Signs are usually brusque, devoid of humour or humanity – rather like a sergeant-major’s barked commands to a nervous squad of raw recruits – LIFT….DINING ROOM ….TOILETS …BAR….SWIMMING POOL……SHOP…..SLOW DOWN….. TURN LEFT….. LEVEL CROSSING … EDIT…ADD MEDIA….. PUBLISH…. VIEW POST…… CLICK HERE….. STOP.. It comes as a pleasant surprise therefore to find signs that by their form and style amuse and surprise and entertain:
A very ironic johnknoxy sign seen in Edinburgh outside the Modern Art Gallery. It reminded me of the archetypal Scottish joke ……On Judgment Day. as the souls of the damned were whirling through the abyss down into the all-consuming flames of hell, they cried out, ” O Lord, we didnae ken, we didnae ken!” and in response this mighty voice from above boomed out, “Weel, ye ken noo!”
but on the other hand……a cheerful and jaunty reassurance above the entrance to the Modern Art Gallery – I think both signs are the work of Martin Creed whose good-natured philosophy is very binary or dualistic or whatever.
A polite apocolyptical global warning sign in a student kitchen……
A very Scottish sign seen in Glasgow’s Byres Road. Scots are addicted to pies. And bridies. There is word that a left-handed bridie is being developed in Forfar with the thumb-hole in the pastry casing placed correctly for a left-handed grasp.
A wonderfully creatively welcoming door in an Amsterdam hotel which believed in giving the place personality, soul, a sense of humour, human warmth The Conscious Hotel, the same surrealistic hotel whose doors give you such a warm, poetic introduction to Amsterdam. ” Your breakfast is 100% organic and there are plenty of healthy choices but we won’t force you to survive on nuts and berries. At Conscious hotels, you make the choices that are right for you. Except for wearing socks with sandals. Then we might say something..”
Or as Saussure famously said: “In language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms. Whether we take the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the system. “
sometimes I think I have nothing to write about that hasn’t already been written about by someone else and then I stop sucking the end of my pen and quickly write ‘sometimes I think ‘ and take it from there
making a noise like a trotting horse
with my tongue
as I go
A work of art doesn’t have to represent something outside itself or be like something else in order to be interesting; the focus may lie in what it is in itself rather than what it resembles in the ‘real’ world.
The mechanics of how it came to be are safely locked away in the mind of the artist.
But can you guess what triggered off any of the above five images?
Words have sounds and rhythms which reinforce their meaning: ‘flip-flop’ echoes the sound and rhythm made by that particular type of footwear….and ‘thud’, ‘bang’, ‘crash’ etc. are obviously words that echo the sound they represent; words like ‘shuffle’, ‘flutter’ imitate movement as well as sound….. ‘Ping-pong’ sounds even better the other way round – gnip-gnop gnip gnop gni….oops…pick it off the floor…there it is…there, under the chair… Likewise the word – SPLASH – is an ideogram of the event it signifies: 1) The initial sibilant – S – replicatesthe hiss of the stone cutting through the air (SSS); 2) then comes the plosive – P – as the stone breaks the surface of the water (SSS – P); 3) the labial – L – pictures the stone gliding under the sutface (SSS-P-LLL); 4) The concluding – ASH – is the plume of spray sent up by the stone as it disappears into the water (SSS – P – LLL- AAASHSHSH).
‘glides’ has the sounds to suggest after an initial thrust, effortless motion in/on/through water – G….. LLL….IDE….SSSSS
and it sounds even better in French:
Le cygne chasse l’onde avec ses larges palmes et glisse………………
And finally I remember from my schooldays when we had to learn poetry by heart, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s
” the moan of doves in immemorial elms, and murmuring of innumerable bees. “