Semantic Apparatus – A Circle of Fragments: Barthes, Burgin, and the Interruption of Rhetoric

Cited by Lee Sonogan

The pathobiology of perturbed mutant huntingtin protein–protein  interactions in Huntington's disease - Wanker - 2019 - Journal of  Neurochemistry - Wiley Online Library

Abstract by Ryan Bishop

Roland Barthes’ entire career pursued a dream of being freed from the tyranny of ossified, institutionalized, rote language use, as articulated from his first massively influential work on ‘writing degree zero’ in 1953. The anaemic role of institutional rhetoric and its dusty formulations dulled the capacity for using language and thought otherwise. For Barthes, fragments played a privileged role in the escape from the tyranny of meaning imposed by doxa and received wisdom, sometimes called ‘literature’ and ‘rhetoric’. Barthes once referred to almost all of his writing, and indeed theorizing, as ‘a circle of fragments’. The artist and theorist Victor Burgin has been profoundly influenced by Barthes’ writings and his attempts to escape the ideological constraints of language, institutions and images. His visual rhetorical practice now often takes the form of projection loops that are accessible by gallery attendees at any point in the loop. Their basic building block is also the fragment, and the loop constitutes another circle of fragments. His 2016 work Belledonne uses the time Barthes spent in the sanatorium for tuberculosis treatment as the basis for the piece, its computer-generated imagery and textual intertitles. This article examines Barthes’s writings on pre-Socratic rhetoric, as well as his self-reflexive engagement with his own theorizing, combined with Burgin’s reconsideration of moving image work in gallery or museum spaces as attempts to offer potentially liberatory strategies for eluding rote use and effects of language, image and thought.

Publication: Theory, Culture & Society (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

Pub Date: May 17, 2020 Doi:

Keywords: Roland Barthes, Belledonne, Victor Burgin, discourse, fragments, pre-Socratic rhetoric, projection, visual rhetoric (Plenty more sections and references in this research article)

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