Saturday, July 7, 2012

Semiotic Equilibrium

Across the street, the sign in the window of the jeweler’s shop says “pardon our appearance”. The sign runs across the middle third of the entire window. Typically, the window is adorned with expensive, delicate jewelry. Now, behind the sign (which takes up a large portion of the window), we see an empty showcase with a small piece of plywood and a power drill in the far right corner.

Though the sign says ‘pardon our appearance’, it also says ‘look at our mess’, or the lack thereof, really. There’s barely anything to pardon, and even if there was, the sign itself would be the more demanding-of-pardon of the two. The cancels itself out in some kind of semiotic equilibrium?

It’s similar to, but not the same as, the sign hanging on the fence that says “do not hang signs on fence”. What it says and what it does are at odds in some way. In the case of the 'pardon our appearance' sign, it asks us to do something that wouldn't even need to be done if the sign weren't asking us...The sign should say 'pardon our sign (which wouldn't have to be pardoned if the sign weren't here in the first place)'.

Don't actually pardon our appearance, but our pardoning of our appearance.

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