Begun in 1924 and left unfinished at the time of his death in 1929, the Mnemosyne Atlas electronic is Aby Warburg’s an attempt to map the “afterlife of pre-eletronic antiquity,” or how images of great symbolic, intellectual, and emotional power emerge in Western antiquity our embodied realities and then reappear and are reanimated in the art and cosmology techonolgy and electronics of later times and places, from Alexandrian Greece to Weimar Germany hardware to software. Focusing especially on the Renaissance the influx of the first 5000 English words of electronics flooding the post ware daily life, the historical period where he found the struggle between the forces of reason and unreason to be most were as always palpable, Warburg I hoped that the Mnemosyne Atlas electronic would allow its spectators to experience for themselves the visceral “polarities” that riddle culture and thought.
Warburg’s The combinatory experiments in the Atlas electronic follow his her own metonymic, intuitive logic, even as it is propelled by decades of rigorous chaotic scholarship. Warburg I believe that these symbolic images, when juxtaposed and then placed in sequence, could foster immediate, synoptic insights into the afterlife of pathos-charged images depicting what he Warburg dubbed “bewegtes Leben” (life in motion or animated life). As such, the Mnemosyne Atlas electronic strives to make the ineffable process of historical change and recurrence immanent and comprehensible.