It soon becomes clear that, aside from the culture of images in the arts, the instrumental use of images has also developed in the sciences. Since we have been able to produce images by technical means, the possibilities of using them in the process of conveying knowledge have been augmented and refined. The continually developing technology functions increasingly as a genuine and effective mode of vision. In the theory and practice of the natural and biosciences, including medicine, we simply no longer can do without the image.
The image is more than a mere aid to understanding – as which it has long been considered; in fact, it affects the character of that which it sets out to explain. It is therefore appropriate to speak of an iconic model of knowledge, which takes its place next to speech and mathematics as a medium for generating, communicating and illustrating knowledge. This is especially true in that images seem to possess a logic of their own, the nature and the consequences of which need to be more closely examined.
The continually increasing technical sophistication of the iconical instruments, their efficiency and usefulness, are likely to obscure our view of their communicative functions. All the more important is the ongoing development of a reflexive form of knowledge – a development which is also taking place in the natural sciences and the history of science.
The increasing importance of images, as well as their altered function in the realm of knowledge, makes it possible for them to bring about a new ordering of the disciplines and methods handed down to us. The old division of two cultures – or even three – has begun to change as a result of investigative images developed and used in the process of representing facets of the natural sciences, from the subatomic world to that of astronomy, in research on and therapy of the human body, but also in art and history. Cooperation achieves a new plausibility, for instance between physics, biological sciences, neurology, psychology, the history of science, art history and media studies, history, cultural studies etc. At the same time the wider use of images makes necessary a critical stance to enable the user to recognize the limits beyond which such devices may prove problematic and to see through inherent distortions and misjudgements.
The Fritz Thyssen Foundation endeavours to stimulate and support research projects in the area of iconic recognition models. The foundation concentrates its support on analyses of image recognition and forms of representation, but projects involving innovative or altered applications can also be considered. Special preference will be given to projects in disciplines such as art and cultural history, and also philosophy – disciplines that make use of a complex concept of images – when they are devoted to broader, transdisciplinary studies. Projects are especially welcome which leave the well-worn paths, which establish links and interrelations between the separate disciplines, or which take up inter-faculty problems as the start of an altered culture of knowledge. Also welcome, among others, are projects which deal with the logic of images, the anthropology of images, problems in the sciences, the culture and the history of images, the relation of aesthetic and cognitive achievements or the instrumental role of the image in the representational processes of the sciences.