The philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) created a system of analysis for forms of communication that is still employed. The system develops precision in understanding how forms, images, objects, words etc. transmit ideas and events. The triad Symbol/Icon/Index is his manner of classification. It is the index that is of interest in referring to Robyn Miller’s artwork. The index is complex; it is itself, but “itself” always points to another, through some trace, collision, or indication. The indexical sign of a fever refers to an infection, and a bullet-hole the bullet. A footprint in sand, a pointed finger, the words “you” and “I”, thunder, are all indexical signs, according to Peirce’s system. In the field of art, photography has been discussed as the embodiment of both index and icon; the recording of light on photographic paper creates both a literal and visual impression of its subject. I would argue that Robyn Miller, with poetic clarity, has created a lyrical definition of the index through body, natural forces, space and emptiness which emboss her clay sculptures, the vessels. Shaped by the hands of Robyn Miller, these vessels are built through a transcription of pressures; every energetic event of touch is held in its form. The sculptures are vessels, and the clay itself is a vessel, a sensitive receptacle of each impression and fluctuation exerted by its shaper. The vessels’ clay is a sort of negative-perfect of taction; rather than a record of light like a photographic negative, it acts as a record of the haptic; the hand, the force of gravity, the changing balance of moisture - all the mechanical and material forces remain inscribed in the clay’s form, visible through qualities of texture and shape. The sculptures' structure are simultaneously their own presence, and a record of their formation.
These vessels, their overflowing emptiness, contain every trace of their creation, which spills out through their emphatic presence.
- Michelle Weinstein
Huening, Drew. “symbol-index-icon.” The University of Chicago:Theories of Media: Keywords Glossary . Winter 2006. https://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/symbolindexicon.htm
See Krauss, Rosalind. “Notes on the Index: Part 1,” October. Vol. 3 (Spring 1977) pgs. 68-81. also Doane, Mary Ann. “Indexicality:Trace and Sign.” Differences , Vol. 18, Issue 1 (May 2007) pgs 1-6