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:
Les us give an example of every chain:
unmotivated sign (audible): news heard the radio, weather forecast, military signals, sirens and hooters.
unmotivated sign (visual): traffic lights, arrows, flags
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'.
Here belong the majority of images: non-symbolic paintings, music, ordinary musical mimesis, ballet, theatre, film
unmotivated sign: written word or phonetic script as signs for the pronunciation of words.
analog sign: graphs whose values are read aloud
image (imagesign or symbol) that conjures up spoken words (ideograms):
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
improbable (for instance: image of Marianne executed as Marseillaise).
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...).
image of instruments on which one has to click in order to make music
visual score with (genuine) images
- written word that conjures up the image of spoken words: newspapers, informative books, scientific books, philosophy read in silence
- 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.
analog sign: read values on a diagram in silence
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).
Also the image of a fish read as ΙΧΘΥΣ, the acronym of Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ
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
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,
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.
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'
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.
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:
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:
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:
In an (executed) song, a perceived musical image is combined with a mental image conjured up by the words:
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:
Printed novels and poems combined with images (Blake):
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').
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):
In poetry, we often find a combination of mental images with mental symbols:
- poetry read aloud
- poetry read silently
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:
When philosophy and literature are combined, we get
Rearrangement to show how the chains are condensed:
A score that conjures up the mental image of the music, but where the letter names of some not conjure up the name (Bach)
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:
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':
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