Iconic Criticism

The Power and Meaning
of Images

The digital revolution has brought about a new society undergirded by the image. In ways unknown until now, we use images for communication and as instruments to generate and convey knowledge. Yet our understanding for the particularities, the function, the power and effects of these images has hardly kept pace with this development. The National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Iconic Criticism—the power and meaning of images—closes this gap and bestows upon images the attention they deserve.

The NCCR gathers ten disciplines in total, from among the Humanities and social sciences. It investigates iconic phenomena from such diverse areas as the arts, sciences, economics, city planning, philosophy, and the history of language and writing. The various disciplines and thematic areas complement one another; however, their constellation within the NCCR make evident the diverse lines of questioning posed by the participating disciplines and their specific suppositions.

An open investigative process and the possibility for innovation rest on these complementary relationship and the reciprocal exchanges among the individual projects and fields represented in the NCCR. The NCCR thereby builds bridges between the different disciplines, not only within the leading University of Basel, but also between different Swiss and international universities, research institutions, collections, and museums. In this respect, the cooperation with the Schaulager in Basel is paradigmatic, as it is an institution that brings together collections, exhibitions, and research in a globally unique manner.

The NCCR project "Iconic Criticism" was established as a leading house of the University of Basel following an initial proposal submitted by Gottfried Boehm, Andreas Beyer, Antonio Loprieno, Ralf Simon, Michael Hagner, Michael Renner, Thomas Vetter, Theodora Vischer, und Thomas Bernold. The Swiss National Science Foundation endorsed two petitions for four-year extensions of the project on the basis of positive assessment and the unconditional support of the review panels. The third and final funding phase began on 1 October 2013 and continues until 30 September 2017. The tried and tested cooperation with the Schaulager, the ETH Zurich, the University of Zurich, the University of Lucern, and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) will be sustained alongside international workshops, conferences, and the eikones publication series. Gottfried Boehm directed the research project from 2005 to 2012 until his retirement. On 1 April 2012, Ralph Ubl was named the new director.