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Meaning-Formation

 

 

“Love I think is the creation of meaning, in many ways”- - 

 

(But more optimistically I do think that there is comfort in the idea of having meaning outside yourself. Lately I've been trying to articulate more clearly what I find meaningful - I think I am drawn lately to the existential idea, that the meaning we have is the meaning we choose to instill or impose on the world around us. I think for me that relates to the idea of sophrosyne you're talking about, soundness of mind or truth emerging from love. I think that love is the creation of meaning in many ways, and that out of that emerges the possibility for us as people to have some glimpse of a more perfect and angelic love, for ourselves and others. ...That most ideally we are helping to create a better world - living beautifully for the angels, like you say. I really like the phrase "the love is there.”)

 

LANGUAGE THAT REPRESENTS LANGUAGE 

v. LANGUAGE THAT CREATES MEANING

 

A loss of trajectory

The difference between analytical, synthetic, and orphic cubism is relevant to contemporary discourse, because their difference is the difference between language that only represents itself, and language that creates meaning. For example, in architecture- Frank Gehry represents only a postmodern condition (the condition of reeling with anxiety, trapped within a Futurist composition). His forms are an abstraction based not on reality, but on an abstraction of a network of relations, motion, whirling. On the other hand, Frank Lloyd Wright’s abstraction comes from nature (for example, Ms. Barnsdall's hollyhock, or the low-slung earthiness of a prairie dugout), and abstracts these forms into geometries that remain connotive of nature. His work is very grounded in the earth, whereas Gehry’s is social, networked, and high-velocity- the quivering air in the slipstream of some machine that has just passed us by. Gehry’s language represents a linguistic condition, while Wright’s language represents experience, in particular, experience with nature. Gehry's abstraction represents language rather than constructing meaning from it, while Wright's creates an abstraction of one person's lived, subjective experience with Nature.

 

One of the central problems of the postmodern condition was the loss of meaning-formation- the “loss of the trajectory of the pedestrian.” The wanderer was going somewhere but then got distracted by the materiality of their own labyrinth, and just kept looking and going and going and— 

 

Sayre Gomez' work is very important, because his abstractions capture a physical / psychological sensation (overwhelmedness, suffocation) that can be had in response to both the atmospheric effects of capitalism (pollution), and the visual-linguistic effects of postmodern historicity (massness, unquantifiable haze), through a metaphor from Nature (fog-smoke). It also has an element of critical self-awareness that is similar to the way the architecture of the Bonaventure both creates and spotlights the loss of narrative in the trajectory of pedestrians, ie it both is, and is in critique of, the loss of meaning-formation. However, Sayre is painting the condition of language, rather than a lived, subjective experience. 

 

Abstraction is a pyramid. 

 

Language that only represents language

Loss of ground (ground in this case could be described as 1st person experience), is the failure of language to continue to create meaning, and the point at which language begins to exclusively re-represent itself. (A robot creates itself). (we hit the parabolic curve and float away into the aether).

 

the human: that which can not be predicted and created by robots. As an artist, I think it’s important sometimes to do something 100% unpredictable. This does not have to be specific to your art. It could be, you are supposed to answer an email, and your Gmail app presents you with 3 options: “Sure, sounds great!”, “No, thank you,”, or “I’ll be there!”

 

Try saying, instead: “sing a fuschia feather, friend, I have no earwigs here for you today!”

 

This communicates a range of complex emotions and subtle shades of mood that transcend the robot’s (very low) expectations of the capability of human language.

Janna Avner: Language that creates meaning.

I feel Janna's material abstractions are illustrative of the imagined spiritual /psychic processes of cyborgs, and create an aesthetic for Haraway's technofeminism that is very physical. I think it's interesting that those canvases are in a gray (arguably colorless) palette because it feels like a loss of sexuality & spirituality within the material body (my personal critique of Haraway and technofeminism in general is a loss of beauty). This gives her canvases the gritty monochromaticity of a work of Italian neorealist cinema and the spiritual fluidity of abstract expressionism- a juxtaposition appropriate for the apocalyptic content. Her language represents a subjective reaction to historical processes. Her psychic expressions strike me as a somewhat gothic post-human chorale, whose operatic pain related to the morphology of the body are reminiscent of Sean Townley's representation of historic processes of translation through sculpture.

Sean Townley's sculptures

I feel that Townley’s relation to language is a subjective reaction to historical processes. Townley doesn’t value railing against a system that he feels pained by, so much as revealing the constructs of pain through which objects must pass. "The realist is a pasticher who makes copies of copies", to quote Rosalind Krauss; Sean's subject is the replication of process. His replication of institutionally-owned scans hearkens back to Rodin willing the authorial rights of his work to his nation-state. I see the lions as the crumbling Argo, the accruing / deteriorating subject moving forward through time as they deteriorate- mourning the passage of the time and the desperate desire to articulate oneself, before they plunge back into the still, eteternal pool of non-being from whence they came. 

 

It’s true that his sculptures are not positivistic; they are an analytical investigation of the conditions of history, and an arguably ironic expression of pathos in the face of these structures. Though sometimes drawing upon his subjective, lived experiences, they primarily work with second-hand knowledge found in books and archives. They express a deep object-love for the history of art, in all its rituals, mythos, and grandiose personalities and figures, but show very little of the self, or his subjective matrix of consciousness- something I feel is reflective of a general move within the arts toward archive and research-based work in the 2000s.

