signifier series

text / concept

media: digital video without soundtrack
format: DV-PAL 16:9
duration: 7'25" (Signifier 01), 2'26" (Signifier 02), 1'54" (Signifier 03), 11'00" (Signifier 04[|]), 3'25" (Signifier 05), 2'32" (Signifier 06)

In Signifier series I research the relationship between single parts of a semiotic sign as defined by C.S. Pierce and Ferdinand de Saussure. The meaning of a sign emerges through the mutual interaction of its three abstract parts: representamen (signifier), semiotic object (signified) and interpretant. This linguistic concept is not limited to language but can be applied to any system of signs. I apply it onto the relation between a building and neon lights outlining its shape or its particular architectural elements.

Neon lights presented in this series fascinated me by their ability to designate one element – the shape of the building – which is part of the definition of an object known in language as a “building”. At night this signifier – the neon light – which is referring to the signified – the shape of the building – grows in intensity to such an extent that it looses its connection to the reference points which gave birth to him (i.e. the shape of the building as the signified and the outlining of the buildings shape as the interpretant) and it becomes an independent entity, an “empty” sign (i.e. a new signifier in the sense of the semiotic theory), which can be possibly filled with a new meaning without regard to the way it originated. The fascinating aspect is the ability of the signifier to free itself from its background and to exist as a purely aesthetic element.

The video is a real-time recording of neon lights placed on buildings. The high contrast between the glowing neon light and the “carrier” building hidden in darkness allows the existence of the neon as an independent object. I emphasize this impression by further enhancing contrast, removing details of buildings and correcting perspective distortion.

The emancipation of the signifier and its reproduction through a new medium refers to Marcel Duchamp’s idea of a ready-made artwork. The method which I use in the creation of my artwork follows the mindset of the ready-made creation, but partially diverges from it.

The common ground is embodied in the idea of taking an object out of its daily context and placing it into a new context. In my work this process is carried out on two levels of interpretation. The first level is pretty straightforward and it consists in finding an object and designating it as an artwork. The second level refers to the presentation mode. I believe that in the process of meaning creation the term “context” can be replaced with the term “medium” in a broader sense of the word. This allows us to see a parallel between the original location of the object (the medium of the “street / everyday”) and the new location of the object (the medium of the “gallery / art”). Indeed, isn’t the gallery space one of the alternatives for communicating a given message? In this sense transformation of the object in my work is doubled: From the medium of the “street” to the medium of the “gallery” and from the analog medium of “light” to the (today) digital medium of “video”.

The distinction between my artwork and a ready-made takes place in the realm of meaning creation. While the birth of a ready-made is accompanied by the creation of a new meaning while keeping the sign as a whole, in my work the aim is the removal of meaning (in the sense of eliminating the interpretant, that I carry out by suppressing the signified which is followed by a auto disintegration of the sign, which cannot exist in any other form than as a “trinity”). Of course, on a meta-level even the removal of meaning carries a certain meaning, but on the primary level I see this as the main divergence between my work and the classical ready-made.

Besides examining the meaning of an object (the interrelationship between object-representamen-interpretant) and the relationship between the reality of the world and art (ready-made), Signifier series also echoes principles inherent in minimalism and pop-art. Minimalism is featured in the visual appearance of the work. The oeuvre of Dan Flavin can be seen as one point of departure. Even the concept of eliminating meaning and presentation of the artwork as the material/shape which it has is an idea springing from minimalism. In my case the material is the light itself. Connection to pop-art takes place through the film work of Andy Warhol (the “Empire” film). In a fashion similar to Andy Warhol I keep the one to one ratio between film time and real time. The time in which the viewer’s experience takes place directly corresponds with the time during shooting. This approach refers to the difference between “perceived” and “film” time. The selected object also refers to commercial urban culture, where architecture resembles blown-up copies of amusement part attractions.

The videos don’t have any soundtrack, as my aim is to isolate the signifier. Adding any other element including the soundtrack would be in conflict with the original idea leading to the creation of the artwork.

Each of the videos of Signifier series should be ideally presented on its own monitor simultaneously. Monitors should be aligned in eye-height horizontally next to each other in equal distance. The space surrounding the video (the frame of the monitor if it is not hidden inside the wall and the wall itself) should be of black color so that they do not disturb the viewing of the video.