Statement I would be very happy if the users would view my web site History
of Art for Airports as a web site. I shold ad that the site
works on the complementary principles of hypertext transfer
protocol, hyper text markup language and universal resource
locators. It's internal structure is one of combined graphical
and visual material organized around the principle of user
interface. Mechanics of it's functions is based on hyperlinks
and requires that the user type the correct address and then
point with the mouse and clicks.
"I sometimes think that the people are good, and sometimes
that they are bad."
CIAC Magazine No3 dec 1997
History of Art for Airports
This is an amusing site which presents works of art under
the guise of ideograms such as those found in airports. About
ten works are schematized like this, from Lascaux to modern
art, through cinema, and to Web art.
historical shortcuts borrowed by the artist along with the
poor appearance of the images represents a criticism of the
presence of the art on the Internet, while a sophisticated
use of the medium is possible. The winking at other artists
which produce artworks on the Web provokes a smile. (requires
artnetweb & INTELLIGENT AGENTA
Without Vuk Cosic (who also brought us the clone of the documenta pages after
the site had "officially" been taken off the Web) we would
have less fun on the Net. History of Art for Airports is a
study of the iconography we encounter at airports (or as part
of other transportation systems): Cosic designs icons that
carry the distinctive signature of masters such as Cezanne,
Duchamp or Warhol or creatures such as King Kong. Bottom line:
arrival/departure procedures are a lot more fun!
SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS OF THE SITE HISTORY OF ART FOR AIRPORTS, OF VUK COSIC
"At all times, formed human groups have always resorted to ways of expression,
of manifestation of sense and communication different from
the verbal language (1) communication, from the drawings in
the caves of Lascaux, the rituals of 'primitive' tribes, dances,
music, ceremonies and games, to productions architecture objects,
besides the forms of language creation that we now call art:
drawings, paintings, sculptures, poetics,
analysis aims at a reflection about the significance relationships
contained in the work History of art for airports. In this
work the elements of semiotic analysis are identified, to
them present the analyses at the levels Syntactic (of the
iconic domain), Semantic (of the indicial domain) and Pragmatic
(of the symbolic domain).
ELEMENTS OF THE SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS
"A sign [...] it is that which, under certain aspect or manner, represents something to somebody" (3)". A sign may only represent an object or refer to it, without however to providing familiarity or recognition of this object.
The understanding of a sign is related to the subject of the repertoriety. To understand a sign it is necessary to be familiarized with the system of signs and the conventions related to it.
The sign, object of this analysis, is the site History of art for airports, by the Slovene artist Vuk Cosic, available at the electronic address: http://remote.aec.at/history.
Object is the one to which the sign refers.
Dynamical or referential object it is that which is out of the sign, which the sign cannot express but just indicate so that the interpreter concludes the task of discovering its significance from their own collateral experience.
The dynamic object of the sign History of art for airports is the series of representative works of several moments of the history of art, selected by the author for being absolutely recognizable works, and on the other hand, the choice was made in different media (like TV, movies), so that it comprises the period from Lascaux to the net-art.
Plaza states that if the object of the science is the dynamic object, the immediate object is "the object of the art, that is the appearances of the object 'as it is represented' just as it is that supply the necessary qualities for art to be 'materialized'(4)".
Immediate object is the object as represented in the sign; it depends on its material characteristics, and, therefore, its qualities vary according to the support utilized.
The support of this work is the computer support (since it is a site connected to World Wide Web) and its interfaces, as monitor, keyboard, mouse and programs (navigators) for visualisation of the work.
In this work by Cosic, the immediate object is the presentation of the works selected by the author in the form of pictograms.
Sign Foundation is the representation of the object, not in all its aspects, but with reference to type of idea. Idea, here as it is understood by Pierce: "in a sort of platonic sense, very familiar in everyday talk, [...] in that sense we say that one man catches another man's idea(5)".
We understand as being the foundation of the sign in History of art for airports the translation of the languages, from the original works to the pictograms, and the ideas schematisation and uniformization.
