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e-flux conversations

Superconversations Day 3: Victoria Ivanova responds to Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, "The Great Silence"


Yes, I do think that, at best, some strands of semiotics have gotten awfully lost. Perhaps the only remarkable thing about the theoretical department at my University (University of Lima) is the semiotics department. We have translated many french post-greimasian semioticians such as the mentioned above and we divide semiotics in Semiotics of Discourse and Semiotics of Practice. Semiotics of Discourse follows the Greimasian model, developed from Saussure but a highly edited from Saussure initial scheme. Semiotics of Discourse is decidedly post-greimasian. Lots of theory and schemas that are really useful for qualitative analysis.

I mean, to think semiotics (specially the french strand) stops as Saussure is sheer nonsense. Any semiotician worth a damn would not ever do a semiotic analysis based on Saussure’s schema. In Perú and Brazil, such a hypothetical theorist would be quickly laughed out of the room. To me, criticizing Saussure as a kind of “best example” or “pillar” that founds the whole semiotics is outdated and pretty problematic. Greimas, Landowski, Zilberberg and Fontanille have all problematized him and completely changed the basis (and concerns) of semiotics. For me, to equate semiotics to discourse is to paint a caricature of a whole discipline. A lot of this post-greimasian strand focuses on practice above all else. Our best semioticians will tell you, the model (schema) is just a model, the practice and lived experience of the actors involved is what matters. The model changes, not the practice. If it was up to me, I’d take all the semioticians of practice that are kind of rotting away here and have them teach this stuff online. A quick Google search of “tensive semiotics” will throw this model which I have happily used in many instances (from analysis of books to analysis of patronal celebrations between immigrants. Semiotics, at least here, is practiced as a kind of weaponization of theorists (Deleuze, Hegel and others, just to name a few) that moves theory towards the object of study, which really helps for research.

Regarding your other point. I work with people that actively use technology as a material. Engineers that became artists and then united both of these interested. Actually, when you talk to them the thing they tell you is that they were never apart. The situation is different in the case of engineers. In my research I have talked to both artists and engineers and engineers definitely have a similar discourse, but they are focused on tech. An engineer, however, can be an artist. An artist, an engineer. The synthetic approach, at least here, has managed to do a lot of productive stuff. I think that art has completely exhausted itself (pomo, etc) in terms of discourse and so could use the epistemic engineering that comes from manipulating materials that, the engineers, on the other hand, use so often that it seems mundane to them. Engineers are just developing their own discourse but they are mostly focused on practice and the technical matters that are so often boring for laypeople. The possibilities for productive intersection are there. They are just not clearly seem by both parts. My hope is that, as many artists-engineers have done before, this kind of synthesis is realizable on a global scale. With tech, in all its complexity, as a material.


All this banter about metaphor has really got me going