Look at the couple in the gallery. Study the chieftain groping the art. Gaze on his consort groping for his wallet. Observe the painting hanging in the gallery; in it check out the pet and the statue behind it.
I. The Lizards
A symbol is one kind of sign. The chieftain sees the painting and the consort as symbols. Symbols are equivalencies by convention, they have no value in isolation, they only worth what the particular social troop declares them to be. Art as symbol or a consort as a symbol are currencies, not different from money.
Icons are something else, they are signifiers that relate to their signifieds by resemblance. The chieftain (varanus carnificina) appears to see the art as an icon. He fondles the painting because it resembles his consort (varanus uxorera quisquis). It does resemble, but it is not identical to, her. In the painting he sees her as a muse, guiding him, he likes that. But in the reality of the gallery she’s not a muse, but a mistress, groping for his wallet. This he doesn’t see.
The consort is not interested in the simply too-human appreciation of icons. She doesn’t participate in his unfounded and dangerous fantasy. The chieftain, like art are simply currencies to her, they are just money in a different form. And as possessing money makes one wealthy and powerful so does owning art and mistressing chieftains.
II. The Dogs
In the painting in the drawing, we have a scene in a snooty park in a fancy neighborhood. A chieftain and his consort are enjoying their evening stroll. It’s a symbolic and iconic demonstration that all they survey, is under their control.
Now look at the dogs, long ago they were protectors, now they are pets. The statue is both an icon and symbol as it resembles a conventional mythic savior, a protector of the people. see the arms and hair of a woman (signifying the people) behind the dog. the dog-hero statue is wielding a pen as a sword, another icon/symbol, public executing a pest. the chieftain claims some of his power via a false canis lineage. Here image as symbol fails and but as icon survives. We all see the chieftain’s heritage as clearly varanus. Not that he notices or cares, because second pen is a useless stick, fetched by a dog-pet as a symbol of servitude, a pointless exercise unquestionably done at the whim of the chieftain or consort.
III. The Artist
A third pen is in the border of the drawing. Pen is also a word for an enclosure for animals. Both make boundaries, lines. So, with both meanings in mind, The artist adds limits as he draws. We, looking at his work, begin at it’s center, in a public space, the park in the painting. We’ll then skip over, looking but not touching while we do, the exclusive varanus-only gallery. Finally we’ll stop at the outer edge, the most private part, which is a journal, limited to the artist himself. The pens enclose/align the artist with both dogs, but separate him from the varanus types. Is the artist servant, or savior? Or neither, is he a useless, ignored, an insignificant other?
1–Tribes of early hunters and gatherers, ruled by chieftains became kingdoms, then became empires. Those chieftains became kings then emperors. The kingdoms and the empires rose, morphed and fell, but petty chieftains have survived to this day.
2– the couple were originally rats, but thinking better of rats, I made them monitor lizards ‘Varanus’ is the monitor lizard genus. ‘Carnificina’ means the work of a hangman, execution /torture. ‘Uxorera quisquis’ mean wife-mistress, whatever.
Monitors are amazingly humanlike. They are active and hostile animals, about the same size as us. They hold their heads erect to appear alert. ‘They intimidate others by hissing and modifying their bodies to appear larger than they are. They don’t listen well, nor do they have good vision.
Monitors only cooperate when the have to, e.g. mating, or killing. So it’s odd that neither of those activities are really must-dos for them. As for the first, monitors paradoxically practice pathogenesis, but form pair-bonds. And for the second, they prefer to eat the already dead — they can smell rottenness at 6 miles.
3– Odd too, to think of the essentially psychopathic v. carnificina and v. uxorera quisquis using symbols, as symbols require a social structure. So let me invent a society for them. I’ll call it the somewhat paradoxical ‘anomie zoku’ or ‘gang without rules.’
4– In the art world you must buy an art object before you touch it. I’ve drawn his gesture here as a symbol within an icon. The buy-touch equivalency is from convention and is therefore a symbol. The painting-as-icon is a symbol of wealth and power in remission.
5– C.S. Peirce’s signifiers –icon, index and symbol– are not discrete terms. His triad tumbles into a neological abyss, triad upon triad fall into obscurity. I won’t go there. Just leave it that some things can have qualities of all three. A photograph is often given as an example.
6– ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’ wrote Bulwer-Lytton; that is the symbol/icon here. The dog-hero’s pen-sword is righting a wrong, as opposed to the dog-pet writing (drawing) one.