IMAGE, EDGE, MEDIUM
La Générale en Manufacture with
Jason Hwang, Shanta Rao, Chloé Quenum
Curated by Joseph Tang
11-17 march 2010
In the essay "The Third Meaning, Notes on Some of Eisenstein's Stills" by Roland Barthes meaning is derived from images in three ways or levels. The first level is termed the informational level where meaning is generated from the communication of parts constituent to a set whole. The second level is termed the symbolic level or obvious level where meaning is generated through signification (referential, diegetic, historical). The third level is termed the obtuse level where meaning is no longer generated but can be derived through an interrogation of the signifier without the presence of the signified, it is a kind of meaning based not on signification but rather significance. Barthes states that "Obtuse meaning seems to extend beyond culture, knowledge, information. Analytically there is something ridiculous about it; because it opens onto the infinity of language."
The work by the three artists in this exhibition explore the possibilities at the 'edge' of meaning, where language exists as space, infinite and relative. Where misalignments occur between a word, an image, and an object where meaning is not only a result but also a medium. While Barthes states that obtuse or third meaning inherently cannot be generated or produced only derived, he is limited to a delineation of a static observer, i.e. the immobile eye of cinema's audience perhaps. The works in this show attempt to instigate the presence of a third meaning by engaging the spectator not as an observer but as a participant in which meaning is formed through a kind of open collaboration. This collaboration occurs on many levels but primarily through a lack of assumption of a common ground onto which meaning can occur. The context is of course set; La generale, France, Europe, The West, but the rules of communication and interpretation within this context are denied standard foundations. Of course as with all edges there is a point where one can just simply fall off, where meaning does not occur on any level whatsoever. With this in mind it is important to note that the works in this show, while exploring the possibilities at the edge of meaning, also conversely act to preserve a relationship to the very structures of meaning it attempts to depart from. As Barthes ultimately makes clear obtuse or third meaning can only exist in the presence of symbolic or obvious meaning. In other words, "An edge is only the boundary of another adjacent edge". - Jason Hwang