A Vision for Europe:  British Art and the Mediterranean -
Joanne Anderson, Mick Finch and Johannes Von Müller. A collaboration
between Bilderfahrzeuge, Central Saint Martins and the Warburg institute

After Aby Warburg’s death in 1929 Fritz Saxl, his assistant for many years, took over the direction of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg (known as either the KBW or the Warburg Haus) in Hamburg that housed an extensive library, reading room, facilities for projection and lectures and photographic resource.  the increasing threat to the German Jewish population by the Nazis in 1933 motivated Saxl to urgently ship the entire contents of the  KBW to London where it was established as the Warburg Institute.  It was dependent upon the generosity of the British Government, especially in providing premises and later the patronage of Samuel Courtauld who financed the building it moved into in 1952 and where it is to this day.  The war years were particularly difficult for the Institute.  Its scholars were German and many were Jewish and their work was often esoteric and highly specialized.  Saxl addressed this situation by staging four photographic exhibitions during the war years. English Art and the Mediterranean was staged by Fritz Saxl and Rudolf Wittkover, in 1941 at the Warburg’s then home in the Imperial Institute Buildings in South Kensington. The British government referred to the Warburg’s staff as ‘alien scholars’ and this project demonstrated how they were putting their expertise into service for the British War effort.  The scholarship was not only patriotic but also forged connections in forming a British, European identity -  an essential aspect of the war effort.  Kenneth Clark, the then director of the National Gallery in London, enthusiastically supported the Institute and the exhibition project and gave an address at its opening.  The exhibition was a huge success. There was little to see in war-time London, the major collections were stored in Welsh mines for their protection so this exhibition was a visual extravagance during the austerity of the period.  The exhibition used the resources and methodologies of past exhibitions the Warburg had staged in its Hamburg days and is importantly related to Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas in terms of establishing an image driven analysis and narrative.   English Art and the Mediterranean was comprised of around 800 photographs on 86 panels.  In 1948 the panels were used as a paste-up model for a publication entitled British Art and the Mediterranean that was republished as a second edition in 1968.

In 2016 a collaboration between CSM, Bilderfahrzeuge and the KBW staged a colloquium event at the KBW entitled ‘The Warburg Haus: Apparatus, Inscription, Data, Speculation’.  Mick Finch gave a paper, The Technical Apparatus of the Warburg Haus: possible returns from oblivion, where he discussed the significance of the exhibition and the publication and especially in the context of Kenneth Clark and John Berger’s use of image-led narratives and particularly in relation to Civilisation and Ways of Seeing. In June 2016 the entire archive of British Art and the Mediterranean was located in the Photographic Collection of the Warburg Institute. The value of this material extends to being a living trace of  Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas and also as an important artefact produced by a refugee organisation during a time of crisis  The political parallels of the archive’s context in 1941 and the present are also highly significant.  

The Annihilation event will interact with the material, engaging with a selection its panels.  This process will involve a group of students, teaching staff from CSM, the help of the CSM Study Collection, members of the Bilderfahrzeuge team and other external interventions.  
At 1pm on Wednesday 22 March, there will be a public conversation about the project and in reference to specific material from the archive in the context of the Annihilation event.   The processing of the material is seen as a major step in activating this archive, bringing it into the present, in a context where it now, more than ever has resonance and value.

The project organisers are:  Joanne Anderson (The Warburg Institute), Mick Finch (CSM) and Johannes von Müller (Bilderfahrzeuge).