Invert It If You Want to Understand It. Left and Right in the Mythic and Aesthetic Space

Part of the Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics book series (SAPERE, volume 39)


In the age of the slide projectors everybody could easily experience the mistake of a slide loaded upside down or left-right inverted: what should be up is down, and vice versa; what should be on the right appears on the left, and vice versa. If in the case of the upside down inversion the acknowledgment of the error is almost instantaneous, in the case of an inverted laterality things might be trickier and the right disposition not so easy to detect. Back in the Twenties of the last century, Heinrich Wölfflin not only was a pioneer in adopting the double projector for the comparison of images, but also was one of the first art historians and theorists to reflect upon that mistake and the crucial consequences—syntactic, semantic, symbolic, pragmatic—of the lateral inversion of images. Such an inversion does not only occur when misusing an optical device like the projector, but is also a structural element in the “controparte” relationship between an original drawing and a derived image (tapestry or engravings, for example), and an exploratory procedure in the preliminary studies of the postures of the characters prepared by major and minor artists. Moreover, it frequently appears in cases of homage, plagiarism, copy and fake. In my paper I will address the question of lateral inversion in images on the background of a more general account of laterality as a crucial factor in human experience as referred to the human being as an animal which is organized according to a bilateral symmetry around a vertical axis. Such an organization impacts on manifold levels: from the physiological to the mythical, from the neurological to the symbolic, from the chemical to the aesthetic (both in the sense of a theory of art and of a theory of bodily knowledge).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MilanMilanItaly

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