Prof Dirk Van Den Berg
Research Fellow
History of Art
History of Art and Image Studies
IB 33
051 4019176

Short CV

MA (PU for CHE, 1973), DPhil (UOFS, 1984)

Appointed on the permanent academic staff of the UFS department of History of art since 1971; professor and chair of the department since 1984; promotion to senior professor in 2005. 

Supervised the studies of candidates of eight doctoral theses, eleven master’s degree dissertations and external assessment of postgraduate degrees at other tertiary institutions

Member of various professional bodies and institutions of learning in the visual arts, art history, museum culture and research fields, member or collaborator of the editorial boards of associated research journals as well as regular presenter of papers at national conferences convened by such bodies.

Publications (Short List)

  • Not I: troubled self-representations. Acta Academica 2007, 39(1): 47-78.
  • Framing images under iconoclash conditions. Visual Culture/Explorations: conference proceedings, University of Pretoria, 9-10 Jul 2004. Pretoria: Dept of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria, 2005: 217-228. ISBN1-86854-614.
  • Painting history: ‘Terra incognita’ as anti-Leviathan emblem. Acta Academica 2003, 37(1): 56-98.
  • What is an image and image power? South African Journal of Art History / Suid Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Kunsgeskiedenis 2004, 19: 155-177 & Image [&] Narrative; Online magazine of the visual narrative, Institute for Cultural Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium, General editor: Jan Baetens, no 8: Mélanges / Miscellane­ous, pp 1-19
  • The shape of time at Tandjesberg: narrative temporalities in a Bushman rock art site. Acta Academica 2003, 35(1): 31-65.
  • Imagining yourself one of the multitude: ideology critique of urban crowd depictions. Acta Academica 2002, 34(2): 1-35.
  • An eye for an eye: ocular motifs and picaresque envisagement in picture. Acta Academica, April 2001, 33(1): 101-119.
  • Spectators in Jerusalem: urban narrative in the scenic tradition. Acta Academica, 1999, Apr 31(1): 27-62 & Image [&] Narrative; Online magazine for visual narrative, Institute for Cultural Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium, General editor: Jan Baetens, no 3: Illustrations, 1-16­image&narrative/

Area(s) of Interest

The title of the principal research project is The rhetoric of image power. This long-term venture in typiconic research (TR) frames and generates short-term projects aimed at identifying the presence of ‘typiconic traditions’ in various art media and cultural forms.

TR evolved from typological ventures in the historiography of philosophical thought ¯ the mapping of systematic ontological categories recurring amid epochal transformations and the cultural dynamics of period changes. It comprises exploration of rhetorical theory concerning the affective power of images and imaginative human participation in situations of ideologically charged visual culture. The emphasis is on imaging processes which are approached anthropologically, in terms of human actions and events, imagina­tive role-playing interactions and participatory performances, all involving the negotiation of ideological powers.

The formation of typiconic traditions is traced in historical conditions preceding the advent of the ‘age of (fine) art’, thus facilitating TR in non-Western art and culture, especially African art and indigenous knowledge. On the other hand, TR also promotes critical vigilance and alertness, in the imagination and in cultural memory, for the recurrence of such traditions in the ‘age of globally reproducible images’. Thus TR is primed for excursions into visual theory and image transmission in the mass media and in new media arts.

A special area of comparative investigation concerns the nature of “imaginary worlds”, relating the configured import of works of art to constructs in philosophical, theological, literary or political discourse. As clusters of recurrent metaphoric imagery (rather than philosophical worldview frames) such “imaginary worlds” are primarily associated with typiconic traditions in cultural history. Imaging operations within such metaphor clusters affect the ‘prefiguring’ of subjective identities, imago roles or imaginary personae for artists as well as for spectators who engage such fictional worlds. Rooted in typiconic traditions, the affective power of images is capable of projecting forms of ‘imaginary community’ across historical barriers of class, race and gender.

Due to this interest in understanding the complex historical formation of ‘imaginary worlds’, especially human engagement with their ideological partialities, TR is not restricted to any single visual art. It is inherently comparative, incorporating material from diverse arts, media, discourses and disciplines, drawing its primary material from the expansive domain of visuality or imaging. The core focus concerns the actions of the human imagination in coping with ideological powers.

Subsidiary projects involve exemplary cases drawn from portraiture, visual narration and urban spatiality, thus developing material for comparative studies of modes of interaction between typiconic formats and associated worldview frames. The aim is to expand the reach of TR beyond the boundaries of the modern fine arts field of art-historiography, exploring ways of conducting TR as a form of ideology solidarity and critique.

Philosophy of art history - The philosophical basis of the art disciplines

Visual theory - Theoretical renewal after the pictorial turn

Visual hermeneutics - The interpretation of visual representations

Courses Presented

KGK324 Die verbeelde stad in film en ander media/Imagining the city in film and other media

KWS404 Resente ontwikkelinge in visuele kuns en kultuur/Recent developments in visual art and culture

KGK404 Kontekste van kontemporêre Suid-Afrikaanse kuns/Contemporary South African art contexts


T: +27 51 401 2240 or

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Katlego Mabulana: +27 51 401 2495
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

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