Unreal Nature

May 20, 2019

No Longer to Be Understood as a Detachable Carrier

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:18 am

… even here the material contingency of the sign cannot be ignored.

This is from ‘Material’ by Monika Wagner (2001):

… Firstly, material is understood as an information carrier; in this interpretation, material is a medium. Because this medium, in its most recent manifestation as digitally generated codes, is no longer haptically graspable and no longer incurs tactile differentiation —unlike traditional media, be it the poet’s written page or the artist’s painted canvas — immaterial properties are attributed to it as they once were to musical notes.

[line break added] There is a tradition still at play here, for the remote senses — hearing and sight — ranked highest in the hierarchy implicit in the European history of the senses because they came closest to knowledge of God. They seemed capable of perceiving the immaterial, whereas physical material, associated with touch, ranked lowest in the scheme of earthly cognition.

Secondly, as Marshall McLuhan put it, in the information age the medium has become the message. Postmodern positions have latched onto this and revisited old views of material as a more or less neutral medium of transportation. Material needs no longer to be understood as a detachable carrier for a form or an idea but can be regarded as indissolubly interwoven with it.

[line break added] This trend, expressed in postmodern discourses was not first triggered by computer-generated data, by images which have no archetypes, but had already been encouraged by changes taking place in the arts during the twentieth century. In the self-referential systems of ‘autonomous’ artworks there is a tendency for the idea, the medium and the material to converge. This too meant that in the twentieth century attention to the medium was almost automatically drawn to the material.

… As long as the sign, be it a word or an image, refers to an absence, the meaning can be detached from the materiality of the sign. The sign can be read through the material as semantic. But as every sign is physically fixed to material, which can be converted into energy, and as even the new media are materials in this sense, even here the material contingency of the sign cannot be ignored.




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