Image Atlas// Operations

homeland1 homeland2 – From Homeland, Season 1, Ep. 11, ‘The Vest’.

In this excellent episode, the wall-montage, or what WJT Mitchell calls the ‘image atlas’, takes centre stage not just in Carrie’s manic episode (of this practice her boss, says: ‘assembled by a crazy woman into a crazy collage’), but also in the case that she strives to solve. This montage of text and image reveals a crucial gap in the chronology of the terrorist who she is tracking, and in this sense, the montage is an operation, revealing evidence, clues and hidden patterns. As WJT Mitchell says of the montage (or matrix):

“At one extreme the matrix is an atlas for the display and interpretation of symptoms. At the other, the matrix itself becomes a symptom, a clue to the pathology of the investigator, whether detective connoisseur or psychoanalysist. This is of course in keeping with Edgar Allen Poe’s first principle of the detective story, that the master detective is the one able to enter into the mind of the criminal no matter how irrational…”

In short the montage as “diagnostic instrument and symptomatic traces”.

“The space of the bilder-atlas alternates between the grid-like structures of rational order on the one hand,  and the vortex of motion and animation fossilised in the individual images [on the other].”

[WJT Mitchell’s comments here are taken from his talk on montage, schizophrenia and Aby Warburg at the Image Operations conference which took place in Berlin in April 2014. The talk can be viewed here.]


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