Friday, May 1, 1992


Amelia Moreno Autorretrato - Self-Portrait 1992

Exhibition catalog text: Amelia Moreno - Rosa Gimeno (School of Applied Arts, Ávila, Spain, May 1992). © David Cohn. All rights reserved.

 "The world is all that is the case," says Ludwig Wittgenstein in the first line of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. What then is "All that is not the case?" At the end of his book, Wittgenstein describes his logical structure as a ladder, which once ascended should be kicked away behind us. Like a perfect sphere, his logical construction outlines in its perfection "all that cannot be said," all that lies outside it, all that logic cannot define.

How often a logical argument is used to cover an uncontrolled subjectivity, a primitive emotional development, a crude sensibility, ignorance, blindness, incomprehension -- as if the very logic of the argument gives license to the unstructured character of the emotions. If logic is not always truthful, could there be other forms of truth, where a rigorous subjectivity disciplines and hones the instincts?

Besides deductive reasoning, the other fundamental tool of thought is metaphor, systematic association, organizing subjectivity through the relation of "A" to "B". Even Wittgenstein resorts to metaphor as he steps off his ladder at he end of the Tractatus.

And if the products of deductive reasoning are facts, the products of metaphor are of a much more subtle character. Certain metaphors are descriptive, and one of metaphor's most powerful functions is to identify in a single image the common structures that underlie apparently dissimilar things. But when two artists portray themselves as saints and arrange an exhibition space as a church with chapels, it is clear that what they are talking about has nothing to do with "facts".
Perce Bysshe Shelley, English Romantic poet, died in self-exile in Italy at the age of 30, drowned in a careless accident with a small sailboat in a storm. His friends built a pyre on the beach and burned his corpse. Lord Byron reported that after the flames had consumed his body, his enormous heart was found intact among the ashes.
But this is a literary, not a visual metaphor. Until now, we have been discussing logic and metaphor as temporal rather than spatial, algebraic rather than geometric. As linear forms, they are transformational operations from "A" to "B".

Rosa Gimeno Autorretrato - Self-portrait 1992

It is possible to discuss the linear structure of a temporal language in space, as in Rosa Gimeno's installation --the keys and windows, opened and closed, or the eyes in the place of the stigmata on the hands of the self portrait-- sequences and substitutions that create narrative or metaphoric structure. But the linear structures here are static and fragmentary, even reflexive. And as visual representations, they point to an obvious question: in the path from "A" to "B", what is "A" and what is "B"?

In the two "X"s posed above the right hand of Amelia Moreno's self portrait, our fragile linear structure gives way entirely. If this were a metaphor, its structure would be something like "A" is like (blank) -- a puzzle for the logical, a mystery for the mystical. But there is no such order here. The image in its insularity structures itself around the associations it arouses in us -- an open, apparently indeterminate process from the point of view of linear thought. Its operation is polar rather than linear: the image acts like a magnetized pole, inserted in and influencing the oceanic currents of thought.

Or the reverse of this model is equally valid: the contemporary model for hormones and other molecular agents, freely circulating through the body but coded to trigger only certain designated receptors or targets. This structure of poles and currents, because of its lack of time, cannot strictly be called a language. It is more recognizable in mythic forms, in models of the cosmos or the Jungian subconscious, a form of thought eclipsed by deductive reasoning as it was laboriously conceived in the absurd logical exercises of the Presocratics. The potential power of this form of thought is remembered in the idea of metamorphosis -- the strange figure of Proteus in Homer's Odyssey, "the ancient one of the sea, to whom all the depths are known," transforming himself into lion, serpent, leopard, boar, water and tree under Meneleus' grasp -- another image of the artist and his work.