Immediate Interpretant refers to the potentiality of the sign, what the sign is able to produce in any interpreting mind. It consists of the significances the artist wanted to express in their work, from the singular arrangement of the elements worked up by him.
In this work, it consists of the way Cosic brings elements of a mass culture (the pictograms) to an elite culture, making a criticism to the process of historization of art and of net-art.
The dynamical interpretant deals with the significance that the sign effectively produces in a singular mind. And that significance will be produced by the sign according to its nature and its potential as a sign.
This work, while a conventional sign, where the interpretant translates previous sign in an another of the same nature, and thus, ad infinitum, produces what Pierce calls interpretant in itself, which consists, not only in the way a singular mind reacts to it, but as any mind would react, given certain conditions.
Any person that has in their repertoire the knowledge of the works chosen by the author (and that have been chosen exactly for being the most recognizable ones among the ones that could represent the several moments of the history of art) will recognize them in the subversion done by Cosic, who parodied them, transforming them in to pictograms.
At this level of analysis, of iconic domain, the formal and structural relationships that establish the configuration of the sign will be observed. It will deal with the interrelations among the parts that form the whole, going through its material characteristics and concrete qualities.
Of the Support
The support for this work is the computer support, more specifically the Web environment of the Internet and, therefore, the computer and its interfaces (monitor, mouse, keyboard and the programs of navigation through the Web, called navigators or browsers).
The first limitation imposed by the support is the size of the monitor screen, which imposes a physical limit to the visualisation, creating a "frame" for the work.
Another limitation that may be considered is the type and the version of the navigator used. Due to the progress of technology, some visualisation resources available in a type or version of navigator, may not be equally available in another. Depending on the resources utilised in the development of a site, these, may be available only in more recent versions, making impossible its visualisation as it was defined in its elaboration, in navigators of previous versions. Sites that use non-available resources in all versions of navigators usually bring, in their initial page, the indication of the resources or of the necessary versions for visualisation of the space.
This visualisation is also greatly influenced by the screen resolution (6),defined by the user, which constitutes another limitation of this support.
In relation to the analysed work, it can be said that it can be visualised in any navigator version, since its construction only utilises its own language html (Hyper Text Marquee Language), without the increment of other more sophisticated resources.
Of the Composition
In this support we have to consider the static and dynamic composition of the pages. The composition, of this work, both static and dynamic is defined by scripts generated by the programming language in html.
In the static composition we have observed that the pages of this work are clearly separated in 2 fields (frames). The left frame, has a size defined in 200 pixels, brings the representative list of the history of art, selected by the author, and works as a navigation bar. The other frame occupies the remaining space of the screen, and it is the area where the pictograms created by Cosic are introduced for the representation of the works present in its selection.
In the dynamic composition we can observe that the navigation is worked up in an internal manner, that is to say, inside of the pages of the site itself. The navigation through the several pages is done by selecting one of the works, which updates the right frame with the pictogram created by Cosic, regarding that work. In the whole work, the author utilises only 3 colours: red, black and white, colours that possess a strong contrasts and good legibility (7). Red and black are the colours of the initial screen and of the left frame, and black and white are used in the frame where the pictograms are presented.
As a Sign of Quality
"A quality cannot appear, and, therefore, it cannot work as a sign without being embodied in some object. However, the qualisign concern only the pure quality"(8).
EThis site can only be read as a qualisign if we just consider the first appearance of its pages. The pages that compose the site History of art for airports are based on the relationship between the verbal (list of works) and the non verbal (image of the pictograms). In its images there is the idea present in the foundation of the sign and the translation of the works in to pictograms.
The Sign as Singular
This sign is presented as a sinsign for possessing a configuration established by the author in a unique, singular manner. Due to the especificity of the medium, updates of singulars are possible, that is to say, several combinations of the elements in an established way made by the author through the programming in language html of its pages.
The images are presented in a pictorial and bidimensional form. A pictogram, for Otto Neurath, "should give up the style and the individual code to be suited to a normative process of schematisation, so that it can create a universal understanding" (9).
Cosic thus remakes the several works chosen by him, suiting them to the language of pictograms, depriving them of the existent stylistic characteristics in each of them, proposing a quick identification with the represented object (the work), from its schematisation.
