Pinto, S. J. P. S. M. (2015).For a semiotic of light. From the mythical view to the contemporary scopic regimes

Assuming that historical art has devoted little attention to the role played by light in visible and invisible world, in favour to space and perspective (Gombrich, Sedlmayer, Levin), this project aims to update this issue, not only by making an intervention into art historiographies that privilege light over space and perspective, but also covering spaces and concepts from a broad historical and disciplinary range that allow us to contribute to a new perspective on light in art, communication and culture. In the beginning of semiotics of light, God is the Light. From Descartes and secularization, light begins to identify with reason. For Damásio (2000), light becomes the metaphor used for the cognitive processes of consciousness, a progressive revelation of existence. Based on these premises, the question we put is: “How arte had made visible the invisible, whether it refers to the sacred, to reason or the consciousness of visuality itself?” The research methodology is primarily based on text analysis concerning different conceptions of the topic, on one hand, and mapping the artistic and cultural events corresponding to the three moments of rupture we understand key in history of light, on the other hand: [1] divine light [2], light as reason [3], and light as a metaphor of consciousness. In summary, this project relates different perceptions of light in visual culture with different conceptions of light, applying to different lenses: from the medieval theologians to recent discoveries in Neuroscience, Anthropology and Psychoanalysis, further invoking, beyond Social Semiotics as an analyses instrument, History & Critic of Art, Aesthetics and of course, Communication Sciences. The history of perception shows us how different are the shapes, the areas and the strategies when light sometimes manifests and other times hides itself. From the temples of the sun to gothic cathedrals, from the halos of medieval saints to the high contrast created by Caravaggio, from photography to ‘art-light’ (Perreault, 1971; Böhme, 1983; Virilio, 2005), it becomes clear how different perceptions of light concern different conceptions of light, which leads to distinct semiotics. We hope with this PhD dissertation to shed light into discontinuities in history of light and vision that make up a specific set of works, outlining a possible path.




Sílvia Joana Passos Simas Moreira Pinto