Saturday, 21 October 2017

Notes on the Index

 Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America

Rosalind Krauss for October Vol 3 Spring 1977

Rosalind Krauss art critic writing about the variety of art forms in the 70s and what such different art forms (video, performance, ‘earthworks’ &c, all share. She writes about the primacy of photography in art (as compared with painting for earlier generations)

What the different art forms share is the idea of the index – something ‘standing in’ for something else. She gives the examples of physical traces – eg footprints,  medical symptoms, cast shadows.

I understood the ideas she was talking about, but the terminology was confusing.

Refers to terms of structural theorists Lacan (French psychoanalytic theorist) and Roman Jakobson (Russian–American linguist and literary theorist writing about language)

Shifter = a linguistic sign which is empty, having a floating meaning which depends on the context.
 –eg ‘this’ - when you say ‘this chair’ ‘this table’   the word ‘this’ is only given a meaning by the context.

also personal pronouns –  ‘I’ or ‘you’ change meaning depending on who is speaking in a conversation.

Rosalind Krauss compares the symbol to the index

Symbol -

 An image which can be detached from the object or idea it represents – “completely arbitrary and must be culturally learned” 

different types of symbol

Numbers and written language/words are also symbols – there is no connection between the thing itself and the word  representing it. For example:

can be cat in English or gato in Spanish or chat in French or
in Chinese

(This talk about the index and the symbol also reminded me of Magritte's The Treachery of Images)



 “they are the marks or traces of a particular cause, and that cause is the thing to which they refer, the object they signify.”

This is where I started to become interested,  I’ve been photographing these (index) images as visual sources for a long time without realising what it was called.

Just some of them below (for some reason Blogger is rotating some of the photos upside down & won't let you correct this)

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