*Yotam Sivan*

*MFA Programme 2022* 

*Written under the supervision of Henry Rogers*


*Word count: 6092* 

 
 

Abstract

This paper comprises of my attempt to coherently theorize my studio practice. Using tool-objects as starting points for further exploration, I analyse the screw, the hammer, the foot (imperial unit of measurement), the vinyl record, the decoration, and the utility key. Throughout this process, I define my point of view as multi-faceted, and interdisciplinary. I suggest that the art discipline lays in and should be thought of in terms of liminality, overlapping with other disciplines yet retaining a "separateness". Conceptualizing art in this way challenges a binary mode of meaning - a somewhat monotheistic faith in one truth over the other that seems to still be prevalent in disciplinary ideas of mastery.

To achieve this means to successfully challenge one's preconceptions, and to do so, I explore concepts which might be helpful in dismantling biases. More specifically, I explore mechanisms of meaning-giving that, I suspect, play a part in both the creation and the internalization of biases. Through the idea of the cognitive bias, I explore how detrimental biases can be within the creative practice and how adhering to biases perpetuates them and prevents a sort of intellectual freedom.

 

Through semiotics, specifically inspired by Roland Barthes’ innovative use of it, I examine how a semiotic reading of an object might allow for a more critical engagement with it. One at least, allows us to perceive our own preconceptions and their formation. Moreover, I show how omni-present and significant this "genetic" payload is, in affecting how we conduct ourselves in various contexts.

I further venture into mechanisms which "flatten" objects onto symbolic values. Reviewing and expanding concepts such as Ge-stell and aesthetics, I attempt to better understand the uncritical place where we are satisfied with the surface of things - what lays deeper when we dare to challenge the surface, might undermine our peace of mind on one hand, and on the other facilitate a fuller, often contrasting understanding of things. Lastly, I show how this process of reconstruction allows for unlearning - mitigating our biases and learning how to resist a binary classification of objects.

legslowpoly_left_Normal.png
 

Preface

An artist's studio is today, more than ever, a thing in flux; shifting and fluctuating wildly, in how different artists manifest practice through physical production and conceptual framing. Working within the artistic discipline, in its contemporary state, I am challenged with theorizing my own practice, and hopefully, that is exactly what I have achieved. Interdisciplinarity seems to be at the core of my practice, urging me to venture into various disciplinary realms, yet never committing to a specific one. What is there to gain from this positionality, this liminality? And more importantly, how can I write from a position of uncertainty? It is these types of methodological questions which helped define my approach when writing this paper.

In the following pages, I attempt a re-examination and deconstruction of specific tool-objects and concepts relating to the following questions - What is there to gain from analysing tools, and what is it about tools that warrants such an investigation? What can I learn by considering objects outside their disciplinary context and in using a multi-disciplinary lens? In what ways does technology relate to the natural world and to our bodies, and what is the nature of our relationship to technology?  Lastly, in what other ways, do tools function when considered beyond being a means to an end?  

 In line, perhaps more with the philosophical tradition, I have written here with no preconceptions or expectations of answering my own questions with a predetermined set of answers—not in absolutes or for the sake of confirming my own biases. I simply wish to avoid a binary approach towards that which I believe defies definition, that which is deciphered differently under different disciplinary perspectives. Instead, I find it much more valuable for me to encircle themes, concepts and ideas which inform my work, and with which my spirit reverberates. This is not meant as a normative statement about a disciplinary hierarchy in positive\negative terms, or at all. It is simply inherent to me, to view the artist’s practice as positioned in relation to other disciplines.

As I mentioned, I wish to encircle these points of reverberation, where I intuitively react to the physical world. Here I will do so by writing through certain objects, mostly tools. The tool is a fascinating object; it seems that more so than others, it is mostly perceived as a means to an end, and in that lies its potential benefits for reconstruction.

