The School of Postmodernism: A Closer Look. Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes was a French philosopher, Literary theorist and Semiotician. He is perhaps most famous for his text’ The Death of the Author’ (1968). The text argued that everything related to the term ‘auteur’ in the sense of someone that expresses their mind through a work, should be rejected. In its place, the term ‘scriptuer’ (someone who writes) should be adopted. To separate a work from its creator is to liberate the text from interpretive tyranny. Barthes proclaims the death of the author and correspondingly, the birth of the viewer. Therefore, Barthes is wearing a black armband are an example of a social constructed sign that as a Semiotician Barthes was very much concerned with. Black armbands represent various different things in different cultures- for example a sign to denote a member of the press in Asia.

His painting of the model is inspired by his extensive work on the signs encoded in wrestling (Mythologies 1957). In it, Barthes looks at the function of intricate signs that are associated with the sporting spectacle that acts out various basic concepts of society, such as good and evil, suffering, defeat and justice. The wrestlers face is that of the life model in the painting- Bulgarian-French philosopher Julia Kristeva. As with every postmodern artist in the picture, Barthes interprets the art of analytical life drawing through the eyes of his own theories.

On the wooden floor is the notation that makes up the melody for the nursery rhyme ‘Humpty Dumpty.’ Humpty Dumpty is a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the looking Glass, where he discusses semantics and pragmatics.  It has been used on countless occasions to illustrate the apparent foolishness of associating linguistic meaning with intention. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

The artistic approach to Barthes character, as in all of the painting is the Intentist style of Palimpsestism. This is where the creative trail of the Intention-to work process is left partially on the canvas. In essence some of the editing processes that come from the myriad of micro intentions are left in the final piece.

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