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Monday, March 4, 2013

An Excerpt From Rob Shields : A Tale Of Three Louis: Ambiguity, Masculinity And The Bow Tie

"But in effect, the bow tie acts as a conduit of semiotic flows; it has a function similar to a lightning rod or conductor, capturing the always approximate arrangement of actants of active elements such as the pose of the body, its posture and comportment, the surrounding context, the other elements worn and the style of the bow, into an assemblage that glosses as one ‘meaning’."

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard 
1899Musee du Petit Palais, Paris; Venturi 696 

And here are some more wonderful excerpts from this essay.

"The bow tie marks a middle class of men who have higher cultural and social status, above and beyond their often low economic status. They are ‘maestros’, the shamans of the ‘Western’ culture whose performative competence in orchestrating meanings of the bow tie is indicative of their competence in other cultural performances."

"In opposition to many proletarian radicals’ investment in self-effacing everyday garb of collectivism, the bow tie indicates the self-interest and power of the ‘maestro’. Power, cultural as much as economic – is not in this case delegated but ‘held’ and concentrated – much as a sorcerer might ‘hold’ a magical spell before it is cast."

"The bow tie is as much the costume of the professional who wishes to be taken seriously and stand out, as the ‘uniform’ of the comedian. Or, misunderstandings can be the source of the unexpected meanings, as the context in which the wearer sports a bow tie moderates its meaning and the ‘image’ of the wearer (David 1992)."

"The ambiguous social status of the bow tied male (servant of patron?) makes the meanting of the bow tie inherently reversible. It can this be called a liminal signifier, as if on a threshold (limen) turned, Janus-like, into both spaces. It is, in Victor Turner’s phrase ‘betwixt and between’ (1979)."

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