The guitar evokes thoughts and preconceptions about music (and musicians), the scalpel a medical one and so on. These "tools of the trade", as I will show, are not just that. They are overwhelmed by forms of meaning-giving. so much so, that they are rarely re-considered outside these meanings. At this point, disciplinary thinking limits us to a chain of confirming biases or fallacies; a chair in its default disciplinary settings is for sitting, and so a binding relationship is formed with the object. I will be most likely to sit on it rather than, let's say, use it as a shovel. Under this line of investigation, the chair must then be a pure expression of sitting - a purely functional object. When re-considered, as I am suggesting, the variety of chair designs to be found disproves just that. A chair might be one carpenters' view of what is functional and pragmatic, but by no means is it be a pure expression of functionality. So, in re-considering we expose a fallacy, perhaps fuelled by the fear of letting lose our existential anchors, less the ground falls apart from under our feet and we are no longer on steady ground. Moreover, when a chair is considered through multiple disciplines, we discover a plethora of realizations towards what a chair could be and what we can learn through analysing it. As an artist, now fully in disciplinary liminality, I might now be better equipped to create art contextually.

kosuth chair
 

*

The place where we are right

is hard and trampled

like a yard.

But doubts and loves

dig up the world

like a mole, a plough.

 

And a whisper will be heard in the place

where the ruined

house once stood.

 

*

"The Place Where We Are Right" by Yehuda Amichai, from The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, edited and translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell. © University of California Press, 1996.

 

1 | THE SCREW

The screw is an exemplary contemporary tool. It is a tool that functions within a "genealogy" of tools; A Philips head fits a Philips screwdriver; a flathead fits a flat screwdriver and so on. It is a stellar example of mass production, fungibility and the standardization of the production process. A screw, nonetheless, in its capacity to fasten one material to another, or more specifically, to transfer rotary motion into linear motion, is rendered impotent without its counterpart - the screwdriver. Having isolated the screw, it is now lost.

Severed from its lineage, it now exists in a state of uncertainty, waiting for the screwdriver to give it purpose.

Consider the screw apart from the screwdriver as a form of unlearning rather than forgetting, which is a futile endeavour. What new forms of thought can emerge when divorcing the screw from the screwdriver? Un-utilized, it is now purely a form, undesignated and in flux. It is nothing specific, and with that it is infinite in potential.

Imagine this infinite space as a reservoir of potential meaning. It is where things exist before they are categorized and assigned purpose before we denote a place for them in our world. I suggest a metaphorical space where forms have yet to be assigned purpose and are infinite in their prospective possibilities. It is in this space, I argue, where we can relieve ourselves and our surroundings of the weight of their history. It is this space of uncertainty and infinite possibilities that I would like the reader to remember as the general tone that underlies this paper.

 

 

If when holding a hammer, I only see nails, haven't I become enslaved by the hammer? I would refrain from implying that the hammer is an active participant, as it does not have agency. Nonetheless, the designation I have accepted for what a hammer is used for, has diminished my own freedom regarding the infinite array of possibilities for how a hammer can be used and understood. To overcome this, I need to find my way back to that endless quantum realm of possibilities.

There I might break the cycle of confirmation biases. I would consider the hammer in all its essence. It is at this point where a disclaimer is in order; this process of meandering through a space of endless potential meanings does does not truly happen in a vacuum. As social animals we cannot fully escape the grasp of social conventions. I cannot simply "forget" the historical, social, and disciplinary biases which tell me of the hammer. Most importantly, as I cannot avoid my preconceptions entirely, I cannot expect the viewer to be oblivious of said preconceptions.

Instead, I advocate for a liminal perspective, which here, translates to examining multiple perspectives, yet never committing to any specific one. In other words, never permanently crossing disciplinary borders and never committing to one specific prism. In this manner, every manipulation over the hammer stands in relation to the connotative weight it carries. A brittle ceramic hammer would pit the idea of fragility against durability, perhaps challenging or highlighting ideas of masculinity and violence imbedded deep within a conventional understanding of what a hammer is in its usual disciplinary and social setting.

