Kimberly McKinnis
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Separating Signs

Separating Signs: Signifier from Signified (A Semiotics Project); 2011

Video Still, 2011
glass pane, language translation
16:8 dimensions variable


Separating Signs: Signifiers from Signified is an attempt at creating an abstracted visual representation of language as it is spoken. By stripping the audible element from the act of speaking, we are left merely with breath being exhausted from the body. If we were able to see these expulsions, would they indicate any patterns or groupings that then could be considered another visual language? This project is an exploration of this type of representation. Our Japanese speaker is given an original English text. The translation is then presented to a native English speaker and then re-interpreted back into English. Each version begins its own transformation indicative of the translators’ semiotic choices. As our speakers read onto a glass pane, their voices are altered so as to separate the signs from the signified. All participants have the shared experience of living abroad and being enveloped by a foreign language. The capacity for language in their lives has changed and within their mental infrastructure there is now the capability to inhabit two or more sets of signs and signifiers. Has this space now become a common ground for all forms of semiosis to exist, or will the brain always choose to occupy the native tongue?