COMMON IMAGE – out this December!

COMMON IMAGE: Towards a Larger Than Human Communism is the book that Remi Marie and Ingrid Hoelzl have been working on over the last years. It is the (tentative) result of the tortuous journey towards an image as eco-relation and we are very proud to announce its release this December, with kind endorsements by Jeffrey Cohen (author of Stone), Olga Goriunova (co-author of Bleak Joys), and Michael Marder (author of Plant-Thinking).

Featured Image: COMMON IMAGE, Cover Image and Figure 9, Chapter 7 / From Myth to Poetry, p. 101. Rémi Marie. Stone covered with lichen in Antronapiana valley, Italy. Color photograph, 2019.

We launched the book at Errant Bodies, Berlin, following a generous invitation by Brandon LaBelle. Our proposition (formulated in a generic singular) addresses our”surroundedness” or immersion within ecosystem Earth, in performing a radical shift of what “image” means/is.

Book launch, 3 Dec. 2021, Errant Bodies, Berlin. Ingrid Hoelzl in conversation with Brandon LaBelle. Photo: Brandon LaBelle

Our last book, SOFTIMAGE (2015) investigated the dystopian path of perspectival image (in its fusion with software) towards operativity, surveillance and control, with the image operating us, rather than us operating the image. Its sequel, COMMON IMAGE (2021) starts from the same premisses (the perspectival images as the foundation of the humanist ideology of human dominion over the rest of the world), but takes a completely new approach via pre-modern and non-Western notions of image. It supposes that the image was/is a magical relation to the world and proposes to rethink this relation no longer in terms of separation and dominion, but in term of community (the Earthly community we humans are part of). It calls for a larger than human communism in the sense of common activity and “putting in common.”

The journey starts with magical STONES, then follows up with the birth of the notion of MAGIC as the opposite of canonical thought, the question of MATTER (Plato’s prisoners as hearing and feeling beings; intelligence as a collective capability; building as common activity), and the OCEAN as an ecosphere (and the sound image as an immersive state of resonance and a model for the common image). The journey continues in the Amazonas investigating, with Amerindian perspectivism, a virtual humanity shared by all species, a humanity no longer tied to a specific (human) form which as a result becomes “general.” The book then returns to medieval poetry and human/animal metamorphoses; examines Ursula le Guin’s notion of the art of the plant; develops the notion of the image of the plant, and, by induction, the notion of the image as the very relations constituting ecosystem Earth. From there it shifts to Aboriginal communties and the ethnofictional film practice of the Karrabing Film Collective, shaping the contours of a common image coming back at the meeting point of two cultures. It finally delineates, via the Warlpiri term of “kuruwarri” (trace, mark, image, force), a notion of image that englobes the invisible and the visible (the tracks of the ancestors accessible manifesting in ritual dance, sand drawings, and rock carvings, but also in their descendants), the living and the nonliving. Bringing together Aboriginal thought and posthuman theory (with Rosi Braidotti’s notion of Life/zoe as life in its inhuman form) it arrives at the following tentative definition:


Not a representation (of the invisible or the visible world) but an ongoing relation between the invisible and the visible, the living and the non-living;

Not a sign that stands in for something else but an aesthetics of the common that is at the same time an ethical practice, a way of living.

Fig. 12, COMMON IMAGE. Towards a Larger Than Human Communism; Chapter 9, Travelling to the Warlpiri Country, p.121.
“Ancestors spirits talk in an apocalyptic future.” Screenshot from Windjarrameru, The Stealing C*Nt$ (2015) by the Karrabing Film Collective (KFC). Feature film, color, 30 min. Courtesy Elizabeth Povinelli and the Karrabing Film Collective.

The Coda recapitulates this journey and digs deeper into the notion of the common as not tied to property but to common activity (Dardot/Laval) and the uncommon (de la Cadena/Blaser), and into the notion of community as opposed to immunity (Esposito). It ends with the call that as the practices of communization (such as tending to one’s garden) are always-already active in the world, the common image as a way of living is always-already there, around and between us; we only need to embrace our general humanity to recognize and embrace it.

If you want to read the book please order it through transcript publishing or (for US distribution) Columbia University Press. If you’d like to write a review please get in touch and we’ll see to it that you receive a review copy. In any case, we love to hear from you!

Rémi Marie. Stone covered with lichen in Antronapiana valley, Italy. Color photograph, 2019.

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