Now, we are left with an object not only indicative of its own history, but also projecting onto a plethora of other disciplines, histories, and concepts. We have created an object that is truly not one thing or another - not entirely a hammer yet not a non-hammer - It presents itself as an object in conflict, neither here nor there, in flux, in motion. Here I might suggest that this disorients us and disrupts our peace, and to reassert it we might categorize it as art, enframing it in a new form of certainty and designation which allows us to lower our defences.

An example is in order, to cement this discourse in the real world. The gavel, a mallet-like object used by judges and auctioneers, is an instrument used to signify authority and demand attention in its user's name. The word originates from the middle English word gafol, from old English giefen; to give. In the Middle Ages, a gavel was payment in goods (rather than cash), made as payment or tribute to a lord. It was prefixed to other words such as the Gavel-kind- "a tenure of land existing chiefly in Kent from Anglo-Saxon times until 1925 and providing for division of an intestate's estate equally among the sons or other heirs". The gavel in the 19th century was also known as a type of a masonry hammer.[7]

This brief historic and etymological review of the word is made here to make a long story short. We can now see clearly how the hammer is employed for the sake of authority. Utilizing its symbolic values, or more specifically, drawing from its connotative meaning, the hammer as a gavel has evolved not arbitrarily, rather than as a part of a symbolic tradition. The gavel "inherits" the connotative weight of the hammer yet denotes itself as a different object. 

 

3 | THE HAMMER

3 | The Foot

 

The quantification of physical space, the unit of measurement is a concept that tames the world by organizing it under human terms. It is no wonder that so many of our units of measurement derive from our physical bodies. Is it not with our feet that we claim land? Is it not a foot that tramples "terra incognita" into "terra cognita"? I often find myself thinking of the first time a measurement was standardized. How intimate it is that the imperial foot derives from an actual individual's foot? In a sense, he has been immortalized. The world is now measured by one specific god-like persons' shoe size.

Systems of measurement have more to offer us than a body-space perspective. They usher the age of interchangeability, connectivity, modularity, and standardization. All of which allow us, as a global society, to make objects in an overarching structure. A m6 bolt will no doubt fit an m6 nut, regardless of where it was made. This can be thought of in terms of language, - a standardized vocabulary for the language of making, which serves as a lubricant within channels of technical and material communication. Measurements are a language that communicates materiality, and it is like other languages in how it promotes the exchange of knowledge. Moreover, like other systems of communication, it asserts authority and sovereignty.

A great example would be the invention and imposition of the metric system originating in 18th century France. As all revolutions go, the French Revolution was about asserting the new over the old, and as part of that very endeavour (alongside establishing a new Republic calendar), the metric system was conceived and implemented. Thought of as a more practical and rational system, this new system ushered the demise of regional and traditional systems of measurement - the demise of the old rule and old values.

The word "meter" was not chosen arbitrarily as well. Etymologically, "meter" derives from the ancient Greek word "matron", which was used as a poetic measure or to describe a field of influence. Drawing upon ancient Greek civilization, the meter embodied values of reason and democracy, defying the archaic values imposed by the Catholic Church in addition to resisting the monarchic system. It is worth mentioning that the re-appropriation of the word is not only an example of how a system of measurement works politically, but of how nature is utilized as a platform for societal change.

 

The meter evoked progress not only in its abolishment of the old, but also in promoting values of the zeitgeist and asserting them practically - literally reorganizing and measuring the world. It is a symbol of the very sense of reason perceived in the ancient Greek culture by the scholars of the Enlightenment. It can be thought of as the insemination of a new confirming bias. Using the meter is turning to reason (or at least a fallacy of it), not religion or any other authority. The system is logical within its own terms, and the search for proof, under said bias, will only promote the acceptance of that very same bias.

