notes on postindexical art strategies

In Making Memory Matter: Strategies of Remembrance in Contemporary Art, Lisa Saltzman (2006) presents a model of interpretation for a number of art works that whilst informed by/ concerned with memory, challenge  C.S.Pierce’s linguistic-semiotic approach to the index, and  a signification based on physical contiguity/material-relation/trace-of-touch.
“This indexical work of the 1990s, predicated as it is on absence rather than presence, represents a fundamental shift in the indexical logic of modernist practice” (p.104). This shift can be traced back to Rosalind Krauss’s  “Notes on the Index 1” and “Notes on the Index 2,”  on American art of the 1970s, in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and other Modernist Myths (1985) [google excerpts here].
“What is interesting about the artists of memory of the present is the way these artists each pursue something of that indexical capacity of that image, of the visual field, only to question that capacity. What we see, then, in this art of the present is the index as a form rather than as a function of representation, the index as a vestige rather than a viable means of representation.” (p. 12-13)
For Saltzman, whose focus is on the question of method/practice, these postindexical or not-quite indexical strategies can take specific forms: animated monuments (with the use of projections as in Krzsztof Wodiczko’s work), carnivalesque and ghostly silhouettes (as in Glenn Ligon and Kara Walker’s practice), architectural casts (as in Rachel Whiteread’s public art work), to characterise memorial-historical art of the present.
Lisa Stalman’s discussion of the  “Notes on the Index , Parts 1 and 2 ” inspire me to include these in next year’s seminars on semiotics and memory.

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About paula roush

I am a Lisbon-born artist based in London, UK. I am the founder of msdm, a platform for art practices that are mobile-strategies-[of]-display-[and]- mediation. It is a platform for both individual and collaborative work, shown in the context of exhibitions, publications, conferences and teaching/seminars. I work with photography, archives, found material and performance through editing strategies that investigate notions of authorship, authenticity, history and memory. I am interested in publishing as artists’ practice and as platform to explore the intersections between the roles of artist, editor and curator. My current projects look at ideas of (re) production in the work of art, resulting in publications in several formats that encompass the hand-made, the print on demand and the ebook.
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