Diagrammatic Relations in Interart Discourse

Kent W. Hooper
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (1999)
Pages 77–90


My essay will commence with a discussion of geneml views about the subject of the Doppelbegabung, or multi-talented artist, and why in the past it has tended to be relegated to the fringes of the interarts field. My main focus here will be on what might be termed failed solutions to the problem of discussing similarities between works produced in different media by the same artist. Amongst these failed solutions, I will argue, are those studies which rightly recognize the need to. attend to formal similarities between the various media used but which lack an awareness of the kind of theoretical framework necessary for making such comparisons. Arguing then that such theorizing must begin at the most basic level of the sign and involve an examination of the interpretive process itself, I will attempt to outline the requisite framework by enlisting the ideas of the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914), primarily those ideas concerned with semiotics and kinds of reasoning procedures. Although I will also be drawing on Umberto Eco's revisioning of Peirce's theories, I will conclude that when it comes to interarts issues Peirce's scientific view of abductive reasoning is more helpful than Eco's attempt to isolate a particular kind of abduction applicable to the analysis of creative works. Although I will not myself provide a practical demonstration of how sign theory functions in the case of specific Doppelbegabungen, I hope to provide the methodology that will be conducive to further and more sound ways of investigating the role to be played by such artists in discussions of relations between the arts.