 

mining the archives v. new subjectivity

There was a move I feel toward valuing documented experience as source material more than subjective experiences with their origin in nature- eg, “I went to South America and studied XYZ cultural archive and reenacted this story with hand-puppets in a Brazilian cave” v., “I had XYZ profound human experience, and choreographed a ballet to convey my reality”. I would say that Cayetano Ferrer’s work exists in a similar wave of conceptual sculptors’ relation to the archive. We'll return to a discussion of archive-based v. work grounded in one's lived reality later, following this brief discussion on collage, and the origin of language.

MEANING CONSTRUCTION FROM THE METALANGUAGE,

AND THE RELATIONSHIP OF ONOMATOPOEIAS TO THE  ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE

Creating meaning from the metalanguage in collage is where archival imagery can either form new meaning or dissolve into glittering nonsense.

internal and external meaning in the image / materiality of collaged gesture

When you use collage, are you using it for the sensory, physical, optical, visceral reaction to it, or are you using it to refer to a network of exchanges that are political, contextual, social? 

 

So for example, if you are google-searching wild mustangs, and collaging only fore-haunches into blank space as “gestural” marks, does the viewer experience the work as an abstract mark that connotes physical power, strength, sweat- or does the viewer connect the work with a network of social relations including the most recent Western movie they saw, the most recent hurricane that battered Chincoteague, their childhood memories of riding horses at summer camp, their friend who drives a Ford Mustang? 

 

Isolated, the meaning of this gesture becomes a vastly fascinating and open-ended question. A fully-rendered flower is just as much a gesture as a painterly mark. Swoop a line of through your Illustrator file and you can conjure a stream of flowers as gesture, as though they were as abstract a pattern as a checkered grid. This is the metalanguage.

 

When used within a work where it relates to other gestures, its meaning is formed by that internal network of meaning-formation. In, for example, an Albert Oehlen, this would become a gesture emblematic of gesture, and as such a shifter toward the signified: the chaotic multiplicity of possible gestures. So the signification is multiplicity. It’s character, chaotic. It’s composition: the multiplicity of possible gestures. He’s posting the palette as a painting. That’s a failure to construct meaning with language.

 

renegade reader

After I was living under the 10 Freeway at Grand,  and reading about semiotics and media theory most days wherever I could find an air-conditioned environment with free wifi. This was often the downtown Office Depot, where I would flip open my laptop on a sample desk in the furniture section, and pretend that I was shopping for an office chair whilst actually just staking out a corner of the Depot to use as my personal office. During this time, I began researching the origin of language to understand the dichotomy between a thing, aka the signified, and its signifier (name, language). Here is a little about what I learned:

 

origin of language 

Poetry replicates the process of the origin of language.

Google searching integrates language into the socialized realm of exchange and translates language into images.

If we look at the condition of the origin of language, theoretically if a word is used to signify something, its sonic phenomena is entirely aligned with the subjective experience of the thing itself. So for example, if you say seven, it should feel like 7, which should feel like actual seven. You imagine some early human being staring at the stone, grappling for some word to articulate the stone’s stoniness, and whatever stone-like grunt  is iterated should theoretically now be tied with the stone, in a relationship of signifier and signified. His experience of the stone can only be for another what he can express. A person or a society can only be what they can express. A society that can sing is a society of song.

 

When you bypass language entirely

speech becomes music,

and meaning is new.

currency collapse- failure of union between signifiers and signifieds 

I think of currency collapse, more accurately termed monetary disunification, as a metaphor for the failure of linguistic meaning-formation in postmodern painting like Sayre's and Albert Oehlen's. Monetary disunfication is when the signifier of currency fails to be connected to its signified, which is exchange-value.  Monetary disunification makes the profoundly abstract character of money felt, on a material level, as citizens and currency-holders are faced with total governmental collapse and start scrambling to deliquidify liquid assets in order to  have some currency-object (ie, singularized commodity), that remains valuable with which to exchange for goods and services. Monetary disunification makes apparent the answer to the question, “do we buy things with money, or with the value that it represents?” Virginia Dominguez in her 1990 work, Representing Value and the Value of Representation, refers to the objectification of reality in the discussion of the relationship between money, and objects-used-as-money- an issue  illustrated by the use of liquor as a truly liquid liquid asset, used similarly to money, in Russia following the collapse of the ruble.

Likewise, we don't speak with language, we use it as a medium to communicate meaning. When language stops containing meaning, it becomes useless, other than as an outcry or symptom of its own inability to become useful. 

When language experiences 'disunification', people stop looking at money and seeing the things that it represents, and they start seeing it as paper. It’s like Oehlen looking at his collage materials, and rather than see them as what they represent, seeing them as a pulsating electric swamp of empty imagery- then repainting that swamp. He is the Russian currency-holder who is left staring at the materiality of the world, unable to construct meaning from it. The difference between painting meaning and painting a disunified linguistic condition is the difference between staring at the mirror, painting the mirror, speaking only of the mirror, or passing through it- resituating our conscious perspective on the other side, with additional layers of conscious sight- and painting with the metalanguage.

 

Duchamp feared a linguistic currency collapse, noting on one portrait in which he’s dressed as Rose Selavy,  ‘the machine optique substitutes sheer musicality for the process of signification.’  How prophetic of work like Oehlen’s. The machine optique here could be read as that which facilitates this access to the pool of language- the internet- this rotating hall of mirrors. 

PART TWO: MIRRORS AND MEDIA