Date: 17 Jan 2009

Face to Face

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Abstract

Peirce shows how he presupposes that a ‘most general science of semeiotic’ is entirely a matter of culture. Semiotics unfolds even beyond the debate on specific differences between nature and culture. The expression ‘semiotics of culture’ entails all components of a true pleonasm. Pierce finds his parallel in the philosophy of Hegel and both philosophers consider the close ties between expressiveness and consciousness as a specifically human, cultural and spiritual activity. That viewpoint leads not only to linguistic but also to other expressive phenomena, among which the body. Faces are perhaps the most outstanding bodily carriers of expression, so that Peirce’s analyses of Thirdness relate to the human face, not as a natural but as a cultural datum, in particular an artifice. A face-to-face relationship is embedded in a regulative discourse rather than an ethical appeal or other metaphysical dimensions. Three cases show various degrees of artificiality with different semiotic implications: Tilda Swinton’s appearance at the recent 2008 Oscar ceremony, the body art of Orlan and the first 2005 facial transplant of Isabelle Dinoire. The three do not only show how the human face is an artifice, but also how realities can appear to be fictitious within patterns of semiotic nature. Any sign can be a correlative to a fictitious world!