Symbol comes from the Greek sumbolon, breaking down into sun = with + ballein = to throw. It has a literal trajectory where something leaves a semantic after-trail that connects one object or idea to another. If you take a step back, you see various points on a line, and then matrix of meaning.
I aim to follow the Symbol’s path, a story which begins with what are arguably MetaSymbols, meaning objects that are informationally rich like the Star of David, the Swastika, the red cross, and so on.
What begins with a few lines and simple geometric shapes can conjure up complex thoughts. What was once just two triangles on top of each other now gives us the Star of David. While on another plane, these two triangles represent the state of Israel and thousands of years of Jewish life. But turn it yellow, and I automatically see death -- remembering the badge that the Nazis put on the target of their hate, brutality, and extermination. My people, the Jews. The people who thousands of years ago, were once protected by their king with the same symbol -- the symbol emblazoned on the shield of David.
Meaning deviates back and forth between the abstract and specific. The MetaSymbol, Philip B. Meggs writes, “transcends the tangible realm of simple one-to-one relationships. Map B focuses on the portrait. Derived from “to portray,” breaking that down into por "forth" and traire "trace, draw," a portrait is as close to one-to-one relationships as you can get. It is a trace of something specific. A person, place, or thing. It is tangible, yet has potential to “transcend the tangible realm.” Because behind a portrait lies something beyond a one to one relationship between depiction of a specific subject and the specific subject in realty. A portrait isn’t a MetaSymbol, but it is it is meta-symbolic through the ineffable stories people store within the image. It comes to represent the emotional relationships between people that cannot ever be captured fully with words.
All of my projects begin in the public domain, where images are free for interpretation. They are messages in bottles that can go off in many semantic directions -- the Memoir, the Historical, the Fiction and Non-Fiction, and so on. And through this tension, as meaning stretches around the corners of our eyes, the original intent of the creator may be lost. But, since it will always be something with meta-symbolic potential, we can use the semantic foundations built to hold the messages that were destroyed to rebuild something new on top of the old. As Henry David Thoreau writes, “if you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together.
There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”
-- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
“I only mean that people find what they wish to find, and remember what they wish to remember, regardless of the evidence presented to them…”
-- Dara Horn, A Guide for the Perplexed