4 | VINYL

 

A vinyl record is made of polyvinyl chloride, commonly referred to as PVC, which in turn is made of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel, in turn, is a product of ancient life; plants and animals, compressed underground over eons, eventually transformed into a homogenic carbon-rich liquid. 

The vinyl record itself, is a mass-produced object containing a piece of sound. A continuous groove pushes a needle, which is amplified to re-play a pre-recorded piece of sound. The act of recording is in a way, a reconstruction of nature, of a moment, a flutter of kinetic motion reproducing a point in time and space. In a way, a record quantifies nature and captures it in an enclosure of decibels and seconds. It allows us a sense of control over nature; we can slow it down, edit it and manipulate to our hearts content. Nature now stands as a reserve before us. We poeticize it, fetishize it, commodify it until nature is but a concept moulded by a collective consciousness. It is no longer a thing in its own right, but rather a fiction. A steel needle running through a groove, reproducing sounds out of a polymerized piece of ancient life.

How ironic is it that nature is captured by itself? A piece of ancient life, now a platform for the expression of new life. Like a hunting bow reinforced with sinew or a saddle made of leather, nature is turned onto itself - the means for its own deconstruction. This is not meant as an ethical statement of any kind. It helps us in defining a mechanism of appropriation. We do not invent; we reconfigure and react. We observe nature, seeking where it might be used to enhance our capabilities. One that might allow us to fly like a bird, or travel at great speeds. We look at the deer and are at awe with its athletic ability. Those limber movements that  are made possible by tough and flexible tendons. We then appropriate this technical capacity onto a mechanical construction. One that utilizes that same physical prowess of the deer onto a better bow; That impressive spring is now utilized for the flex of a bow, which in turn, will turn itself against the deer once again.

 

5 | THE DECORATION

 

What is it that makes us decorate? A decoration in this case, does not necessarily translate into an artistically inclined work. What I refer to as decorating is benign, it is done on a more superficial level - there is no transmutation, rather a design is added on the surface of a pre-existing object. Decorating is common worldwide and is done compulsively in almost any setting. It seems it is almost an expression of a need rather than a means to satiate it.

Perhaps we decorate as an attempt to imbue an object or an abode with ourselves. Perhaps we want to look at our surroundings and recognize ourselves, maybe selectively. We want the object to tell of itself and more importantly, its commissioner or creator (who are at times one and the same). In this manner, a dining table made for a wealthy customer would need to be decorated in a fashion which highlight the owner's self-proclaimed qualities. Gold leaf for wealth, or a minimal design for an air of implied contemporary sophistication. It seems we project onto everything which lacks the agency to resist us, and in so our environment is made to reflect us, or at least the image we wish to project.

In the past decade or so, I have heard the term "rustic" being applied more often than ever. Rustic these days is an aesthetic. It is a material language originating from repurposing, reusing, and re-furbishing which are necessary practices in rural life, rooted in practicality. A mechanic will not necessarily consider his wrench to be anything other than a wrench in its capacity to apply torque. Yet for another, perhaps a wealthier person, the same wrench is a "piece". It is no longer a tool, rather than a decoration made to imbue its surrounding with a sense of authenticity. I suggest that this process is the enframing of technological and social practices and histories onto an aesthetic.

This process is a process of appropriation in which the authentic is utilized as symbolic forms. Rarely does one encounter a wrench collector, who displays his collectibles out of genuine interest and a well-rounded understanding of that which he collects (generally one does not encounter wrench collectors at all). The wrench is now used to evoke romanticized processes of craft and making, and at the same time the wrench is unemployed, impotent in relation to its former function. Within this "romance", between a person and the wrench, like any romance, judgment is impaired. Lovers tend to have a selective view of each other. They are not yet engaged in a true committed relationship, one that involves holistic comprehension of the other and their less appealing features.

