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the entwining of semiosis and mimesis


INTRODUCTION


In our text 'Mimesis and semiosis' we argued that image and sign must clearly be distinguished. That is not to say that they do not often work together in what we call 'mimetic chains'. In this attachment, we give an extensive overview of various 'mimetic chains' (Entwining 1) and their combinations (Entwining 2).


THE ENTWINING OF SEMIOSIS AND MIMESIS (1): SEPARATE MIMETIC CHAINS

Images and signs (with all kinds of motivations, imagesigns and symbols included) may be combined into often complex chains, which we will call mimetic chains (if they end up in an image, or when they contain shackles that are images that can be contemplated as such).

In theory, countless combinations are conceivable. But a furtive glance on really existing combinations learns that many combinations are not made. The reasons are diverse. To begin with, a concatenation of unmotivated signs makes only sense when it goes had in hand with a sensory shift, as when written words refer to spoken words. Written words are spatiotemporally independent from the speaker, which is a considerable advantage in view of the reproduction of texts. That is why man has developed diverse codes, culminating in the alphabet. Before the invention of the alphabet, imagesigns or symbols were used to signify words. As a rule, the alphabet is superior to imagesigns or symbols, but in some cases imagesigns are preferable: think of pictograms (as imagesigns or as symbols). The problem with concatenation of imagesign and sign is that images can have many meanings: it is not always clear which code has to be used (exemplary in the idioticon of Jannis Kounellis
or that of Joseph Beuys). That is why pictograms (just like ideographic hieroglyphs) are mostly standardised, which indicates according to which code they have to be interpreted. But the uncertainty regarding the relation between imagesign or symbol and meaning may also be an advantage: that is why imagesigns and symbols are so cherished in riddles, like the rebus, or in presumably profound artworks (like those of Jan de Cock). The concatenation of image and image, or of imagesign and imagesign has the same drawbacks as the combination of unmotivated signs with unmotivated signs: it makes no sense to use an imagesign to refer to an imagesign. It makes sense, however, to use and imagesign or a symbol to conjure up its meaning as a representation in the mind (Holy Lamb and the suffering Christ). Next to the problem of the code, there is also a problem here in that the perceived image tends to overrule the conjured up representation. That is why this combination is rather uncommon. Not all the possible combinations are relevant. Only relevant combinations can be concatenated as shackles in a longer chain:


 writing conjures up image of a word    
  image of a word conjures up image of a symbol  
    image of a symbol conjures up


image of its meaning


I am not aware of longer chains. The number of concrete chains turns out to be rather limited. Below, we analyse some eighteen combinations. For clarity's sake, we have subsumed images that are used as signs (imagesign and symbol) under the formula 'image = sign", and arbitrary configurations that are used as signs (unmotivated signs and signs motivated by analogy) as 'config(uration) = sign'. There is no place, hence, for the objectsign, but that is not so much of a problem, since chains with objectsigns do not differ in principle from chains with imagesigns: the chains that begin with 'image' can also be read as beginning with 'object'. Equally for clarity's sake do we resort to a colour code to distinguish signs and images that are really perceived, from signs and images that are only represented in the mind. The formulas config = sign, image = sign, and image, refer to mental images of the items in question. As is evident in the table below, the colour code reveals that the more complex the chains, the more 'mental' they become.

01 config = sign
02 image = sign
03 image
04 config = sign makes perform config = sign
05 image = sign makes perform config = sign
06 config = sign makes perform image = sign
07 image = sign makes perform image = sign
08 config = sign makes perform image
09 image = sign makes perform image
10 config = sign conjures config = sign
11 image = sign conjures config = sign
12 config = sign conjures image = sign
13 config = sign conjures image
14 image = sign conjures image
15 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image = sign
16 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image
17 config = sign conjures image = sign conjures image
18 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image = sign conjures image

Les us give an example of every chain:
(01) config = sign

unmotivated sign (audible): news heard the radio, weather forecast, military signals, sirens and hooters.
unmotivated sign (visual): traffic lights, arrows, flags





someone saying

"glad to see you"


(02) image = sign

visual imagesign : photo of a hamburger in a restaurant
aural imagesign: sample of a disc









visual symbol: Statue of Freedom, Titian's 'Allegory of Time'.






aural symbol: national hymn

(03) image 

Here belong the majority of images: non-symbolic paintings, music, ordinary musical mimesis, ballet, theatre, film





04 config = sign makes perform config = sign


unmotivated sign: written word or phonetic script as signs for the pronunciation of words.
analog sign: graphs whose values are read aloud


read this text aloud



read a value on this diagram aloud

05 image = sign makes perform config = sign

image (imagesign or symbol) that conjures up spoken words (ideograms):


  I am 

I you

06 config = sign makes perform image = sign

unmotivated sign: execution of a national hymn from a score with letters of numbers that signify notes
analog sign: execution of a military signal or a national hymn from a regular score

07 image = sign makes perform image = sign

improbable (for instance: image of Marianne executed as Marseillaise).

