M is for Metaphor

| March 25, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/03/24/293706220/which-artwork-is-a-metaphor-for-the-current-global-condition   ?

At a superficial level, metaphor is perhaps an idiom of sorts, whereby the collision of incongruous imagery requires a higher mode of thought to come to terms with its illogical nature. We take pleasure in riddling out these unlikely interactions.

A good metaphor instills a rapid oscillation in our brains between truth and falsity. In order for a metaphor to be true, it has to be simultaneously false. Its communicative power lies in its ostensible incoherence. This power is not just a result of the extra work we invest in making sense of the image, but something deeper. By using a system of meaning to state something that is false within the system’s rules, which we nonetheless experience to be true, language and meaning break apart. Meaning slips from the word, territory withdraws from the map, and in our distant awareness a reality beyond representation rises, however briefly, however ungraspable.

Like a knot in the wood’s grain, despite being made from language, metaphor is its undoing. Metaphor is a rogue representation whose success depends wholly on our willingness to follow its leap off the canvas of language, beyond the limits of words, and into the elusive resonance we share with its author. Where art is a double agent within culture, able to offer a reflexivity towards fundamental conditions of a given system (i.e. worldview), metaphor is the double agent of language, using and simultaneously undermining it as a totalizing system.