IMAGES Journal for Visual Studies

events: Visual studies today: The power of images


Teresa Castro
The “Visual Studies Attitude”

During the 2011 Stone Summer Theory Institute, “Farewell to Visual Studies”, Michael Ann Holly observed that when asked by her undergraduate students what visual studies were, she would answer, ten years ago: “It isn’t a discipline; it isn’t a field. It just names a problematic. It shakes up complacency. No objects are excluded. Visual studies names an attitude in relation to visual things, rather than a department.” Even though the author in question proceeded to say that she now happily calls visual studies “art history”, I would like to argue that such a simple and slightly provocative explanation of visual studies is both an effective way of avoiding the pitfalls of the institutional and disciplinary disputes that so often take over the debate and of accounting for the multitude of heterogeneous and sometimes contradictory references, related to different traditions and ways of thinking, that seem to distinguish visual studies in Europe. This paper wishes to develop the notion of a “visual studies attitude”, in particular in the context of film and media studies.