Christopher Waller




Monash University, Australia



Aura of the Semiotic Imprint


Examining the rare, Inverted Jenny postage stamp as a case-study, this paper explores the premise that during the moment of printing, in which the plate creates an impression upon the sheet, an abstract event occurs revealing the phenomenon of the aura of the semiotic imprint.
In a spectacular semiotic accident, the engraved vignette of a biplane was inadvertently printed upside-down on a number of 1918, 24c Curtiss Jenny stamps, which were issued to commemorate the inauguration of airmail in the United States.
At first, this inversion flaw appears to be attributed to human error. It is argued, however, that the Inverted Jenny is an anomaly, a sign providing a rare insight into the nature of semiosis. As signs, Inverted Jennys exist only as reproductions, yet they are venerated as if unique originals.
The concept of the semiotic imprint explores a Deleuzian notion that the space between plate and paper behaves as an 'abstract machine' during reproduction. Interaction between semiotic matter and ante-matter gives rise to the semiotic imprint, whereby reproductions emerge as unique signs from the 'plane of immanence' where 'all signs are signs of signs'.
During the momentary transfer of ink from plate to paper, the printing process becomes a locus for the semiotic dynamic between the immanence of the sign (becoming reproduction) and the sign's transcendence (usurping reproduction).
The semiotic imprint imbues a sign with an aura of uniqueness, spontaneously transforming it into a unique semiotic artefact. This idea leads towards the concept of semiotic aura ' the 'aura of reproduction' ' considered in juxtaposition to Benjamin's aura of authenticity.
While the semiotic imprint is identified as a significant phenomenon on the plane between plate and sheet, it occurs during semiosis in all media, acting as a catalyst for chaotic semiotic events and the origin of dynamically signifying semiotic systems.


Tuesday 27 September


1:30pm - 3.00pm





Back to program
Back to home page