Since Greek antiquity, artistic, scientific and socio-political discourses have been drawing on concepts of force. As references to muscular strength, the power of language or images, and the force of law show, hardly any field of cultural reflection can do without relating to forces in the broadest sense: They range from biological notions (potency, vitality, creative energy), religious notions of a creative force or magic powers, to human forces (vis animae, driving force, willpower), to concepts of force in the field of economics (manpower, productive force, buying power). In the political context, kratos, potentia, power, rule, force, and charisma are addressed, while artistic production is conceptualized as creativity, imagination or movere. The term 'force', as a translation of the Greek word dynamis and the Latin term vis or potentia, refers to the ability to exert effects. But forces themselves cannot be perceived. They can only be determined indirectly by their effects.
This is where our research sets in: Which modes of representation, metaphors and narratives constitute concepts of forces? How are the emergence and modifications of concepts of force observed, followed or pushed ahead in the arts? To what extent represent the arts and meditations on the arts a privileged environment for investigations of the sensual effects of the presence of forces that are themselves non-sensory? The project's question consciously forges a link between arts and cultural studies and the natural sciences.
Force is a fundamental concept in the natural sciences and a central category of the arts. However, the term 'force' has not yet been investigated systematically in cultural and art studies research. Our interdisciplinary Centre for Advanced Studies, bringing together humanities and natural sciences, therefore represents a novelty in its historical and systematic analysis of the visualizations and narrativizations of force as a fundamental aesthetic, scientific and social concept in its historical and systematic diversification. The CAS »Imaginaria of Force« explores the modes of representation of 'force' from Greek antiquity to the present day, ranging from efforts of formalization and mathematization, to graphic recording systems, models and simulations or images, metaphors and narratives.
However, it is not the nowadays more common term of 'energy', which is closely related to physics, that is guiding the questions of the CAS. The research is rather based on the concept of 'force', which has been removed from the physics discourse since the second half of the 19th century, and its derivatives. This emphasis on concepts of force ensures a far greater historical and disciplinary scope: The study of historical semantics of force reveals a field in which discourses appear to be particularly pervious and interferences between nature and culture can be observed in an exemplary way.
The intensive study focuses on the historicity of these terms in their various disciplinary versions. Particular interest is given to the continuities and transformations of concepts of force over time, especially at epochal changes and transitions. The examination of various forms of representation of natural or social respectively cultural forces is addressed equally to scientists and scholars of cultural, arts and literary studies.
The category of 'imaginaria' takes into account the fluidity and mobility of the term 'force', which runs through and links a wide variety of cultural and epistemic fields: Situated between the imago and the imaginary, image and fantasy, the deliberately not fixed notion of imaginaria is aimed at the examination of the pictorial and imaginative worlds in which concepts of force and dynamics unfold.
The analytical emphasis on the mediality of forces is characteristic of the overall framework of the research and is the basis for its twofold approach of questioning: It is not only relevant to investigate the ways in which scientific descriptions of forces are and were used as models for reflections on culture and the arts, but also the visual and linguistic modelings of scientific concepts of force.
Transfer processes between the natural sciences and the humanities can be exemplified by studying the term force. The research approach of the CAS »Imaginaria of Force« , on the one hand, addresses a fundamental concept of art theory in its historical and interdisciplinary forms and, on the other hand, provides a methodological contribution to the interrelation between arts, humanities and natural sciences. In addition, this approach also allows us to focus on the topicality of medial and technical forces and to demonstrate exemplarily their socio-political relevance.