Iconic, indexical and symbolic art

I had a really interesting and quite unexpected experience in my philosophy study group this term. We spent our 2 hours out in the park, divided in small groups then we took different directions in search for inspiration to do a drawing through the media of a new technique for me: the indexical drawing. One group attached colored pens to the branches of a tree and let them blow in the wind shaping random forms on a piece of paper laid right underneath them. Another group squeezed a bottle and spread the water in the air in a cyclic fashion so it created different shapes on the tarmac, depending on where the wind blew. Walking through the trees I just instinctively stopped in front of one ending up drawing its spirit while the tree was lying on the ground next to its stump. The tree is an iconical representation with a symbolic meaning of the lost things and how more beautiful and meaningful we perceive them after they are gone.

We’ve learned three important terminologies that day: iconic, indexical and symbolic.

We can either look at an imagine or a drawing and stop at the mare aesthetics of it, the classic ‘it’s really beautiful’, ‘i’s crap’ or we can go beyond and discover that the artist had actually a lot to say.

Icon means image. By iconical art we mean the representation of reality by maintaining its true forms like for example a tree, a person, a pencil etc. We can easily identify it in a piece of art like a painting or a drawing:

Indexical art is an image, drawing or even installation that is achieved through a process of one thing having an effect on another without the ending result being controlled by human intervention. Here are some examples of ink and fire on glass, ink in water etc. All this are results of a random action-consequence process:

Symbolism is an arbitrary or conventional, but commonly accepted representation of a situation, emotion or action. For example there’s nothing in the play button that suggests ‘play’ but we’ve learned to associate this triangle as a play button:

Here is a nice video that explains the differences between the three forms.

Cyborg – definition and curiosity

Not an easy task to define Cyborg since there is still a chaotic understanding of what exactly being a cyborg means. There isn’t still an exhaustive and general definition of it.

A fun task and its conclusions. A group attempt on defining the meaning of cyborg:

As defined in the oxford dictionary a cyborg is a fictional or hypothetical person whose abilities are far beyond our human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body. Haraway states “a cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” An example of this could be the use of mechanical elements to helps us survive, like a pacemaker, or it could also mean human beings using technology in everyday life both of these create the hybrid Haraway has spoken about. The definition of technology has no limitations and until a better understanding of it is made with more research means we will not have a true definition of cyborg. Once more research has happened and gives us a better understanding, a much clearer conclusion will be in place.

Neil Harbisson, the first men officially considered a cyborg by the government and allowed to feature his external element that qualifies him as a cyborg on his passport photograph. Since Neil was born color-blind which limits him to only see in black and white, his special antenna built in his skull, allows him to transform each colour in a different vibration:

A really interesting video that made me realize how the word cyborg can be and it is already part of some people’s lives through an improvement of the body or an addition of their senses rather then just an abstract concept from movies. And most of all, how can this bring us closer to nature rather then away from it:

Plato vs Nietzsche in art

Plato was an Ancient Greek philosopher died in 348 BC at the age of 80. His idealistic view of the world shows through his believe that for everything that surrounds us there is a perfect original essence or form of it and we must always tend to improove ourselves in order to get as closer to the truth as possible. He had 2 theories of art

  1. According to the first one, since art is saw by Plato to be the imitation of the physical world, then art is to be considered a copy of a copy because the world itself is a copy of a perfect and changeless original.
  2. Art has the ability to mix in emotion, is a powerful tool that can influence our behaviour and our character, therefore dangerous.

As he asserts, true knowledge consists of direct, unmediated of the Forms gained through the study of philosophy… .

Discobolos, Ancient Greek Statue, representing the perfection of the body in movement.

lancio disco


Nietzsche on the other hand, was a German philosopher from 1800 who contrasts Plato’s philosophy of an idealistic world and a unique truth with a more pragmatic and experimental one.  He believes that instead of having only one idealistic object or truth there are as many interpretations of them as people to represent them and they are all real. Just like a table it is defined in as many ways as the different prospective from which that table is seen (under different light or angle etc) and how can’t all be true? Art, just like life is in a continuous transformation.

