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Semiotics and Historical Art out of the Holocaust

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Sharday Isaac

on 4 February 2013

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Transcript of Semiotics and Historical Art out of the Holocaust

Studying Semiotics Anything that can
stand for anything else. So what IS this "permanent process of sign making?" Saussure said "there is
nothing treeish about
a tree" Key Thinkers: Ferdinand D. Sassure Roland Barthes Believed semiotics was the 'science which studies the role of signs as a part of everyday life. created the Saussurean Model of a sign. Saussure believed there was
arbitrary links between: 'language doesn't reflect reality but constructs it.' Broke away from Saussures arbitrariness of a sign and focused on the relationship between the signifier and the signified. two kinds of signifieds:
a denotative signified (meaning) and a connotative signified. Connotative Denotative definition or 'literal' obvious or commonsense meaning of a sign socio-cultural and 'personal' associations of a sign. Not everybody associates the car with the same imagery. Myth related to connotation is what barthes calls 'myth' he argued that the orders of signification combine to produce myth (ideology) as the third order of signification. Orders of Signification: Barthes ideas about Myth: 'transforms history into nature', naturalizes things. (Naturalizes the cultural) makes dominant cultural codes and historical values, attitudes and beliefs seem entirely 'natural', 'normal' 'self evident', timeless, common-sense. However, does Myth mean the same thing to everyone? How can you begin to break down a drawing using semiotics? Applying Semiotics to Drawings "It may be argued that a visual aesthetic sensibility is culturally
determined; such sensibility is the product of correlations between semiotic
codes and the social structures in which those codes have become
conventionalized. Visual semiotic codes, those systems of signs we invent to
represent and express our attitudes towards aspects of the world, are
conditioned by our perceptual experiences of the world. They are the means
through which we express the perceptual relations which exist between us as
bodies, and our physical environment. Therefore it becomes feasible to
suggest a triadic structure linking perceptual modes, ways of drawing and
types of social structures." (Riley, 2004) Drawing as a system of signs has important cultural origins that are reflected in etymology. The German Zeichen, meaning sign, gives us zeichnen for the verb to draw, that is to make signs. The need to elaborate and apply a social semiotics of the visual
is being actively addressed in the domain of drawing practice. So how can we apply this theory to the Art produced in the camps of the Holocaust? The social semiotics of drawings: both producers and viewers of drawings
take up positions, adopt attitudes and points of view which are influenced by
their positions within their sets of social relations. Such an ideological
positioning involves a specific way of using signs (a semiotic), in a particular
system of social relations, which structures an aesthetic sensibility. 'Drawing not only expresses the social context but is part of a more complex dialectic in which
drawings actively symbolize the social system, thus producing, as well as being
produced by, the ideological framework of a society.' From the social semiotic perspective, any social context can be understood as a temporary construct which may be mapped in terms of three variables: Field: (of social process) - What is going on in the time of the process? Tenor: (of social relationships) - the role in the relationships between the drawer, the subject-matter and the audience, that affect these variations. Mode: (of symbolic interaction) - how we draw varies with our attitude. Emotional disturbance might be realized in an expressionist mode; absentmindedness in a doodling mode. Social meanings to do with the drawer’s and viewer’s experience
within the field of the real world, and also the tenor of the relationship
between drawer and viewer, are all realized simultaneously through the
systems of, for example, Theme, Modality and Geometry. Theme: physical, emotional, imaginative experiences, narrative, historical genre Modality: mood, attitude, positioning: viewer-centered, object-centered. Geometry: pers. orthographic, oblique, inverted, persp. and topological. Moreover, how have the images become part of a connotative signified or mythic ideal when trying to understand the Holocaust? Applying Social Semiotics to Historical Holocaust drawings. Theories at practice: Lets discuss the dennotative signified of the charcoal drawing. How does this create a connotative signified meaning? Mythic meaning? What types of field, tenor, and modes are presented? What types of themes, modality, and geometry is presented? Did the art out of the Holocaust help mold a myth
when trying to reproduce visuals through film and other mediums? Mythic meaning & adding perspective to art More than several mediums of Art came out of the camps in the Holocaust. Arguably the most impactful are the wash drawings and paints Nazi dubbed as "horror" propaganda. The suffering depicted is incapable of transfiguration. It is there in hunger-haunted faces, in heaps of skeletons denied the dignity of burial, in eyes that stare out of deeo sockets with despair and abandonment. The pictorial image eliminates the language barrier. The only neccessary prerequisites for understanding the visual message are the gift of sight and a receptive mind. This is especially true of the imagery that uses recognizable symbols. With visual symbols, the contract is immediate, direct, and the image is retained. Studying Semiotics Applying semiotics to drawings Theories at practice Myth Meaning By: Sharday Isaac
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