Monday, February 1, 2010

Jacques Derrida

by Mathilde Jansson

The French philosopher Jaques Derrida wrote the Dissemination in 1972, in Paris. He is known for introducing deconstruction. His project was to show that all metaphysical systems of great thinkers (such as Plato, Freud, etc) had fractions of totality and contradictions. He never rejected the idea of metaphysical systems but he thought of them as a project that could never be completed.

Deconstruction, as he is known for, is an ambiguous philosophical term that Derrida never wanted to give a strict definition of. It can be described as a kind of interpretation of texts with the aim to reveal hidden meanings, partly to give old texts new life and a new meaning through new interpretations and to put it in a new context and partly to show that all texts has a contradiction that is often hidden.

Derrida is often misunderstood for destroying meaning but Deconstruction instead exposes the instability of meaning and the play of form which is why it was important for fashion and the visual arts. Therefore deconstruction does not leave you with nothing but rather you expose the basis of value and continue with the process.

In opening to Dissemination, Derrida claims that everything we possibly could say is already said and in every possible way. We can’t explain more than we have already explained. He uses the example of Plato, who already said that writing can only repeat itself, which is true since we write about him and put new words and new explanations to his already existing ideas.

This is an important text for understanding the meaning of fashion and de-coding it. In order to read fashion we must ask questions of the construction of social values which do not mean anything outside the system. What is a Louis Vuitton bag to a primitive tribe of an isolated island? Just as bag. There is also the issue that meaning has already be done, meaning in fashion forms are known and then simply replayed. Designers challenge this concept by pushing the new especially with technology and new materials.


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  3. Derrida wrote in French "il n'y a pas de hors-texte" which actually does not translate "There is nothing outside a text" but "There is no outside of text"—which means that a text, though it has a lining, has no outside. The translation is a "super hero" translation (which is fine, but not even close to the idea).