Philosophy of Language

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LABYRINTHS AND THE INDECIDABILITY OF CLOSED SYSTEMS

The works of the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges have inspired a myriad of literary and visual interpretations throughout the last three decades. In the present project I propose to take a closer look at the structure of his fictions by rendering in visual terms Borges’ main verbal figure, that of the labyrinth. The proposed visual series is built on an understanding of language’s self-referential nature and paradoxes, as shown in Borges’ stories “The Aleph” or “The Library of Babel” to name only two, which are themselves related to the Cantor set theory and to the mathematical theorem of Godel. The series of works I propose to manufacture functions to visually reflect and emphasize the self-referential and incomplete nature of closed systems, be them scientific, verbal or visual. In doing so, the works call attention to the ultimate failure of closed systems to attain completion and consistency, and in the process proclaim the ultimate undecidability of the systems themselves.

Against the backdrop of Conceptual Art’s proposal of replacing the object spatial and perceptual experience by linguistic definition alone, I would like to take a reverse path by playing with the linguistic object and with its parallel visual construction. Using the Borgean labyrinth as a point of departure, I examine the linguistic construction of this figure by building my own personal maze with a series of visual renderings that explore the semiotical parallels between the systems of visual and language representation.

The visual renditions are constructed using masking tape and follow a series of helicoidal movements that lead to its completion at the core of the figure. These helicoidal movements, however, are not exact, nor the pieces of tape uniform. The tapes are discarded materials that were once part of other projects and paintings, and that in this series are glued to a paper support. The pieces of tape covered with paint are randomly selected to take part in the construction of the labyrinth figure. In the building of the figure the pieces of tape have to articulate and negotiate amongst themselves a number of spatial, textural and chromatic concerns while following a general blueprint to achieve the end result. In this process the general direction of helicoidal movements is constantly deconstructed and questioned by the textures, colors, and values of the pieces of tape as well as by their placement in the general arrangement.

The completed series appears to be but a segment of a potentially infinite number of labyrinthical shapes and both, series and individual shapes, can be read and interpreted at least at two different levels. On the one hand, each of the individual figures refer to the other ones in the series while, on the other hand, the grouping of the series calls to mind the semiotic figure as constructed in the parallel system of language. This two-level reading of the works makes possible to propose the existence of a third interpretation or reading, one that views the series itself as a closed system. This third closed system forms what mathematicians would call a Strange Loop, the labyrinth in words and in visual terms working as codes of one another, influencing each other’s readings and proclaiming the ultimate undecidability of the system(s) it(them)self(ves).

 

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