6 | THE KEY

 

Walking through the city of Edinburgh, like many other public spaces, I cannot help but notice a hidden world. Scattered throughout every street, park and house is a seemingly invisible array of objects designated under utility. Hatchways into lamp posts, power boxes, gas meters; they are all out in plain sight, yet we do not give them a second thought. And even more so, we rarely attempt engaging with them. They are out of bounds for us, locked away by something else much sturdier and overbearing than a mechanical lock.

To speak of that "something else", it is imperative that we understand the maintenance key, as the two are inherently linked. There are many types of utility keys, but for its commonness I will focus on the triangular utility key and lock. It is found literally everywhere; from parking stops to electricity cabinets. Like other keys it functions to selectively limit access to places that are understood as dangerous for the "normal" citizen or that are precarious when tampered by the unknowledgeable. Even though many triangular locks are not accompanied by a warning, it is understood that access is granted by an authority to whoever qualifies.

The lock itself is usually quite simple mechanically. Unlike conventional locking mechanisms found throughout the domestic and public spaces, a triangular key is not specific to one lock. Usually, a key is cut to match a cylinder; its indents matching pins within the cylinder which when moved in the right order and fashion, allows the cylinder to turn and the bolt to recede, thus opening whatever is locked. Moreover, this type of key is easily purchased from most hardware stores and online. So now, it is quite clear that even though these locks are installed to prevent access, they do not actually do that in a mechanical sense, at least not for anyone willing to purchase a key or make their own.

So, if access is so easily gained, why would I not use it? Having a triangular key allows for extended movement within the city. It expands my freedom, not only to move about or park my car in a previously inaccessible space, but a freedom to work against authority, or at least not according to it. As it seems, the question around authority in this case is an important line of inquiry. I suggest that like how the metric system was implemented, as I have shown earlier to assert authority and sovereignty, so has the triangular lock. It is important to state here that I am not suggesting the city council is acting upon a malicious agenda. I am more inclined to suggest that the key here functions as a visual symbol rather than a physical barrier. It is a symbol warning me to stay in my lane and not to fiddle where I am not welcome, to adhere to my social role.

In the same way I am prevented from accessing what lies beyond the key, the authorized are given access. Access might be given to tradesmen or law enforcement, but regardless, they have been given permission to access areas and objects based on their discipline and training. Their discipline and training in this case assures the authority that they will make "proper" use of this access. They will not revolt, paid and responsible for their actions. They are trusted to act in the authority's best interest.

And so, we get to the crux of it. There is an abundance of power and freedom to grasp within the public realm. My examination of the triangular key in meant to expose how much of this freedom is lost on our own volition. All it takes is the idea of a lock; one that evokes rather than directly enforcing public authority. The connotative weight of the lock and key is enough in themselves to limit our freedom and keep us in line. They bring out in us the uncritical; that thing that trusts authority and that its interests are aligned with our own. More than anything, the lock and key are internalized by our need of being a part of a community, by adhering to its rules. A need so engrained that we sacrifice a portion of our own agency for it. And the worst of it all is that we do not challenge our complacency, we often do not even notice it.

Here is a review of concepts and ideas which have directed me in writing and in my practice. It is these ideas, which are for me inseparable from my own, that make for the foundation on which this paper was constructed.

 

I. Enframing (ge-stell):

The term ge-stell or enframing, in how Heidegger perceives it, is the essence of technology. Not only is it the essence, but it is the relationship itself between man and nature. Enframing is the structure under which nature is ordered as a standing reserve. Thus, to completely understand enframing, we need to understand what the standing-reserve is.[1]

As Heidegger writes:

"The essence of Enframing is that setting-upon gathered into itself which entraps the truth of its own coming to presence with oblivion. This entrapping disguises itself, in that it develops into the setting in order of everything that presences as standing reserve, establishes itself in the standing-reserve, and rules as the standing-reserve[2]."

