by the iconophilic technologies, genres, and styles of the time: illustrated advertisements and magazines; movies; exhibitions; new architecture and design. Under the influence of an intoxicated technological enthusiasm and market imperatives for attention-seeking visual novelties, Kahn and his cadre of commercial illustrators developed entirely new pictorial genres and tactics, and reinvented some very old ones: visual metaphor, the flow-chart, the cross-section cutaway, the dramatized statistic, the visual synopsis. In the interwar period, there was a demand for materials that could help people acquire and perform an over-determined “modern” social identity. In this milieu, Kahn presented himself as an impresario of the modern, a provisioner of images to get modern with. Kahn’s images, I will argue and demonstrate, were a visual rhetoric of modernity, a productive technology of the self that naturalized modernity by situating it within the human body. Even so, the seeming coherence and cogency of Kahn’s universalizing modernizing project was undermined by the sheer proliferation of images and perspectives.
Mike Sappol lives in Stockholm and is currently a senior fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala. For many years, he was a historian, exhibition curator and scholar-in-residence in the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine (USA). His work focuses on the history of anatomy, death, and the visual culture of medicine in film, illustration and exhibition. He is the author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies (2002) and Dream Anatomy (2006), editor of A Cultural History of the Human Body in the Age of Empire (2010) and Hidden Treasure (2012), and curator of a number of exhibitions, including Once & Future Web (2000), Dream Anatomy (2003) and Visible Proofs (2006). His latest book is Body Modern: Fritz Kahn, Scientific Illustration and the Homuncular Subject (University of Minnesota Press, 2017).