unizeit Schriftzug

Taking pictures at their word

The joint study project "Image and Language - Language and Image" of Art Education, German Studies and Art History at the University of Kiel in the winter semester promoted the dialogue between the disciplines and created new perspectives.

Opened book with markings.
© Raissa Maas, Uni Kiel

How can images be made accessible through language? And what does language have to do to be understood by everyone? A joint seminar of art education, German studies and art history revolved around these and other questions.

Whether art historical facts or image interpretations: There is a great deal of overlap between art and German lessons. In order to make it easier to realize interdisciplinary projects later on in school and to sensitize future teachers to the other school subject, lecturers from the Art History Institute and the German Department of the University of Kiel organized a joint seminar for the first time.

Speaking and writing about images was at the center of the subject connecting teaching-learning project "Image and Language - Language and Image", funded by the project Successful Teaching and Learning (PerLe) via the PerLe Fund for Teaching Innovation. For one semester, the students dealt with the "interrelation of both media in a subject-related and didactic context".

"The topic is highly exciting," explains art historian Martina Ide from the organization team. "The relationship between image and language is complex. Although both are independent codes, they are also mutually dependent. What can images and what can language do for understanding? How can images be made accessible through language? More than 60 prospective German and art teachers and students of art history have investigated these and other questions.

"What reads so easy on paper was certainly a challenge for the students," says Dr. Tobias Heinz from the German Department. Because in addition to the courses, the lectures and workshops, the focus was on group work in interdisciplinary teams. "First the groups had to overcome certain communication problems," explains Heinz. Not all technical terms from art or German studies were understood equally by all students.

"Recognizing these problems of understanding and reacting to them by explaining or paraphrasing technical terms is an important step in the training of teachers," explains art historian Friederike Rückert. "After all, students should be able to understand what they are saying." The same applies to budding art historians who later want to guide groups of all ages through exhibitions in museums.

In order to find practical answers to questions, a group of students has worked with an eleventh grade of the Gymnasium, among others. They wanted to find out how language opens or closes off art. To this end, three groups of students - without any information about the artist or his work - were shown the painting "Ich kann beim besten Willen kein Hakenkreuz entdecken" (1984) by Martin Kippenberger and were asked to make initial associations. In a second step, the first group was given the complete title of the picture, the second group was given a shortened title, and the third group was given the information that the work had no title, and again asked for an assessment of the meaning of the picture. The result was a wide range of interpretations, which again changed considerably when the title was mentioned. "From this one can see what role language plays in the perception of images," says Ide.

Other students have looked at texts and images in textbooks and examined what vocabulary and knowledge is expected of students of certain age groups. "In the process, the group found that texts in textbooks are sometimes far too difficult and thus incomprehensible for the age group. For example, the word Lötzinn (a metal alloy for soldering, editor's note) certainly does not belong to the vocabulary of ten-year-olds." This example not only made the students smile, but also made them think fundamentally about how they communicate and about the language repertoire of others. "That was another goal of the joint seminar," says Tobias Heinz.

The students presented the first results in the form of a poster presentation at the end of the semester and will now go into more detail on these in term papers. However, the most important finding of the interdisciplinary study project became clear during the semester: how much fun it can be to look beyond one's own nose.

Author: Jennifer Ruske

Involved in the study project: Martina Ide, Dr. Susanne Schwertfeger and Friederike Rückert from the Kunsthistorisches Institut and Professor Jörg Kilian, Dr. Tobias Heinz, Junior Professor Inger Petersen and Dr. Diana Maak from the German Department.

Involved in the study project: Martina Ide, Dr. Susanne Schwertfeger and Friederike Rückert from the Art History Institute and Professor Jörg Kilian, Dr. Tobias Heinz, Junior Professor Inger Petersen and Dr. Diana Maak from the German Department.