In this paper I attempt to expand the idea of enframing beyond its original setting, and on to a more general over-arching role. In the process of enframing, there seems to be a shift in how we view nature. This shift is a "flattening" of sorts - a change in our categorization of objects. It is a flattening in the sense of what was understood as existing on its own, is now reduced to a symbol. Symbolism, in how I understand it, is an indexical mechanism which is necessary for daily function. We cannot be constantly preoccupied with the plethora of potential meanings. For us to function, we seem to naturally enframe objects as simple, flatter versions of themselves - pulling one out of the "index" when the need arrives. In this sense, thinking of this process as a phenomenon of enframing offers merits towards mitigating said indexical thinking. Awareness brings with it the potentiality of criticism, which in turn, allows for freedom of thought, and the ability to not act out of what is known, rather than what might be learned.

 

Standing reserve:

The standing reserve is the realization of enframing. It is the form of enframing nature in relation to technology. It is when we perceive a tree as lumber, or a beaver as a pelt. The whole of its existence now stands only in its relation to how it might be used-it is now understood in terms of dimensions, availability, cost and so on. According to Heidegger, the standing-reserve is no longer perceived as the same natural object, rather a flattened conceptual thing that now is now fundamentally different.[3]

 

II. Cognitive Bias:

A cognitive bias is best understood in relation to what is considered a conventional thought process or logic, and more precisely, a deviation from it. The more one deviates from the norm, the more the though process is a likely candidate for constituting a cognitive bias.[4] A cognitive bias is attributed to a departure from logic, and the acceptance of a subjective perspective - "where biases exist, individuals draw inferences or adopt beliefs where the evidence for doing so in a logically sound manner is either insufficient or absent."[5]

In this context, the cognitive bias is another mechanism which affects the degree of freedom and the capacity to reconsider or re-evaluate objects and their different layers of meaning. The cognitive bias limits us in that it is a closed process of method and outcome which are in-fact predetermined – it works to confine us, more so than to allow us to expand ourselves towards new methods and discoveries.

Having cognitive biases is necessary since it facilitates indexical thinking. It allows us to draw from a toolbox of "truths" (or established and experienced methods) without having to be constantly overwhelmed by the full weight of potential possibilities. As a naturally accruing psychological phenomenon, I suggest we need to constantly be aware of it and perhaps actively counteract it -remaining in the vertigo between knowing and not knowing, while accepting the impossibility of an absolute truth.

 

 

Confirmation's bias:

The confirmation bias, to which I specifically refer in this paper, is a type of cognitive bias. A confirmation bias is when one tends to interpret and analyse information in a biased manner, that supports his/her preconceptions. Acting upon the bias is reconfirming what is already known, in contrast to researching, which is the process of finding something out without prejudice. The bias itself is unintentional and based on personal predictions or expectations.[6] For example, a religious person might interpret occurrences in their life as a manifestation of the will of God. In this case, the scientific method, which offers a logical explanation based on tangible evidence, has given way to religious beliefs that are not normally acceptable as a method of inquiry, at least not as much as science is.

 

The law of the instrument:

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."[7]

This quote, in this specific phrasing, attributed to psychologist and philosopher Abraham H. Maslow and philosopher Abraham Kaplan, is referred to as "the law of the instrument". The concept is a cognitive bias. originally written in context to the psychology of science, to illustrate how our knowledge of specific tools might counteract our search for the right and perhaps unfamiliar tool. We are much more inclined to use the tools we know, and through the tools we know we formulate the problem we aim so to solve. Though breakable, this works as a closed circle of cause and effect that are maintained by the comfort the familiar provides.

