The Matter of the Image: For a Material Aesthetics between Ontology and Linguistics

Anna Montebugnoli


This essay aims at understanding the role of matter and outlining material aesthetics in the age of the digital image. To do so, it first analyses the traditional link between matter and form within the framework of classic ontology and aesthetics, according to which matter is the passive principle of reality subdued to the action of form and its logos. It then attempts to rethink this relationship through the activation of matter in its metaphysical, as well as aesthetical and linguistical dimensions. Such activation is outlined through the analysis of the concept of “concrete sense” and “concrete metaphysics” developed by Pavel Florensky in his inquiry into the Orthodox icon, and through that of “vital semantics” defined by Roland Barthes in his essay on 16th century Italian painter Arcimboldo. The argument is that these two concepts allow for a different relationship among art’s praxis, ontology, and linguistics, leading to the first formulation of a material aesthetics, while also rethinking the temporality of both traditional and digital image.


Article received: April 30, 2020; Article accepted: June 23, 2020; Published online: September 15, 2020; Original scholarly paper

How to cite this article: Montebugnoli, Anna. "The Matter of the Image: For a Material Aesthetics between Ontology and Linguistics." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies 22 (2020): 85-97. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i22.382


matter and form; material aesthetics; metaphysics and ontology; metonymy and metaphor; Pavel Florensky; Roland Barthes; icon; Arcimboldo; anachronism.

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