Semiotic Books for Tumblr Readers

Appropriation project

During the 60’s and 70’s photography was studied in depth by numerous theorists. Many texts and books were published deriving from ideas related to the semiotics of image and the concern surrounding the status of photography as language. One of the most important texts was Notes on the Index by Rosalind Krauss; in it, the author defines the indexical nature of images and analyzes the relationship that exists between photograph and text, asserting that “(…) the photograph heralds a disruption in the autonomy of the sign. A meaninglessness surrounds it which can only be filled in by the addition of a text.”

Nevertheless, this affirmation seems to be questionable in the Post-Internet age from the perspective of the anthropology of the image and its uses. Nowadays we use the image to communicate, and we often do so in an autonomous manner, without needing to complete it with a text. The hierarchy between the two languages has started to be reformed thanks to new technologies. The image appears to be caught in a process of emancipation. In this sense, when we visit Tumblr, among other platforms, countless pages contain images deprived of captions. There is no other information other than what is merely visual. Knowing the author, the place, or the date where an image was taken no longer matters—whatever we see is enough. Looking is an act of consummation. And though sometimes it could be frustrating, it is a scarcity that the natives do not perceive. To speak about these changes, of the new relationship between text and image and of these new visual readers, I created the project Semiotic Books for Tumblr Readers. For this I appropriated of several books that speculate about the image, generally postmodern texts. I reproduced all of their content with all of the text removed. Thus, we are faced with books filled with blank pages where only images and the page numbers appear, marking the rhythm and implying the volume of the eradicated text. Finally, once the new content was produced, the books were bound again with their original covers.

The result is a heap of books filled with blank pages in which some images appear to float. In a similar way, Susan Sontag’s On Photography appears like a completely empty book; paradoxically, she has written a text on photography theory without including a single image. Furthermore, these books are accompanied by the spreads that are produced when editing a publication. In these spreads the images can be found rotated or inverted, and the paper allows us to sense the other pages that are printed on the back. In this way, we can see the entire contents of the book in one glance, as though looking at an analogue screen.