This famous scene of the protagonist, Estrella, riding her bicycle up and down the road to herhome of Victor Erice´s film “The South” (El Sur) instances what Peirce refers to as icons. According to Peirce, icons “serve to convey ideas of the things they represent simply by imitating them” and are quite representative in photographs since they look to be exactly like the objects they represent (3). It is well known that film derives from photography. Therefore, I would like to discuss this filmic sequence focusing on the importance of icons in order to provide meaning. According to Pierce, we receive meaning through signs in ongoing sequences, named infinite semiosis, and therefore concepts or images are an interface for combining something individually perceptible with something intersubjectively cognitive. So human thought is dialogic, therefore there is a prior interpretation of signs and the meaning that can be expressed or represented further with signs (Irvine 9-10).
In this process of interpretation and networking, culture plays an important role. Yu M. Lotman affirms that we understand culture as a “nonhereditary memory of the community,” a memory expressing itself in a system of constraints and prescriptions. Erice´s film was released in 1983 during the early years of the young Spanish democracy (213). The film is full of references to Francoism and how a family whose political ideas opposed to Franco´s was isolated from the rest of the world. The following sequence encapsulates a network of meaning that operates in a dialogic system where multiple interpretations at the political and personal level take place. Young Estrella leaves the family home with her bicycle and her puppet to run down the long road that links the family home to the village as an allegory of their ideological isolation from the regime and the world. On an individual level Erice uses the bicycle, the dog, the lighting, and even the white marks on the trees as icons to represent the passing of time but also as promoting the development of the deeper symbolic resources of meaning and its potential combinations as constituent dialogic networks of meaning motivated by a specific cultural community in time and in place (Irvine 30).
As Lotman points out, “culture is memory or a record of how a community has experienced it or how it has connected to the past historical experience” (214). Erice portrays the figure of Estrella not only of that of a young girl who has matured, but also as a cultural and mental representation of the isolation of those against the regime at that time. The conceptual metaphor of Estrella bicycling the physical path and the conceptual liminal boundary that separates her and her family from “the real world” relies on a dialogic “situation in time and place” that could also be networked and extrapolated to other nodes of meaning. Some of them clearly perceptible at the individual and collective level to the members of the Spanish community that experienced Francoism, but also it is heavily reliant on “that cultural encyclopedia” that easily could conform meaning in a different cultural community that had experienced similar political circumstances. (Irvine 30)
Irvine, Martin, “Remix and the Dialogic Engine of Culture: A model for Generative Combinatoriality.” The Routledge Companion To Remix Studies. Ed. Eduardo Navas, et al. New York: Routledge, 2014. 1-60.
Lotman, Yu M. and B. A. Upensky. “On the Semiotic Mechanism of Culture.” New Literary History 9. 2 (Winter 1978): 211-232.
Peirce, C. S. “What is a Sign.” Peirce Edition Project. Indiana University. Media Theory and Cognitive Technologies. Georgetown U, Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.