Julia Kristeva, “ Giotto’s Joy”

1999/4/27視覺理論 報告人: 劉婉俐


    1. Julia Kristeva, “The System and the Speaking Subject”

    Distinguishing between ‘semiology‘ or ‘structuralism’ on the one hand and ‘semiotics’ or ‘semanalysis’ on the other, Kristeva maintains that structuralism by focusing on the ‘thetic’ or static phase of language, posits it as a homogeneous structure, whereas semiotics, by studying language as a discourse enunciated by a speaking subject, grasps its fundamentally heterogeneous nature. Linguistic practice is a t once system and transgression (negativity), a product of both the ‘ drive-governed basis of sound production’ and the social space in which the enunciation takes place.

    Insisting a s it does on the heterogeneity of language, semiotics is caught in a paradox: being itself a metalanguage it cannot but homogenize its object in its own discourse. For Kristeva, the paradoxical nature of the semiotic enterprise does not lead to paralysis but to renewed creativity, since the semiotician caught in this paradox is forced always to analyze her own discursive position, and thus to renew her connection with the heterogeneous forces of language.

    2.Giotto di Bondone (1266?-1337).

    Outstanding as a painter, sculptor, and architect, Giotto was recognized as the first genius of art in the Italian Renaissance. Giotto lived and worked at a time when people's minds and talents were first being freed from the shackles of medieval restraint. He dealt largely in the traditional religious subjects, but he gave these subjects an earthly, full-blooded life and force.

    The earliest of Giotto's known works is a series of frescoes (paintings on fresh, still wet plaster) on the life of St. Francis in the church at Assisi. Each fresco depicts an incident; the human and animal figures are realistic and the scenes expressive of the gentle spirit of this patron saint of animals. In about 1305 and 1306 Giotto painted a notable series of 38 frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua. The frescoes illustrate the lives of Jesus Christ and of the Virgin Mary. Over the archway of the choir is a scene of the Court of Heaven, and a Last Judgment scene faces it on the entrance wall. The compositions are simple, the backgrounds are subordinated, and the faces are studies in emotional expression.(摘自Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia.


    喬托最著名的作品是壁畫(frescoes)──這名稱是因為必須趁強上的灰泥還新鮮,也就還濕的時候畫上去而來的。Cf.〈信念〉,〈哀悼基督〉in Padua Chapel

    (《藝術的故事》, p.149-153)


Julia Kristeva, “ Giotto’s Joy”

1. thesis: The question is to insert the signs of language into this already-produced reality-sign—the painting. We must develop a second-stage naming in order to name an excess of names, a more-than-name become space and color.

My desire to speak of Giotto(1267-1336) relates to his experiments in architecture and colour as much as to his place within the history of Western painting.27

Giotto’s joy is the sublimed jouissance of a subject liberating himself from the transcendental dominion of One Meaning (white) through the advent of its instinctual drives, again articulated within a complex and regulated distribution.41

2. strategy: Between an immediate and subjective deciphering and s still incoherent, heteroclitic theoretical apparatus yet to be worked out. I am calling attention to the dialectical necessity and difficulty now facing and theory of painting that attempts to put forward and understanding of its own practice.28

3. process: narrative normcolorlightblueOblique constructions

Narration and the norm:

  • Only in this way is the signifier of the narrative (i.e. the particular ordering of forms and colors constituting the narrative as painting) released here, at the conclusion of the narrative; if finds its sign, becomes symbolized as the reverse, negative, and inseparable other of transcendence. (31-32)
  • In Giotto’s work, color and Form ‘in themselves’ are never liberated. But beginning with Giotto, the independence of color and form appear in relation to the signified ( to theological norm) with respect to narrative and representation. Giotto’s practice and the Christian tradition of art in general, show their independence of symbolic Law by pitting themselves against the represented narrative ( parables of Christian dogma) as well as against the very economy of symbolization (color-form- representation) . Thus, pictorial practice fulfills itself as freedom—a process of liberation through and against the norm.(32)
  • Two elements, color and the organization of pictorial space, will help us, within Giotto’ s painting, to follow this movement towards relative independence from a signifying practice patterned on verbal communication.(32-33)

