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[Xmca-l] Re: Imagination;semiotic mediation
What I find interesting is how the image is able to capture the voice. How
does that work? I am not normally synaesthesic: I tend to work with one
sensory channel at a time. But when I look at this magazine cover, I can
hear the exact cadences, the slurred consonants, the throttled vowels, and
above all the plunging intonation of the man.
Here's what I think. Semiotic mediation is, among other things, a form of
artificially created synaesthesia. If you don't know anything about Italian
food, and you see a pack of uncooked pasta in a supermarket, you might
think it looks like a sheaf of wheat or a pack of breadsticks. If you do
know, then you not only think of fettucine cooked al dente in a light cream
sauce (which looks nothing like a sheaf of wheat or a pack of breadsticks)
you can easily persuade yourself that you can smell the chopped garlic and
freshly ground pepper and taste the tang of vongole.
Eisenstein's polemic with Vertov is in its essence about the higher and
lower psychological functions. Vertov wants us to react viscerally to
images, and Eisenstein was persuaded through the failure of some of his
more visceral images in "Strike" that each image must evoke a verbal
meaning and not a visceral one. (Eisenstein tried to do a montage of
Cossacks firing on workers and an ox in a slaughterhouse, and the actual
workers who attended the premiere, some of whom were second generation or
even first generation farmers, could not figure out why people were taking
time off to prepare a banquet in the middle of a massacre.)
So Eisenstein's attempt to create a "fourth dimension" and even a "fifth
dimension" using montage is an attempt to bridge the perceived gap between
physical objects and social objects. It is interesting that where Vygotsky
does discuss the problem of how a three year old learns to see social
objects, the editors of the Russian Collected Works, obviously not very
well versed in Marxism, attribute it to the German Ideology attack
on Feuerbach, probably one of the few Marx texts they actually HAVE read.
The real source is this from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of
"In the same way, the senses and enjoyment of other men have become my own
appropriation. Besides these direct organs, therefore, social organs
develop in the form of society; thus, for instance, activity in direct
association with others, etc., has become an organ for expressing my own
life, and a mode of appropriating human life. It is obvious that the human
eye enjoys things in a way different from the crude, non-human eye; the
human ear different from the crude ear, etc. We have seen that man does not
lose himself in his object only when the object becomes for him a human
object or objective man. This is possible only when the object becomes for
him a social object, he himself for himself a social being, just as society
becomes a being for him in this object."
When we read this alongside Vygotsky's writing on the three year old, we
see the effect of the recently published manuscript on Vygotsky. When we
read Eisenstein, though, we may be constantly reminded how vocal his
channel to Vygotsky was; like my connection to Donald Trump, it is not the
result of reading his works.
Eisenstein is really working with Vygotsky's early work, "The Psychology of
Art", a heavily annotated typescript of which was found in Eisenstein's
library when he died. So when Eisenstein insists on the higher
psychological functions and holds up verbal meaning and semiotic mediation
as their exemplar, we are not seeing the result of reading Vygotsky's text;
we are probably hearing the result of his voice.
On Sun, Mar 27, 2016 at 2:43 PM, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> I invite comment on the process of interpreting images using the most
> recent New Yorker cover as an example. They often strike me as especially
> rich condensed representations.
> They are one of the means I use to think about Eisenshtein, who David has
> brought into recent discussions to useful effect.
> How do you interpret the raised hand and inscriptions to be found at
> newyorker.com if you scroll down the page. The leftmost image with a hand.
> How do you interpret it from first impression to reflective summary/label?
> If this proves interesting the cover with the stop sign would be a second
> It is the dilemma of psychology to deal as a natural science with an object
> that creates history. Ernst Boesch