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Didi-Huberman, Georges

DIDI-HUBERMAN, GEORGES

DIDI-HUBERMAN, GEORGES (1953– ), French philosopher and art historian. Born in Saint-Etienne, an industrial city in the south of France, Didi-Huberman is the son of a painter of Tunisian descent who fought in the Forces Fran-çaises Libres (ffl) Resistance group during the war and a mother of Polish descent who, together with her brother, was the sole survivor of the Holocaust in her family; her father, a workman who had come from the Warsaw ghetto to the mines of Saint-Etienne, died in Auschwitz. Georges' family played a decisive role in his intellectual career: "My childhood was placed under a dual influence. From my father, a painter, I learned the sense of beauty. His workplace was a place of colors. On my mother's side, it was the books – and the silence about the Shoah." After interrupted studies in the history of art and philosophy in Lyons and Paris, Didi-Huberman began a career in theater and dramaturgy, collaborating with André Engel or Jean-Pierre-Vincent, whom he assisted in creating alandmark staging of Bernard Chartreux's Dernières nouvelles de la peste at the festival of Avignon in 1983. This first career culminated with a position as playwright-in-residence at the prestigious Comédie-Française. But feeling the lack of a new language to bring to the stage, he resigned and returned to his former studies in the history of art, spending four years in Italy at the Villa Médicis in Rome, and in Venice. A disciple of Aby Warburg's school of thought, iconology, Didi-Huberman developed two main axes: specialization in the iconography of the Italian Renaissance and general, philosophical, and phenomenological reflection on the status of the image itself. From 1990, he taught at the ehess (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) in Paris, where he developed an anthropological approach to vision and the visual arts. His major works include Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration (1995); L'image survivante: Histoire de l'art et temps des fantômes selon Aby Warburg (2002); Ninfa Moderna. Essai sur le drapé tombé (2002); and Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtriére (2003). In 2001, after he published an essay for a Paris exhibition of photographs clandestinely taken at Auschwitz by members of the Sonderkommando, he entered into an acrimonious intellectual debate with Claude Lanzmann in the pages of Les temps modernes on the ability of images to represent the Holocaust and convey historical knowledge or ethical content. Didi-Huberman advocated a "philosophy of the unthinkable," which he related to the tradition inaugurated by Hannah *Arendt, where the visual arts and the image have a crucial role, whereas Lanzmann tended to discredit photography, relying on witnesses and documents. Didi-Huberman attempted to deal with Lanzmann's objections in Images malgré tout (2002), stressing the importance of image and cinematographic art in Lanzmann's own Shoah documentary. The relation of aesthetics to ethics was the crux of the controversy, which was reminiscent of Adorno's famous indictment of "poetry after Auschwitz."

[Dror Franck Sullaper (2nd ed.)]

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