There is no such thing as a perfect chair, just many representations of it as the persons designing/making one:


Me, I feel more idealistic, I believe in a constant research of improving ourselves in order to try to reach the perfection in our every action. I also believe that how better way to achieve it if not practically and throughout experimentation. Living Nietzsche with the goal of reaching Plato. I was told that the two exclude each other but how can it be that only theory and questioning can bring us closer to the truth rather then experimentation and manipulation of the world that we have in front of us and we live in. How can we reach the truth if not by starting to understand the game we play in, in order to acquire the ability to go beyond it?

Reflection on my learning process

Reflecting on how I’m learning, the example of the bucket and the fire fits just right. It reflects the process in my actual studies, and I have to admit that it never did before. I don’t know If it’s me or the uni, probably both, but if I I had to choose between them it would cut my learning process in half, it would’t be a circle anymore. I feel the fire burning inside especially when I see the possibility of all the workshops my uni provides and I feel like needing a  full immersion all at once and just create whatever. Practically I’m inevitably being a bucket during the lectures, ready to fill in with all the knowledge, all those important techniques I’m given, both new or already known. But I try to empty myself even for the subjects I’m more experienced in just not to miss out a different tint of it because the same subject taught by two different people will give even slightly but somehow different results. Then I can finally explode in exploring, researching or what I love the most, practically create something I didn’t know I could or that I ever would. A vivid example of this process was the discovery of sewing machine. Even though it’s a textile course and it could come naturally to imagine that one of the tools I would use would be a sewing machine, for me it wasn’t that obvious given the times of the digital rise. So here I am in front of the sewing machine, totally inexperienced, even though my mom’s a Taylor. I never wanted to learn, I never actually liked the idea of it. But there I was, and I don’t know how it happened, I just know that in some days I found another fulfilling way of expressing myself, and it was beautiful.


Neo- Futurism (Constellation yr 1)

1909 –  Neo-Futurism begins with the first manifesto published on the 20 February 1909 by the Italian  Marinetti on a Parisian newspaper ‘Le Figaro’ arguing the need to get rid of the past and embrace the future in everything that surrounds us.

Marinetti exalts the beauty of speed (cars, airplanes…), the love of danger and fearlessness, the courage and audacity in poetry, art and architecture. Museums and schools should be buried as well as everything related to the past and permit the new generations express themselves on the heels of what technology can give. To evolve and not remain stagnant.

I recommend a view of Marinetti’s most famous poem, the  Zang Tumb Tumb  and it’s particularly interesting and onomatopoeic interpretation.

1914 –  In 1914, Sant’Elia, profoundly influenced by Marinetti’s Manifesto and in the same year the two of them met, decided to publish his Manifesto of Futuristic Architecture. He considered that the modern architect has to revolution his way of creating, use more curves rather then lines. No decoration and more efficiency. Buildings have to be functional rather then aesthetically sought.

‘The new beauty of cement and iron are profaned by the superimposition of motley decorative incrustations that cannot be justified either by constructive necessity or by our (modern) taste’ – Sant’Elia

2016 – Some astonishing architecture from Zaha Hadid here:


A floating city concept by architect Vincent Callebaut:



  • If all in a sudden our mind was erased of the past would we be creating futuristic buildings for our homes and airplanes for our displacements or would we be cutting a tree and a stone to build a wheel and a tent?
  • We all grow up developing our thoughts based on habits and knowledge that already exists.
  • Futurism enhances courage and rebellion but how can they exist if not in function of something pre-existent and ‘common’?


Premising the amazingly open minded Manifesto both of Marinetti and of his friend Sant’Elia, I find their extreme reaction to be based upon the historical moment of their times (Decadentism) which shows us in first place how they were firstly and deeply influenced by their past.

Decoration was an element of Decadentism and so they decided to erase it. I think not because of it’s ‘useless function’ by itself but because it represented the somnolence and stagnation of a nation who preferred escaping the present finding refugee in the aesthetics instead of rolling up their sleeves and act. But aesthetics is part of every aspect of our life. In every object or piece of cloth we buy both because we want to look stylish or because we ‘don’t care’. Either way it’s a choice, as well as the choice not to choose.

We are intimately and intricately connected to our past. That’s the place we borrowed our knowledge and experience from. That’s how we learn to know what works and what doesn’t, what makes us save time or make a certain choise. The past is an inevitable element which we can only build upon but not erase.

Neo-Futuristics found a quick and easy solution in erasing and rebuilding rather then learning from the past, keeping it’s merits and changing or improove it’s demerits.

Balance is the missing piece to Marinetti and Sant’Elia’s Manifesto!