Ken Wilder – The Immateriality of Titian’s Pesaro Altarpiece

The Immateriality of Titian’s Pesaro Altarpiece


With the symbolic immateriality of artificial intelligence, Flusser and Bec argue that ‘[h]uman self-actualization is no longer the struggle against the insidious resistance of inert objects’. Yet this negates the fact that objects – as information carriers – have always concealed as much as they have revealed. Drawing upon Michael Baxandall’s Patterns of Intention, I will argue that the historically embodied viewer is forced to employ acts of ideation that are as much prompted by what the object negates (immaterial information) as what it explicitly reveals through its engagement of a medium. The paper applies this to a Titian’s immensely complex Pesaro Altarpiece (1519-26), an object that, in blurring the boundaries between architecture and painting, is at the cusp of the work as self-contained entity while still very much addressing the spectator’s point of entry. Here, information is both embedded within the painting’s objectness and materiality, while simultaneously engaging symbolically our very conditions of access.

Ken Wilder is a Reader in Spatial Design at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL