What is interesting about language is its ability to facilitate images in the mind of the thinker. How “tree” causes an image of a tree, of some general kind to “appear” in my mind. Of course, objects are obvious, but what about concepts? What comes to mind for the word “gay” or “Republican”, or “gay Republican”? The latter as a phrase seems more loaded with meaning than the prior two, which is not a shock really, but it is interesting in so far as the image that does come to mind, whatever it might be, can vary in a much greater degree depending on sexual, political or religious persuasion. I would venture to guess that the array of images is far greater than that for “tree”. On the other hand, what if the words were “grey republican” or “gay pelican”, the meaning of these is less clear. Wittgenstein suggests that language has a grammar, a set of rules that govern its usage. Grammar here is not the technical grammar that we learn in school but grammar that dictates the how words are understood and used. For example, if I go to a Wendy’s drive through and the guy asks me what I want, the realm of expected answers does not include mathematics or dominos, these are outside the grammar. Similarly, if I use the phrase universal healthcare, depending on who you are talking to the meaning understood could contain understandings of progressive politics or a rejection of Socialism. In either case the meaning is, as Wittgenstein would say, is in the use.
Below are a couple of new proofs that deal with two phrases that have struck me as odd, and interesting. Both are controversial in their own way, or even absurd, but considering the discussion above they allude to a breakdown in the understanding of the logic of language. The first is “It’s hard to be White”. I have not gotten to what interests me in this statement, nor have I exposed the false logic of language as well as I hoped. I do not intend to white bash or disregard the historical, and still present, characteristics of racism, but instead wonder why do people feel that some of the below statements are true? What influence does language and culture have in maintaining the prohibition of the concepts described? If language is use, and language is a structure of power as Foucault states, how can language be used to rest ownership from the pejorative
The next statement is “Freedom is not free”. Depending on your belief in Sartre or America military might, the meaning of the statement means something different. Again, for me the dichotomy of these two possibilities makes for an interesting analysis.
Finally, someone asked me what other artists I identified with, or not, in my work from the following list; Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Jenny Holzer and Mark Lombardi. First, I do not identify with the denotative meaning that Weiner and Kosuth espouse. Even in Weiner’s case where the viewer has a much greater influence over the meaning. It is this search for the connotative that inclines me to identify with the work of Holzer and Lombardi. Holzer in particular. While I do not prefer the use of irony that she can use in her work, I do see the value in its parody of advertising and the glib oversimplified selling statement that so many people take as truth. Her reliance on cultural discourse is a significant influence.
More on this in a later post.