 

VI. A theory of motivation:

The Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as it is often referred to as, is a theory by Maslow which categorizes human needs through a hierarchal structure. It is usually illustrated as a pyramid, where lower levels represent basic needs and higher levels towards the apex of the pyramid, represent higher needs. The categories of needs are, in rising order, physiological; safety; belonging and love; esteem; aesthetic; self-actualization and finally, transcendence. This pyramid of needs is also categorized as two general groups - deficiency needs and growth needs. Maslow argues that for a person to act in satiating their needs, the more basic needs need to be addressed first. A starving person, or in Maslow's terminology, a person physiologically deprived (food-deprived, sleep deprived and so on), will not be occupied with fulfilling higher-level needs. Moreover, this person might not even be aware of such needs. At least not until their basic needs are attended to. Motivation here comes as an engine, fuelled by unfulfilled needs. It is our unfulfilled needs, as Maslow argues, that are the fuel for the engine that is motivation.[8]

A theory of needs here serves as an underlying detailing of what motivates us. It offers a similar "flattening" to enframing, in how it explains the triviality of satiated needs - how we do not question them when they are satisfied. It holds merit here as a psychological structure, which sheds light on meaning-giving processes. Since this paper advocates a holistic understanding, or at least the pursuit of it, I believe the psychological aspect should not be neglected.

 

IV. Liminality:

Liminality, throughout this paper, refers to - "of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : IN-BETWEEN, TRANSITIONAL"[9]

I will often use liminality in relation to how interdisciplinary art can be conceptualized as existing in liminality; in how artists utilize various disciplinary practices and tools yet remain within the art discipline. This view of the art practice as liminal can be observed further in Hans Breder's text,  – "Intermedia: Enacting the Liminal", where Breder offers a semi auto-biographical account of his work as an artist and in art education throughout the 1960s. It was a time where the very idea of intermedia in fine art started taking root, through extensive theoretical work and physical experimentation into new forms of artistic work. Work that combines previously non-artistic mediums in various combinations to create new artistic forms of expression.[10]

 

 

V. Unlearning:

Unlearning in this context is presented in relation to my ideas of re-considering and re-designating. As an approach within the pedagogy of education, it "delinks the acts of teaching and learning"[11] of things within a binary structure of knowledge and ignorance that is under the context of the standardized body of knowledge and practices of teaching within conventional education pedagogy. In my use of the term, I propose that practicing unlearning might be extremely potent in the dismantling cognitive biases. I believe it is useful as a tool for challenging our preconceptions, and consequently making new observations that might contrast with what we previously believed in.

 

VI. Connotative and denotative in semiotics:[12][13][14]

A denotative value of a word is the explicit accepted meaning of something. For example, the word "gaslight" denotes the actual object as a mechanism used to produce light via the burning of gas. On the other hand, connotative value relates to the social, historic, and other implicit meanings the object connotes. A "gaslight" in this instance would be a situation in which a person is manipulated by another into accepting responsibility for something that is not their responsibility, resulting in the other person doubting themselves. As a semiotic tool, understanding denotation and connotation helps us decipher objects. It is simply used here as a method of analysing and exposing different layers of meaning, which is a pre-requisite for any further critical engagement.

 

VII. Transmutation:

           As Marcel Duchamp writes:

"The spectator experiences the phenomenon of transmutation; through the change from inert matter into a work of art, an actual transubstantiation has taken place..."[15]

I make a similar use of the word, to describe a creative act which fundamentally transforms the base elements from which an artwork is made. The transmutation itself occurs not only within the creation of art, but in how it is perceived by a spectator - a transmutation of the artists' work in what he meant, or a state of mind, and the spectator in how he interprets it in relation to his own inner world.

 

VIII. Aesthetics:

In this paper, the term "aesthetics" is understood as the formalistic aspects of an object. More precisely, it refers to the perceptual experience elicited by all objects. In contrast to aesthetics as a synonym for the philosophy of art, aesthetics in this sense relates to the sensory experience. Aesthetics are better understood when contrasting "things perceived (aesthetic entities) with things known (noetic entities), delegating to "aesthetics" the investigation of the former."[16] In this sense, I think of aesthetics as a thin veneer, an on-the-surface visual presentation of an object. As such, I treat it as a superficial thing which is often clumsily pasted on the surface of an object, seeking to imbue it with the appearance of something. It is the evoking of meaning rather than the creation of it.

