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Aesthetic Regulations of Objectionable Representations: A Semiotic Approach to Memorials and Materialised Religious Thought.

Petersson, Anna LU ; Sandin, Gunnar LU and Ståhl, Lars-Henrik LU (2011) 7th International Conference of The Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies
Abstract
In acts of memorialisation, the objects that ”help” people get into contact with (their memory of) the deceased – like gravestones, personal collections of the deceased’s paraphernalia, objects placed at sites of sudden death, etc. – are often strictly regulated, differently in different cultures. At ”wrong” spots in the urban environment for instance, memorial places can thus be regarded as highly objectionable.
Whenever a material object is selected to represent a physically absent, but emotionally present referent, such as a religious figure or a deceased relative, we have a complex representation situation that involves what we could tentatively label “transgressive cognitive acts”. A transgressive cognitive act is here meant to... (More)
In acts of memorialisation, the objects that ”help” people get into contact with (their memory of) the deceased – like gravestones, personal collections of the deceased’s paraphernalia, objects placed at sites of sudden death, etc. – are often strictly regulated, differently in different cultures. At ”wrong” spots in the urban environment for instance, memorial places can thus be regarded as highly objectionable.
Whenever a material object is selected to represent a physically absent, but emotionally present referent, such as a religious figure or a deceased relative, we have a complex representation situation that involves what we could tentatively label “transgressive cognitive acts”. A transgressive cognitive act is here meant to involve a part that is experienced as present, but from a rationalist or scientific perspective cannot be recognised by way of evidence. Sometimes, the complexity of this type of representation is such that other argumentation, like an aesthetic one, comes to stand as vicarious to opinions about the matter. The semiotics of such vicarious representations, have to consider the type of “non-perfect” communication model where either one of the sender, the receiver or the referred subject (Bühler) is absent. The fact that we can speak (generally) of empirically non-existing referents does not explain why certain cases of these type of phenomena give rise to such extreme degree of emotion or sense of existence.
Departuring from a narrated episode about the controversy and justification of a crucifix, from a book by J M Coetzee, this paper discusses a series of architecturally or spontaneously created spatial representations of absent, but indirectly and emotionally present referents, as they appear in memorials or religious spaces such as chapels. These materialisations may give rise to aesthetic arguments as the last, and vicarious chance to state a principle order in the cultural scheme in which they are placed. It is also actualised in the current debate about post-secular societies, where it is for instance stated (Habermas) that both religious and secular mentalities must be open to a complementary learning process if we are to balance shared citizenship and cultural difference in the post-secular society. It is an objective of this paper to show that a recognition of a semiotics that discuss the paradoxical presence of absent referents, including argumentation turning to aesthetic issues, can contribute to the discussion about the confronting as well as conjoining elements of regulation of these issues in society.
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publication status
unpublished
conference name
7th International Conference of The Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies
conference location
Lund, Sweden
conference dates
2011-05-06 - 2011-05-07
language
English
LU publication?
yes
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b7d952bf-3b69-49d8-b657-a1dc895731e6
date added to LUP
2016-10-12 09:30:24
date last changed
2021-05-26 12:48:29
@misc{b7d952bf-3b69-49d8-b657-a1dc895731e6,
  abstract     = {In acts of memorialisation, the objects that ”help” people get into contact with (their memory of) the deceased – like gravestones, personal collections of the deceased’s paraphernalia, objects placed at sites of sudden death, etc. – are often strictly regulated, differently in different cultures. At ”wrong” spots in the urban environment for instance, memorial places can thus be regarded as highly objectionable.<br/>Whenever a material object is selected to represent a physically absent, but emotionally present referent, such as a religious figure or a deceased relative, we have a complex representation situation that involves what we could tentatively label “transgressive cognitive acts”. A transgressive cognitive act is here meant to involve a part that is experienced as present, but from a rationalist or scientific perspective cannot be recognised by way of evidence. Sometimes, the complexity of this type of representation is such that other argumentation, like an aesthetic one, comes to stand as vicarious to opinions about the matter. The semiotics of such vicarious representations, have to consider the type of “non-perfect” communication model where either one of the sender, the receiver or the referred subject (Bühler) is absent. The fact that we can speak (generally) of empirically non-existing referents does not explain why certain cases of these type of phenomena give rise to such extreme degree of emotion or sense of existence.<br/>Departuring from a narrated episode about the controversy and justification of a crucifix, from a book by J M Coetzee, this paper discusses a series of architecturally or spontaneously created spatial representations of absent, but indirectly and emotionally present referents, as they appear in memorials or religious spaces such as chapels. These materialisations may give rise to aesthetic arguments as the last, and vicarious chance to state a principle order in the cultural scheme in which they are placed. It is also actualised in the current debate about post-secular societies, where it is for instance stated (Habermas) that both religious and secular mentalities must be open to a complementary learning process if we are to balance shared citizenship and cultural difference in the post-secular society. It is an objective of this paper to show that a recognition of a semiotics that discuss the paradoxical presence of absent referents, including argumentation turning to aesthetic issues, can contribute to the discussion about the confronting as well as conjoining elements of regulation of these issues in society.<br/>},
  author       = {Petersson, Anna and Sandin, Gunnar and Ståhl, Lars-Henrik},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Aesthetic Regulations of Objectionable Representations: A Semiotic Approach to Memorials and Materialised Religious Thought.},
  year         = {2011},
}