Giuseppe Di Giacomo
Author of about a hundred scientific publications on the relationship between aesthetics and literature, as well as on the relationship between aesthetics and the visual arts, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary culture, and on topics such as the image, representation, the art/life nexus, memory and the notion of testimony.
Before undertaking his university career, immediately after graduating in Philosophy (with professor Emilio Garroni), Di Giacomo taught in senior high schools and, even before that, while still a university student, he was a substitute teacher for several months in various junior high schools. In 1976, he was awarded a contract to teach Epistemology at the Faculty of Natural, mathematical and physical sciences of the University of Parma, and obtained a permanent position in the same university two years later. On 28 February 1987 he became a researcher at Sapienza University of Rome, where, starting from 19 October 1993, he became Associate Professor and, from 1 November 2001, Full Professor of Aesthetics. Since November 2012, he has been the Director of MLAC (Museo Laboratorio di Arte Contemporanea/Laboratory Museum of Contemporary Art), Sapienza University. He is a member of the Teaching Staff of the Ph.D. in Philosophy of the same university, where he also served, for six years, as President of the Master’s Degree of the former Faculty of Philosophy. He has coordinated national research projects (Progetti PRIN) and has taken part in international research projects. Over the last decade, he has coordinated university researches (Ricerche di Ateneo) involving more than thirty scholars from different study areas and focussing on aesthetic-philosophical and literary-artistic topics.
He edited, with Claudio Zambianchi, the anthology Alle origini dell'opera d'arte contemporanea (Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2008; 4th ed. 2012)
He is a founding member of SIE (Società Italiana di Estetica/Italian Society of Aesthetics).
He is the editor of the book series Figure dell'estetica of the publishing house Alboversorio (Milan).
He is a member of the scientific board of the following journals
- Studi di estetica
- Rivista di estetica
- Estetica. Studi e ricerche
- Comprendre. Revista catalana de filosofia
Di Giacomo is also a member of the scientific board of Aesthetica Preprint, a book series of the Centro Internazionale Studi di Estetica (International Centre for the Study of Aesthetics).
Di Giacomo maintains that, in order to tackle the issue of the image today, it is necessary to refuse both an interpretation of the image as a mere mirror of things and its interpretation as an exclusively self-referential system of signs. Based on his reading of Wittgenstein, he draws the conclusion that logical representation entails something that manifests itself and, while doing so, remains ‘other’, distinct from the visibility of the representation itself. Thus, in presenting itself, the image manifests the other of the visible, of the representable: that other which reveals itself in the visible, by hiding from it. And this is precisely how the image becomes an icon of the invisible.
However, starting from Adorno’s reflection, the image tends to lose its figurative character but, at the same time, it continues to exist; the image is, indeed, both a thing and a non-thing: a paradoxical “real unreality”. This ensues from the attempt to divide the double-edged nature of the image into its constituent elements: on the one hand, a readymade in which the representational dimension melts into a purely presentational dimension, and, on the other hand, a solely mental image endowed with a weak material support.
Today, the images of the new media are images of images and, in this sense, they are not even proper images but simulations, “simulacra”. It is no coincidence that digital images, as reproductions, have a low value as images, because they tend to acquire the aspect of something, thus losing that connection between transparency and opacity which characterises authentic images. Hence, indeed, the question whether new media are able to create real images. More particularly, it is in the kind of art that Adorno defines as “modern” that we find an overcoming of the epiphanic dimension that distinguishes the icon, where the visible is the place of manifestation of the invisible as Absolute. As we have become aware of the impossibility to exhaust the whole of reality and, at the same time, to manifest the Absolute, what emerges now is a conception of the image as something that can be interrogated as a testimony of what does not allow itself to be translated into an image: to testify is indeed to tell what cannot be told completely. In this sense, testimony coincides not with memory, as consistent with what happened, but with the immemorial, which refers to something we can neither remember nor forget completely, that is something that is neither totally speakable nor totally unspeakable.
In short, a witness only speaks starting from the impossibility to speak. That the image is equivalent to testimony means, then, that the attempt to say the unsayable is an infinite task, and this is why the question of the image forms an integral part of the ethical question. This entails that in the image there is no completeness and, consequently, neither redemption nor reconciliation with the real. From this point of view, to consider the image as testimony is tantamount to seeing it as the place of a perpetually unresolved tension between memory and oblivion, thus as the expression of the imperative of sense in a context, such as the contemporary one, in which both world and art seem to be increasingly abandoned to non-sense.
- Dalla logica all'estetica. Un saggio intorno a Wittgenstein, Parma, Pratiche, 1989
- Icona e arte astratta. La questione dell'immagine tra presentazione e rappresentazione, Palermo, Centro internazionale studi di estetica, 1999
- Estetica e letteratura. Il grande romanzo tra Ottocento e Novecento, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1999 (4th ed. 2010)
- Introduzione a Paul Klee, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2003
- Narrazione e testimonianza. Quattro scrittori italiani del Novecento, Milano-Udine, Mimesis, 2012
- Entre la paraula i el silenci: la filosofia com a recerca de la veritat, prefaci a Antoni Bosch-Veciana, "Imatge-Mirada-Paraula", Barcelona,Facultat de Filosofia, URL, 2013;
- Malevic. Pittura e filosofia dall'Astrattismo al Minimalismo, Carocci, Roma, 2014;
- Fuori dagli schemi. Estetica e arti figurative dal Novecento a oggi, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2015
Media and diffusion
- Art and Perspicuous Vision in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Reflection
- L’immagine-tempo da Warburg a Benjamin e Adorno
- Icona e arte astratta
- His most important work on the relationship between aesthetics and literature is Estetica e letteratura. Il grande romanzo tra Ottocento e Novecento, Laterza, 1999, rpt. 2010; Spanish translation, Valencia, 2013
- Cf. Dalla logica all'estetica, pp. 97-147
- Cf. Alle origini dell'opera d'arte contemporanea, pp. 203-222
- Cf. Astrazione e astrazioni, pp. 11-19
- Cf. "La questione dell'aura tra Benjamin e Adorno", Rivista di Estetica, 52 (1/20013), p. 245
- Cf. Volti della memoria, pp. 445-481