01 Aug 2017 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

Noise is one tool that can generate multiple legibilities within an image or text. For example, this image fragment from the last post contains multiple legibilities:

• It can be read as what it shows.

• It can be read as a printed, mass-produced image of what it shows.

• It can be read as a printed, mass-produced image taken from one context and placed into another.

• It can be read as a printed, mass-produced image reprinted through another process.

• It can be read as a printed, mass-produced image, taken from one context and repeated using collage.

• It can be read as a printed, mass-produced image taken from one context, placed into another, and then placed into another.


• There may be more legibilities not listed here.

• Different points of reality vs. reproduction, and different contexts will have different legibilities.

• Legibilities are dependent upon material.

• Not all legibilities are available to every reader, all of the time. Which legibilities are available will vary with the reader’s contexts, and a single reader may find different legibilities at different points in time.

• Each legibility is translucent, partially revealing and partially obscuring the others at any moment of reading.

• A legibility is not the same thing as a meaning, but they are not mutually exclusive.

• A legibility is an entrance and a path.

Multiple legibilities within an artwork can generate multiple, intersecting readings, potentially even from the same reader. An aesthetics of interference, of noise, takes the multi-, the poly-, the many, and the potential as a value to be explored. In the above instance, noise and its multiple legibilities are also a function of collage. Collage of images/objects/texts transforms art into matter, into the world, and then mixes them back into the artwork.

“As I write this, I can’t help but think that ‘aesthetic of interference’ also has metaphorical resonance in our contemporary age of resistance… perhaps that’s a whole other blog post.” [1]

In this “contemporary age of resistance” it is important to be clear about what “resistance” means, and here my own subject position becomes an issue. I, personally, am not interested in the spectacle of viciously inept leaders—I am interested in working against the structures that makes such “leadership” possible. These are also the structures that define our contemporary world: white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, mass incarceration, and environmental destruction. Oppression in its many forms. These are not new things. I have benefitted from these structures. The predominantly white organization that these blog posts are for has benefitted from these structures. Resistance cannot just be metaphorical—it has to involve real work. Art can do that by opening up questions of representation, structural signification, education, economics, etc. Can art affect political change? Only insofar as it can ground us in the world, show us the world, and show us ourselves.

It would seem that collage, noise, and their related devices and techniques (montage, appropriation, the graphic marks of photo/mechanical reproduction, hiss, interference) are, at a structural level, antithetical to the idea of purity. Purity as a value is easily extrapolated to justify white supremacy. [2]

I would agree with AD Jameson’s assertion (in the essay referred to in Part 1) that “art has no favorite way of being made, and there are no experimental devices. One can only experiment with devices.” I would extend that to say that there are no inherently ethical devices in art. Noise and collage can also be used to support white supremacy, and they certainly are and have been. In those uses, though, they tend to be used to obscure, cover, and falsify—to hide their seams and the legibility of those seams. White supremacy requires invisibility to function. It cannot show its seams. To extend Lori Emerson’s argument about the ideology of interfaces in her book Reading Writing Interfaces—above all, white supremacy must be user-friendly. [3]

So we are seeking a collage, a noise, a work that allows us to show its seams, and the seams of the structures that bind us. To name those structures. Our resistance will not be seamless, but seam-full. A seamfulness to help us see.


1. This is the passage that inspired this series of posts. It is from Emily Larned’s post on this same blog, “Aesthetics of Interference.”

2. In addition to the linked article on color in classical sculpture, I would also recommend David Batchelor’s book Chromophobia for a far-ranging look at the conflation of whiteness, purity, and an “ideal” aesthetic. David Batchelor, Chromophobia, (London: Reaktion Books, 2000).

3. Lori Emerson, Reading Writing Interfaces, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Emerson’s analysis of interfaces, ideology, media poetics, and media archaeology is very relevant to the field of Book Arts. I highly recommend her book.

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