At the end of the first week we decided to take teach the participants how to undertake a semiotic walk .
Without an understanding of the semiosphere one has little chance of understanding culture. The same applies for religion. So we decided on the semiotic walk we would combine both.
A walk into St Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna is a semiotic wonderland. https://www.stephanskirche.at
The first thing I noticed from outside and inside was the church was more a tourist Mecca than a Cathedral. I am sure that the thousands that packed the place and lined up to get in, were not looking at things the way we were.
A Semiotic walk requires a certain amount of preparation and understanding in seeing icons, signs, symbols, semiotics, graphics design, affordances and semiosis embedded in the unconscious. This is the place where culture is felt and not examined
This the place where culture was experienced, not analysed.
This the place where culture was felt, not measured.
This the place where culture was embodied, not defined
This is the place where ‘what we do around here’ becomes meaningless.
This is the place where history takes on new meaning.
Without a semiotic hermeneutic, one just sees objects.
Part of the semiotic walk was a tour of the Cathedral’s crypt. Descending into place of cold death was a new experience. Just as it was being amongst relics that were 900 years old. The place cold and damp, not like it was when the plague ravaged Vienna in times past.
Whilst priests and royalty were buried there, so too were tens of thousands of commoners with skulls stacked on each other like a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. And in this crypt there is no Indiana Jones.
When we ascend out of the crypt, we emerged into daylight on the western side of the Cathedral. If was like we too had been buried and resurrected. Except this time we were resurrected into the commercialism of souvenir shops and fast food market. I wonder which culture the Cathedral, Crypt or Commercialism was real.
Sometime the escapism of commercialism and the denial of fallibility is pure modern mythology.
So in this semiotic walk we ended on a discussion on what we had learned, by being immersed in three co-existing cultures.
‘What we do around here’ indeed!