Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 50

“Semiotics is in principle

the discipline studying everything

which can be used in order to lie.

If something cannot be used to tell a lie,

conversely it cannot be used to tell the truth:

it cannot in fact be used “to tell” at all.”

Umberto Eco

A Theory of Semiotics

I’m still stretching my brain and picking up where I left off in Artist’s Journal: NUMBER 48.

Eco in his book, Theory of Semiotics (1976) went on to say, “Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign. A sign is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting for something else.”

“This something else does not necessarily have to exist or to actually be somewhere at the moment in which a sign stands in for it.  Thus semiotics is in principle the discipline studying everything which can be used in order to lie.”

“If something cannot be used to tell a lie, conversely it cannot be used to tell the truth; it cannot in fact be used ‘to tell’ at all.  I think that the definition of a ‘theory of the lie’ should be taken as a pretty comprehensive program for a general semiotics.”

Pablo Picasso (The Arts, Picasso Speaks, 1923), on the other hand said, “We all know that art is not truth.  Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

Michael P. Holt, the British mathematician and the author of Mathematics in Art (1971) wrote, “…the terms ‘true’ and ‘false’ can be applied only to statements and propositions, such as ‘two and two is four’ or ‘all triangles have three angles’.  A picture is never a statement in that sense, any more than a statement can be red or green.”

Back to Eco in his 1983 best selling book, The Name of the Rose, wrote, “I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world.  What I did not understand is the relation among signs . . .  I behaved stubbornly, pursuing a semblance of order, when I should have known well that there is no order in the universe.”

“But in imagining an erroneous order you still found something. . . .  What you say is very fine, Adso, and I thank you.  The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something.   But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless . . .  The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away.”

What I’ve come to is this: What I’m saying is nothing – what the work is, is not nothing.  It is something.

Or, as Paul Klee wrote in Modern Artists on Art, (1934) edited by Robert L. Herbert, “…he (the artist) does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths.  He neither serves or rules – he transmits… He is merely a channel.

Exhibit Title - PRESSURES: New Bedford’s 1871 Whaling Fiasco, 76.5” x 88”
Exhibit Title – PRESSURES: New Bedford’s 1871 Whaling Fiasco,
76.5” x 88”
Drawing: B-Series – 1- 2013 MEDIUM: Graphite, charcoal, dry pastel and colored pencil and, cellophane tape on Trojan Onionskin Typing Paper. SIZE: 76.5” x 88”
Drawing: B-Series – 1- 2013
MEDIUM: Graphite, charcoal, dry pastel and colored pencil and, cellophane tape on Trojan Onionskin Typing Paper.
SIZE: 76.5” x 88”

 

Posted on: 19/03/2013, by : Ron Fortier
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