08 config = sign makes perform image

unmotivated sign makes perform an image:

- declaiming a sound poem
- playing a melody from a 'score' with letters or numbers that signify notes

analog sign makes perform an image:

- executing music from a regular score
- executing music from 'visual scores' like 'Treatise' from Cardew. (By the way: this is not a case of combination of visual image and music...).




read aloud



executed

executed
09 image = sign makes perform image

image of instruments on which one has to click in order to make music
visual score with (genuine) images

10 config = sign conjures config = sign

unmotivated sign:

- written word that conjures up the image of spoken words: newspapers, informative books, scientific books, philosophy read in silence


read this text in silence to hear the words in your head

- written notes whose names (b, a, c, h) that conjure up the image of a word (Bach)
- unmotivated signs like letters, syllables or words in combination with analog visual signs (like 'big', 'small', 'below" ...) that conjure up the mental image of letter names, syllables or words.

Ga

(read in silence: j'ai grand appétit)

- cryptogram

analog sign: read values on a diagram in silence

11 image = sign conjures config = sign

image (imagesign or symbol):

- rebus where an image conjures up the mental image of spoken letter names or words (emoticons or symbols like hearts used as ideograms included).


 I am

I you

Also the image of a fish read as  ΙΧΘΥΣ, the acronym of Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ

12 config  = sign conjures image = sign

unmotivated sign conjures up an image sign

- cries of street vendors conjuring up the image of the ware

unmotivated sign conjures up a symbol:

- spoken word that conjures up the mental image of a symbol: Roman de la Rose, Gulliver's travels, Das Schloss read aloud.
- poems with metaphor read aloud: 'The apparition of these faces in the crowd: Petals, on a wet, black bough' from Ezra Pound
- score of national hymn 'read' in silence

13 config = sign conjures image

unmotivated sign (audible): poem or story that conjures up a image in the mind, read aloud
unmotivated sign (visual):   sound poems read in silence; written letters whose letter name renders a sound
unmotivated sign (visual):   score read in silence that conjures up the mental image of the corresponding music
unmotivated sign (visual):   the numbers of On Kawara,

Das kleine Haus unter Bäumen am See.
Vom Dach steigt Rauch.
Fehlte er,
Wie trostlos dann wären
Haus, Bäume und See.

(heard when read aloud








 

read in silence



read in silence


14 image = sign conjures image

This chain is only conceivable with symbols, not with imagesigns, since the imagesign already shows the meaning:

- visual image (symbol): Holy Lamb that conjure up the mental image of Jesus on the cross.






- aural image: Leitmotif from a Wagnerians music drama that conjures up the symbolised mental image (horn motif for Siegfried)

- objects: memorials (battle field, concentration camps....) that conjure up mental images; objects (relics) that conjure up mental images like Beuys 'Wirtschaftwerte' and installations of Boltanski.

15 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image = sign

unmotivated sign (in chain ending up in an imagesign ): written words conjure up the mental image of spoken words that conjure up the mental image of a dish on the menu that is an imagesign for the real dish

unmotivated sign (in a chain ending up in a symbol): written words conjure up the mental image of spoken words that conjure up the mental image of a symbol that is a sign for an abstract idea: 'Roman de la rose', 'Gulliver's Travels', 'Das Schloss' or 'Mahagonny'

16 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image

Unmotivated sign (visual):

- novel or poem, read in silence, where the written words conjure up the mental image of the spoken words that conjure up a mental image
- written letters (LHOOQ) conjure up the mental image of their letter name ( Elle a chaud au cul), which is a verbal statement that conjures up the corresponding mental image.


Das kleine Haus unter Bäumen am See.
Vom Dach steigt Rauch.
Fehlte er,
Wie trostlos dann wären
Haus, Bäume und See.

(read silently)


LHOOQ

(read silently)
17 config = sign conjures image = sign copnjures image

Unmotivated sign: spoken words that conjure up the mental image of a broken rope tied together that conjures up the mental image of a restored relation:


Der abgerissene Strick kann wieder geknotet werden.
Er hält wieder, aber
Er ist zerrissen.
Vielleicht begegnen wir uns wieder, aber da
Wo du mich verlassen hast
Triffst du mich nicht wieder.


