Thursday, September 17, 2009


Wittgenstein tell us that a word's meaning is NOT derived from its letters, nor connected to some object that it might signify. Some words obviously do not have "things" which they are directly connected to, such as very, there or this, while some words stand for different things at different times, such as the word "bad", or "fat" or numbers. Instead, words are connected to meaning by the structure they exist in and not by some property intrinsic to the word itself. Furthermore, words do not exist as a creation, or an idea within the speaker. I think "dog" when I say dog, so "dog" means dog. This too is incorrect, because a word's meaning is only valid within a system, and just because I want "dog" to mean dog and not cat, I have either to operate within a language system, or change the system enough that it adapts to the new meaning placed upon within it. Furthermore, a particular definition may work with one set of users but not for the entire set; there may be multiple language systems at play. Therefore, a definition of a word is never fixed and cannot be limited or solidified. Instead a true definition is only the field of possible definitions within a system. Some being more useful within the larger system than others.

Accordingly a "theory" of language, much like a rigid definition, is useless in explaining language's terms and concepts because it is a prescription, a predetermination of the future. However, Wittgenstein reminds us that in language, like in chess, the act itself is not important but what happens before and after that is.


Friday, September 4, 2009

The Brick Wall

If we make the loose analogy that the act of building is similar to language, we quickly turn to comparing building components, the brick, wall ties, flashing, walls, etc to grammar and syntax. To extend this further, we could paraphrase a Wittgensteinian question: "What would the brick wall be, without the wall?" Is it just a brick? or is there something between the brick and the wall that changes it, and like a 'wink' with multiple possible meanings, transforms the combination in context into something else.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Definitions and Experience

Intuition tells us that culturally we develop new words when there is a need for expression. But linguistics and ethnography shows us that we "express" ideas in more ways than just using nouns. As human beings, we communicate feelings and ideas in a number of ways, using an infinitely complex system of grammar, syntax, inflection, body language, context etc. Put another way, a culture doesn't need a specific word to express an idea or feeling, it can express it in other ways. Conversely, just because someone else uses the same actual word, such as "house" it doesn't mean it represents the same idea or feeling for everyone. In fact despite what Aristotle thought about the solidity of writing, words rarely mean the same thing to different individuals even within a culture.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Creating versus Making

Collingwood in his book "The Principals of Art" attacks the modern (circa 1933) concept of the artist as craftsman. The characteristics of craft he defines as:

  1. Craft always involves a distinction between means and end, each clearly conceived as something distinct from the other

  2. Craft involves a distinction between planning and execution

  3. Means and ends are related in one way in the process of planning; in the opposite in the process of execution.

  4. There is a distinction between raw material and finished product or artifact

  5. There is a distinction between form and matter
  6. There is a hierarchical relation between various crafts, on supplying what another needs, one using what another provides.

Through an analysis of the concept of craft and its related notion of technique, Collingwood calls into question the prevailing conceptual models based on economics (the specialized group of industries where the artist is the producer and audience is a consumer) or psychology (audience consists of persons reacting to certain stimuli provided by the artist) based conceptual models). These world views, which have craft as an underlying assumption, defines art as a made product, which is a finished, complete totality.

Art, Collingwood claims is not made, it is created and is an unrealized process which, through the imagination, must be re-created each time it in comes into being.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parallel Objects

If form, to paraphrase Riegl, was the exterior expression of its internal structure, then who or what put that "will to form" in place? Is not the sub-structure of a work of art a subjective architecture built on the complex psycho-stylistic (style, used here in a morphological sense) process of personal and cultural contexts? To put it more bluntly, can form exist by itself? Is not form as much a product of the viewer as it is of the forms that surround it?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The accerlation of form

If form, like language is a result from the form that surrounds it, from the people who have to technically create it, or reproduce it, then at what point do we consider form to have a life of its own? Form then becomes not a static, stationary single act of individual creation, but a social act. Form produces itself. In one since it is analogous to the "standing on the shoulders of giants" metaphor for the progression of science and philosophy.
Seen this way, we can speak of slow form and accelerated form. Slow form is that which because of the technology or culture which surround it, make it singular in nature and hard to reproduce. If only the exceptionally gifted villager can make it, or it exists in a location where only a few people can see it, then it can only affect the forms which surround it in a limited way. It may impress in a tangential way, but will be seen as a rarity. This is also true if for cultural reasons the surrounding form ignores it (a good example of this is the introduction and subsequent rejection of linear perspective in 17th century China).
Accelerated form on the other hand is widely seen, and easily produced. It rapidly affects form, and is affected by it. It tends to be both short lived and paradoxically cyclical, or re-accruing. Accelerated form, is almost by definition, modern form, specifically machine-age form, mass-produced in the thousands and disseminated across a wide area.
In the age of the computer we have reached a new stage of form, fast form, or virtual form.