The triple register of color

  • Freud sees a split between perception and thought process. Positing a qualitative disappearance of archaic perceptions, Freud situates word-presentations in a position of relationship involving two categories: the perceptual and the verbal. In interpreting Freud’s terminology, it becomes clear that ‘thing-presentation’ principally designates the pressure of the unconscious drive linked to objects. Within ‘word presentations’ the drive’s pressure: 1. Is directed at an external object ; 2.is a sign in a system ; and 3. Emanates from the biological organ that articulates the psychic basis of such sign.(34)
  • The triple register is made up of a pressure marking an outside, another linked to the body proper, and a sign) Signifier and primary processes). This is then invested in the fragile, ephemeral, and compact phase of the symbolic function’s genesis and constitutes the true requirement for this function.
  • This triad also seems to be hypercathected on the artistic function, whose economy thus appears to be clearly distinct from that of communication. If, indeed, the signifier- signified- referent triangle seems methodologically sufficient to describe the communicative function. Artistic practice adds what Freud calls’ word – presentation’. This implies the triple register of exterior drive, interior drive, and signifier. As a result, the artistic function introduces a pivotal order into the symbolic order (the order of ‘ thought’).
  • Color can be defined, as being articulated on such a triple register within the domain of visual perceptions: an instinctual pressure linked to external visible objects; the same pressure causing the eroticizing of the body proper via visual perception and gesture; and the insertion of this pressure under the impact of censorship as a sign in a system of representation.(35)
  • Color must be deciphered according to : 1. The scale of ‘natural’ colors; 2. The psychology of color perception and, especially, the psychology of each perception’s instinctual cathexis, depending on the phases the concrete subject goes thorough with reference to its own history and within the more general process of imposing repression; and 3. The pictorial system either operative or in the process of formation.(36)
  • In a painting, color is pulled from the unconscious into a symbolic order; the unity of the ‘self’ clings to this symbolic order, as this is the only way it can hold itself together. The triple register is constantly present, and color’s diacritical value within each painting’s system is, by the same token, withdrawn toward the unconscious. As a result, color escape censorship; and the unconscious irrupts into a culturally coded pictorial distribution.(36-7)
  • Color might therefore be the space where the prohibition foresees and gives rise to its own immediate transgression. It is through color that Western painting began t escape the constraints of narrative and perspective norm (as with Giotto) as well as representation itself (as with Cezanne, Matisse, Rothko, Mondrian).
  • The chromatic apparatus, like rhythm for language, thus involves a shattering of meaning and its subject into a scale of differences. As the dialectical space of a psycho- graphic equilibrium, color therefor translates an oversignifying logic in that it inscribes instinctual ‘residues’ that the understanding subject has not symbolized.(38)

Forma Lucis: the Burlesque

Padua’s Blue

Oblique constructions and chromatic harmony

  • Thus Giotto’s won work-jouisance in color and space and the specific role incumbent on the subject therein, which merge with the ideology of the time : subjectivist and humanist renewal of Christianity—liberating,’ secularizing’, modern, even’ materialist’ morality. (49)



◇  Julia Kristeva以符號學與精神分析的觀點,來探究視覺圖像的方法,與傳統藝術史的差異和對照性為何?

◇ 或足以做為Julia Kristeva對繪畫/社會文化之辯證思考的範例?

◇ Julia Kristeva的邏輯性論述架構,是否與其強調的異質、辯證思考相違?

◇ 如是論述策略,對視覺理論的建構有何深化與參考的作用?



    Toril Moi ed., The Kristeva Reader, “The System and the Speaking Subject”, p. 24-33. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986

    Norman Bryson ed., Calligram, Julia Kristeva “ Giotto’s Joy”, p.27-53, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988

    Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. Soft Key Multimedia Inc., 1996

    Giotto, the Arena Chapel frescoes ; New York : Thames and Hudson, 1993

    Elvio Lunghi, Christopher Evans, The Basilica of St Francis at Assisi : the frescoes by Giotto, his precursors and followers; London : Thames and Hudson, 1996

    雨芸譯,E. H. Gombrich著《藝術的故事》。台北:聯經,1980






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