(read aloud)

Notes on a score that conjure up the mental image of a Leitmotif from a Wagnerian music drama that conjures up the symbolised mental image (horn motif for Siegfried)
18 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image = sign conjures image

written words that conjure up the mental image of spoken words that conjure up the mental image of a broken rope tied together that conjures up the mental image of a restored relation:


Der abgerissene Strick kann wieder geknotet werden.
Er hält wieder, aber
Er ist zerrissen.
Vielleicht begegnen wir uns wieder, aber da
Wo du mich verlassen hast
Triffst du mich nicht wieder.

(read silently)


Back to 'Entwining of mimesis and semiosis' (1)




THE ENTWINING OF SEMIOSIS AND MIMESIS (2)/ COMBINATIONS OF MIMETIC CHAINS


All these chains can be combined with one another. Not all combinations are relevant to the study of the image, with which we are here concerned. In principle, we could restrain ourselves to composite images - images that are composed of two genuine mimetic chains, ending up in perceived or imagined images. But since we are also interested in discerning the image from borderline cases as well as from combinations with semiosis, we add two more kinds of combinations: combinations of chains ending up with an image with chains ending up with a sign, and mimetic chains that end up with signs, and that have only images in the preliminary phases.


1. COMPOSITIE IMAGES

1. Combination of mimetic chains with a differing number of shackles:


In comic strips, images of characters are combined with written words that conjure up the mental image of the words spoken by the characters. These words are mental images of the aural appearance of the characters . Also the accompanying narrative texts conjure up  the mental image of situations. Thus we get the following combination:

03             image
13         config = sign conjures image

In an (executed) song, a perceived musical image is combined with a mental image conjured up by the words:
03             image
13         config = sign conjures image

We find the same combination in onomatopoetic poetry - perhaps more appropriately to be called 'musical poetry' - like Poe's 'Bells'. When the poems is read silently, both chains are extended with one more shackle as follows:
13 config = sign conjures image
16 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image

Printed novels and poems combined with images (Blake):
03             image
16 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image

The same diagram is condensed in printed poetry where letters, words, verses or strophes are so arranged as to visually resemble their meaning like in the 'poème dessiné' (think of  Apollinaire's 'calligrammes' like 'It rains').




We can use the same diagram  for 'LHOOQ' written on the Mona Lisa by Marcel Duchamp: written letters (LHOOQ) conjure up the mental image of the letter name (Elle a chaud au cul), that is a verbal statement that conjures up the corresponding mental image.

In Brecht's epical theatre, we get a combination of aural imitation of speaking an singing men, and written text (informative or conjuring up images)

2. Combination of mimetic chains where a perceptible image is combined with an imagined image:

This kind of combination coincides with the preceding, since an imagined image has always a shackle more that a perceived image.
:

2. COMBINATION OF IMAGE AND SIGN

1. Combination of a genuine image with an image that is a sign.


On many a painting, image and symbol go hand in hand (Delacroix' La liberté):
02             image = sign
03             image

In poetry, we often find a combination of mental images with mental symbols:

- poetry read aloud
12         config = sign conjures image = sign
13         config = sign conjures image

- poetry read silently
15     config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image = sign
16 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image

All these combinations have the same number of shackles.

2. Combination of images with signs that are not images

News read on radio or TV (mass product, no image) with audible or audiovisual image of the speaker:
01 config = sign
03 image

When philosophy and literature are combined, we get
10         config = sign conjures config = sign
16 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image

Rearrangement to show how the chains are condensed:
10     config = sign conjures config = sign    
16 config = sign conjures config = sign conjures image

A score that conjures up the mental image of the music, but where the letter names of some not conjure up the name (Bach)
10         config = sign conjures config = sign
13         config = sign conjures image


3. SIGNS

In the following cases we have chains whit images only in the preliminary shackles:

The word 'Bild' on a canvas of Tim Ulrichs: the canvas is an objectsign for 'painting' and the word 'Bild' conjures up the mental image of the corresponding words:
02 object = sign
10 config = sign conjures config = sign

An emblem with accompanying text - think of Beuys: 'Wenn du dich schneidest, verbinde nicht den Finger sondern das Messer', or an aspect of Delvoye's 'Rose de Vents':
10         config = sign conjures config = sign
11         image = sign conjures

Let us remark that there are also images of images: exemplary in the endless series of mirror images of mirror images, or in the painting on which a painting is painted, but foremost in the film: an audiovisual image of the actors who are themselves audiovisual images of their characters. But this should not concern us here, since we are only dealing with combinations of image and sign


Back to 'Entwining of mimesis and semiosis (2)



© Stefan Beyst, Mai 2010  (translated June 2010)

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Background to this text:      stefan beyst: theory on art



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