 

XII. Authenticity:

The meaning of authenticity is immensely contrived. In its definition, authenticity is described as " the quality of being real or true."[17]Immediately, authenticity becomes reliant on the idea of reality or truth, which are both quite precarious, as we have never collectively agreed on any one version of them. My use of the idea of authenticity, refers to the signifying of the authentic through an aesthetic. Authenticity hence is a conceptual weight, attributed to things in relation to different ideas of reality or truth.

As Michael B. Beverland and Francis J. Farrely write:

"Researchers explain authenticity as original and staged (MacCannell 1973), fabricated (Belk and Costa, 1998), iconic, indexical, and hypothetical (Grayson and Martinec 2004), self-referential hyperauthenticity (Rose and Wood 2005), symbolic (Culler 1981), existential (Wang 1999), literal or objective (Beverland, Lindgreen, and Vink 2008), legitimate (Kates 2004), sincere (Beverland 2006), approximate and moral (Leigh, Peters, and Shelton 2006), and emergent (Cohen 1988). Differences also emerge as to the nature of the objects (or cues) that can convey authenticity. For example, authenticity has been identified in the patently fake (Brown 2001), obvious reproductions (Bruner 1994), and mundane mass market objects (Miller 2008), while others consider such examples the very antithesis of authenticity (Eco 1986)."[18]

I use authenticity as the "patently fake", or as an "obvious reproduction". Instead of specifically in relation to one object, I think about how an aesthetic might be used to evoke authenticity in objects. In other words, when intentionally utilized as an aesthetic, I think of authenticity as a facade of romanticism. That object on its own, is only authentic in relation to its own circumstances. It is authentic in the since that it had been made in a specificity to what it meant to evoke. It is only an authentic piece in that it signifies authenticity.

 

[1] Heidegger, M. (1977). The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays. United Kingdom: HarperCollins, 23-24.

[2] ibid,  36-37.

[3] ibid, xxix.

[4] Cognitive Biases. (1990). Netherlands: Elsevier Science, p.7-8. 

[5] The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. (2005). Germany: Wiley, p725. 

[6] Casad, B. J. (2019, October 9). confirmation bias. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias.

[7]  Maslow, Abraham H. (1966), The Psychology of Science, New York: Harper & Row. p.15.

[8] Maslow, Abraham. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.

[9] Liminality, Merriam-Webster dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal.

[10] Breder, H. (1995). Intermedia: Enacting the Liminal. Performing Arts Journal, 17(2/3), 112–120. doi.org/10.2307/3245784.

[11] Rancière, J. (2016). Un-What? Philosophy & Rhetoric, 49(4), 589–606. https://doi.org/10.5325/philrhet.49.4.0589, introduction. (what is the name of the journal here?)

[12] Connotation, Merriam-webster dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/connotation.

[13] Dennotation, Merriam-webster dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/denotation.

[14]Barthes, R., Lavers, A., & Smith, C. (1968). Elements of semiology. P.90-95.

[15] Duchamp, M. (1975). The writings of Marcel Duchamp. Thames & Hudson LTD., London. P140.

[16] Binkley, T. (1977). Piece: Contra Aesthetics. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 35(3), 265–277. https://doi.org/10.2307/430287. P.267.

[17] Cambridge dictionary. Authenticity. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/authenticity.

[18] Beverland, M. B., Farrelly, F. J., & John Deighton served as editor and Eric Arnould served as associate editor for this article. (2010). The Quest for Authenticity in Consumption: Consumers’ Purposive Choice of Authentic Cues to Shape Experienced Outcomes. Journal of Consumer Research, 36(5), 838–856. https://doi.org/10.1086/615047. P.838.

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