When Aby Warburg (1866-1929) set off for the USA in September 1895, he had no idea that his search for the symbolic foundations of art would become one of the most fascinating events in the history of science in his field. Warburg’s American journey lasted only months, his stay in the Pueblo regions even only a few weeks, but in 1923 – a quarter of a century after the journey – he presented his findings in the groundbreaking lecture on the “”Snake Ritual””.
With the help of selected photographs by Warburg and ethnological drawings made by him and others during the journey, with the help of maps, notes and much more, a (virtual) voyage of discovery is encouraged here in the form of a story and picture book. We cross an extensive continent of exploration, where we meet Warburg’s interlocutors, some of them indigenous, including a trader and a missionary, a chief and a man accused of witchcraft. Settlements and villages are traversed, full of ritual objects and works of art, full of symbolic representations of lightning and snakes, which Warburg studies and collects. The documents shown here, however, are not only evidence of his activities in the territory of the Cochiti and Zuni, the Tewa and Hopi, but above all testimony to the emerging change in Warburg’s scientific thinking, which ultimately leads to the transnational cultural comparative methodology for which Aby Warburg is today appreciated all over the world.