The understanding of each screen (composed of a pictogram) will depend on the user's repertoire and is independent of the navigation structure, since the pictogram created by Cosic can only be updated when the user selects it on the list contained in the left frame, establishing thus, a direct relationship between the work and its representation in pictogram form.
As a Legi-Sign
At a Primarily level, we have identified as the main legisigns of the Cosic's work:
n the language of programming used (html), responsible for the management of the images and for the transmission of the work in the Web environment of the net; and
n the codes of international circulation which serve as a base for the development of a pictogram, seeking a universal understanding.
As an Iconic Sign
The relationships of existing similarity among the pictograms and the represented works characterise the Cosic's work as an iconic sign, a hypoicon, or more precisely, since this relationship is established through a parallelism, as a metaphor. This function, in fact, can perfectly be taken over by the pictogram. According to Plaza "by extracting the non-universal and stylistic traces from the pictogram, it is able to operate as a metaphor in such an instantaneity, that it can be understood at one single look"(10).
This level of analysis, centered on the indicial domain, makes us explore the relationships of the sign with the object that it represents, what makes us consider some external elements to the sign.
Vuk Cosic's idea was to criticise the historization of the net-art, which was beginning then, in September 1997. And also the way history, is generated, how the dominant myth is coded.
Graduated in archaeology, Cosic sees a parallel between what he does now and what he used to do as an archaeologist. The likeness lays in the fact that in both he works by creating a narrative (only in archaeology with a scientific base).
The moments represented of the history of art have been chosen for being absolutely recognisable and, on the other hand, the choices have been made in different media (like tv, movies, literature) in such an order that it could establish a bridge between Lascaux and the net-art.
In the pictograms created by Cosic it is possible to identify, in their visual forms, characteristics of the works chosen by him, establishing thus an indicial relationship with them. What Cosic does is to remake each work, eliminating the stylistic aspects of each one, "caricaturing them", using for it the rules established for the elaboration of pictograms. This translation of the works in to pictograms points to their symbolic character within a historization context of art.
The reference made to the haikai by Cosic (included in the set of pictograms by the author) allows us to deduce an indicial relationship to the question of the synthetization of the information. We do not usually work with long texts in the net and both the pictograms, which translate messages in a synthetic form, and the haikais, as a structure (five, seven and five words), work with the same synthetic form.
This level of analysis is centred on the symbolic domain, and it establishes the relationships between the sign, its object and its meanings.
The link that is established by the sign between the work and its title has a symbolic nature, and there is not necessarily any relationship of similarity or of analogy between them, although, in the case of the sign in question, an analogy relationship may be observed between the work and its title. This relationship between work and title suggests the idea of a synthetic presentation of the works so that their apprehension can be made at one only look.
The pictograms are largely used in public spaces, and they have the function of informing quickly by means of universally recognisably graphic symbols. They are analogical-symbolic signs (established) that, besides the primary (syntactic) and secondary (reference to objects) codes, they also possess symbolic codes which have a general character(11).
The interpretation of the pictograms created by Cosic, however, depends on the user's repertoire and on the previous knowledge of the works represented so that the relationship between the pictogram and the work can be established.
For a user with a previous knowledge in their repertoire of the works represented, the "reading" of the pictograms and the establishment of the relationship pictogram-work happens instantaneously - since each pictogram created has a direct relationship with its origin (the represented work). Therefore, they fulfil efficiently and quickly their indicial function, just like the pictograms used as a signalization.
The symbolic character of the work analysed can be observed with reference to the symbolic character of the works selected by the author for the representation of the several periods of the history of art comprised between Lascaux and the net-art. And also for the fact that Cosic's work is connected to its object (and each pictogram created by him to the referred work) on account of the idea of the "mind-that-uses-the-symbol", without which, that connection would not exist (12).
The work History of art for airports, by Vuk Cosic, can be synthesized, at a level of Primarily as an iconic sign, which represents its object through its similarity, more specifically, from a metaphor, from a parallelism between the pictograms created by the author and the works referred to by him.
