Artworks as semioses

We have explored an alternative understanding of artwork and of artifact based on Peirce’s process philosophy of sign. We assume it is an “alternative understanding” because a weak emphasis is given to the fact that we deal with a process philosophy when we examine Peirce’s semiotics.


We view artworks as semioses, regular patterns of sign activity. Semiosis is sign in action. According to this description, the spatiotemporal materiality of the artifact as a physical structure doesn’t correspond to the artifact as a sign but is merely one level of observation (token -level of observation). That is, the artifact as a sign is not reducible to its physical structure because its ontology is of a general process. The ontology of a process can only be described as a temporal trajectory, a regularity of action that develops dynamically.

From this perspective, when we observe an artwork, the event of observing a physical structure is an instantiation of a temporal/historical trajectory which is, ontologically, the artwork.

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Pedro Ata & João Queiroz

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