mobylosangelesarchitecture | MOBY on semiotics |
now i’m going to put on my low-rent grad student hat for a second. or a minute. or for however long it takes me to write about semiotics and from a low-rent grad student perspective. (oh, to be clear: ‘low rent’ meaning the quality of my writing, not the value of this real estate. i’m guessing this real estate is fairly pricey, as it’s in west hollywood).
when i was at uconn and suny purchase i really, really wanted to go brown and study semiotics. why?
- i love semiotics (before they stopped calling it semiotics…sniff).
- brown was fancy but progressive.
- my girlfriend at the time went to brown and lived on thayer st.
- i couldn’t afford brown.
- i probably wasn’t smart enough to go to brown.
- they stopped offering semiotics as a major.
so i was left as a lowly philosophy major at one of two state schools (both of which were great, go team(s)).
now i’ll be pedantic for a second, ok?
you might ask (or not), ‘what is/are semiotics?’ well, and in a very simple and grossly reductionist way, semiotics is/are the study of signs and symbols and the way in which we process them and give them meaning and respond to them.
most of what we experience is fairly neutral. a flag is really just some dyed fabric stitched together. but it can compel people to fits of rage or joy or loyalty or despair. but it’s just fabric. semiotics is, broadly speaking and applied to just about everything that triggers a reaction in us, the study of why people have emotional and intellectual reactions and responses to something like a flag, which is really just some colorful fabric.
but i don’t want to go on and on about semiotics (although if you corner me at a party i will talk to you for days about semiotics and they way in which all of our lives are spent (tyrannized, even) having ostensibly hard-wired reactions to things that are not in any way comprised of any inherent meaning).
but: this blog update.
here’s a house. or an almost house. which led me to ask some questions:
- is it being built or deconstructed?
- what utility does it have in it’s extant form?
- when we look at it are we seeing it for what it is or what it represents in terms of potential?
- how do we overlook what it actually is (a bunch of wood, cobbled together) and only see what it represents (a potentially finished house)?
- what amazing cognition is involved in extrapolating from a bunch of wood into a finished house?
- does it have aesthetic merit in it’s extant form, and if so what?
- see ‘7’.
it’s an interesting challenge, i think, to see this construction for what it is, divorced of any potential infused future utility.
it’s wood. kind of sculptural. defining a space, but without creating a space in a traditional, architectural way. it has no roof, it would be pretty crummy at keeping out bugs and wind. it wouldn’t be great at giving anyone a place to shower or sleep. but it’s still remarkable in and of itself. and can we judge a structure for what it is and not for what it represents and what it triggers in us?
someone might look at this and see a waste of resources. someone might look at it and see egregious socioeconomic inequality.
someone might look at it and see a place to eventually make popcorn and watch ‘30 rock’. or someone might look at it and see some odd post-modern sculptural land-art commentary on our predatory patriarchal rigid society. or none of the above.
ultimately, though, it’s wood. and some concrete. and some nails. but that’s not what i see, or, i assume, what any of us see.
and it’s fascinating that we see what isn’t so much more clearly and easily than what actually is. we see what’s represented far more than what’s actually in front of us.
and yes, that’s semiotics, at least from my perspective. and it can be applied to almost all of our conditioned emotional reactions. so says the college dropout blogger musician who really has no qualifications to be writing about architecture and/or semiotics. except that i like both.
i guess i have a presumptuous request/challenge: try to look at things (like this structure) for what they actually are. and when we
extrapolate and see things for what they represent (flags, republicans, saxophones, houses, globes, etc) it’s potentially interesting
to just become aware of the fact that we’re having a reaction to our own perception, not necessarily to the thing we’re observing or interacting with.