11 November 2013

Gerhard Richter on Models

Haggadah, 2006 © Gerhard Richter
(Oil on canvas; 152 cm x 152 cm; Catalogue Raisonné: 895-10.)
"When we describe a process, or make out an invoice, or photograph a tree, we create models; without them we would know nothing of reality and would be animals. Abstract pictures are fictive models, because they make visible a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but whose existence we can postulate."~ Gerhard Richter*

This passage tied to this image popped up on my Facebook news feed this morning. Given my own interests in the status of models in social science, I find it apposite since I think that mostly what models do is allow us to do conceptual work, mostly by enabling us to envision and examine 'things' we cannot observe directly. The things? Causality, Justice, Power and so forth. And many of our best known models - think Rawls' original position - are not abstractions from reality at all. They convey relatively concrete conceptions of more abstract concepts like those I just mentioned.
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* Text for catalogue of documenta 7, Kassel, 1982.

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