UNITEXT in the Semiotic Chain

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UNITEXT in the Semiotic Chain

By Virginija Vitkienė


UNITEXT is an exhibition where curators together with artists will pursue a concept that is novel and unfamiliar in the cultural context and will consolidate it by presenting practical examples. We will go into the question of unitext, which is the latest link in work -> text -> intertext -> hypertext -> unitext semiotic chain of philosophic/art criticism/artistic field.

According to the consistency of this chain, the UNITEXT exhibition claims a privilege to present novel ideas about the art at the level of structural and notional revelation. The suggestion is to perceive unitext in this chain as a universal artistic language, which claims the feasibility of integrity in perception.

The Work
According to R. Barthes, The Work is [modernist] artwork with a clear logical and substantive limits, and clear narration, it has a logic of image and content, and a single correct way of perception; it is finite; it is an object of consumption and relates directly to the pleasure of consumption (a pretty, convenient object, which provides aesthetic satisfaction). As he states in his book The Pleasure of The Text, The Work gratifies and brings euphoria and is related to the practice of a convenient consumption. While resulting in aesthetic satisfaction at the same time The Work blocks the desire of deeper knowledge, and, therefore, terminates the meaning.

The Text
In the theory of post-structuralism, which is a cornerstone of the modern art concept, The Text emerges as a “network”, a “fabric” of values​​ that have neither an objective nor a center (the essential idea or general formula). The Text is characterized by multiplicity, essential openness, imperfect values​​. According to R. Barthes, The Text can not be seen as an object, which is assessable. Text is a methodological field; it exists in the language, in the evolution of discourse.

Text constantly confronts with marginal experience. Text is what goes beyond formulation (of rationality, legibility and clarity) of rules. The author does not own The Text but is only a guest there. Instead of pleasure to consume The Text it is accompanied by bliss, which, according to Barthes, is an inciting force and does not consider any value to be finite.
The Text
can unbalance knowledge as well as historical, cultural, psychological standpoints and values of a perceiver, and cause a crisis of relation to the language[1]. R. Barthes and other post-structuralists (in the `60s – `70s of the 20th century) attempted to explain the divorce of modernism and postmodernism in both literature and in other artifacts of culture or in a paradigm of thought at the end of the 20th century by distinguishing and highlighting the features of The Work and The Text.

Starting with Julia Kristeva’s theoretical disquisition in the `80s of 20th century, the concept of intertextuality extended a field of meanings of The Text​​. J. Kristeva referred to texts in terms of two axes: a horizontal axis connecting the author and reader (perceiver) of a text, and a vertical axis, which connects the text to other texts[2]. J. Kristeva argues that every text from the very beginnings is in dependency of other discourses, and under the influence of a “universe”2 of other discourses. While developing the theory of the intertextuality there naturally arises a question of authenticity, even of authorship of such text because the structure of The Text is based on quoting, plagiarism, allusion.
According to the theory, Texts belong to other texts rather than to those who produced them. The field of meanings in intertextuality was ​​broadened by Nicolas Bourriaud and his theory of post-production (1998). The process of contemporary art production is equal to that of a DJ, who does not produce novel production but instead juggles with the images, icons and myths that are rooted deeply in cultural field.

Hypertext is a programming term that describes the search of information while using complementary links. In the context of art the concept of   hypertextuality came into use to refer to the cultural processes at the turn of the 21st century. Hypertextuality is related to cooperation, development of dialogue, eloquence and appropriation.
According to the pioneer of the theory Michael Joyce (the `80s of 20th century), a hypertext can be of (1) investigative or of (2) a constructive nature[3]. This kind of division is applicable not only in IT, but in the concept of culture and artwork which is perceived as a text, as well. Exploratory hypertext is extremely useful for collection of information[4] (such as Web browsing), but in this case the process of investigations is still determined by the author of a website and the reader can not create new links or initiate new accesses in the texts.
Thus, under this structure, investigative hypertexts, though giving an impression of choice, basically reproduce the hierarchical structure of power (author over reader), that was formed and supported by the traditional approach to perception of a text. On the contrary, constructive hypertexts are open for a dialogue and require an ability to act: to create, modify, lead to specific collisions, mold versions of elements such as traces, small links, networks, unessential notes and, by using them, to produce structures that have never existed before.
Curated exhibitions where different meanings of artworks are knotted into a new multileveled story could be an example of this. Or artworks-projects of relational aesthetics (N.Bourriaud), whose authors provide a framework for relations of various levels to occur, but they do not forecast the outcome.

Unitext in some IT systems is the parameter of unicode (mechanism of implementation), which is responsible for a unification of character codes. The Unitext does not provide the definite meaning or unifies it, but due to it art becomes a universal language that unifies all the experiences and concepts.

In 2013, Kaunas Biennial UNITEXT will present works that do not require explanatory texts. Perception of these artworks is based on intuition, materiality and spontaneity, feelings and deja-vu, and they should be perceived employing here-and-now experience. An artwork that implies unifying experience can be seen as The Unitext in the field of contemporary art. In other words it is an artistic confrontation based on horizontal (dependable) relationship, or silent discourse, it is a catcher of consciousness of homo universum.


[1] Barthes, Roland. S/Z. London: Cape, [1973] 1974, p. 21.

[2] Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 69.

[3] Joyce, Michael. Siren shapes: Exploratory and constructive hypertexts. Academic Computing., 3(4), 1988. 10-42.


One Response to UNITEXT in the Semiotic Chain

  • seckin

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    How can i apply?