The indicial relationship, derived from it, makes us think of the level of Secondly present in Cosic's work, when relationships are established between the pictograms and the represented works.
As this relationship depends on an interpreting mind, which possesses in its repertoire the previous knowledge of the works represented, we passed to the level of Thirdly.
That makes us observe that this sign reveals itself to be predominantly pragmatic.
(1) We mean for language for all the systems of production of significance and sense, according to SANTAELLA, Lúcia, in O que é Semiótica, Col. Primeiros Passos, Ed. Brasiliense, 1st Edition, 1983, p. 12.
(2) SANTAELLA, Lúcia. O que é Semiótica, Col. Primeiros Passos, Ed. Brasiliense, 1st Edition, 1983, p. 11.
(3) PIERCE, Charles S. Semiótica, Ed. Perspective, 2nd Edition, 1995, p. 46.
(4) PLAZA, Julio. Class notes in the course Estética e Semiótica da Arte (Aesthetics and Semiotics of the Art), Institute of Arts, Unicamp, 1998.
(5) PIERCE, Charles S. Semiótica, Ed. Perspective, 2nd Edition, 1995, p. 46.
(6) Relationship between the amount of available horizontal and vertical pixels on the screen.
(7) BLACK, Roger. Web Sites que funcionam. Ed. Quark, 1998.
(8) SANTAELLA, Lúcia. O que é Semiótica, Col. Primeiros Passos, Ed. Brasiliense, 1st Edition, 1983, p. 63.
(9) PLAZA, Julio. Videografia em videotexto. Ed. Hucitec, São Paulo, 1986, pp. 93-94.
(10) PLAZA, Julio. Videografia em videotexto. Ed. Hucitec, São Paulo, 1986, pp. 119.
(11) PLAZA, Julio. Videografia em videotexto. Ed. Hucitec, São Paulo, 1986, pp. 119.
(12) PLAZA, Julio. Class notes in the course Estética e Semiótica da Arte (Aesthetics and Semiotics of the Art), Institute of Arts, Unicamp, 1998.
Vuk Cosic is one of the three members of the ASCII Art Ensemble, the others being Walter van der Cruijsen and Luka Frelih. They met in Amsterdam to materialise an idea that was floating in meetings at various European Internet conferences and festivals during the last three years. The big goal was to come up with a net based moving ASCII. Those projects resemble material in which images are not based on individual pixels (which would be the usual way to present material in formats such as Quicktime movies or JPEG images on-line), instead the grey values of the images are represented by individual letters from the ASCII alphabet of the computer. On the whole ASCII art usually is being seen as a thing of the past, when monitors and computers were too weak and slow. Based on these format changes Vuk Cosic developed his contribution for the SYNREAL project.
Synworld | In your work as a net.artist, the concept of ASCII art has been pushed into various directions, like moving image work based on individual ASCII frames. How does that reflect on your work for the SYNREAL level?
Vuk Cosic | The project consists of a 3D Cyrillic ASCII. There's a level of work where we are totally inventing ways of representing 3D objects in ASCII or "ASCII" mode, with the intention to cheat as little as possible. So far we have done work with texture mapping that is not truly satisfying, but hopefully there'll be progress shortly. As far as my previous ASCII work goes, this piece is going to contain several of those elements - most probably the moving ASCII image and the ASCII audio will be included.
Synworld | Using ASCII within the 3D environment seems to go into a different direction than today’s game developers. Whereas the usual development goes towards perfect real-time renderings of polygons and textures, you seem to step back towards the earlier ages of new media art. But using text characters rather than images also has different implications.
Vuk Cosic | Sure, additionally to the aesthetic implications, I have been embedding my SYNREAL level in the history of writing and visual representation. It is important to consider the history of visual poetry and typographic work, and it is my desire to implement those vector-based fonts within what the Unreal Level does.
Synworld | There is no fear that such beautiful references will drown in the shoot-up environment of Unreal?
Vuk Cosic | Regarding the actual scenario, I am sure that I will not pretend to unplug the guns, but will instead try to create some poetic objects that will grow or multiply when you shoot them.