LA MESURE DES GESTES

PROLÉGOMÈNES À LA 

SÉMIOTIQUE GESTUELLE

 

 

Mouton / De Gruyter, Berlin 1973

 

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"In the first three parts, the author takes us through a selective critical historical review of various attempts at the objective representation of behavior before introducing us to his own ideal proposal. The selective historical review proceeds from the attempt at representing behavior via description, transcription and measurement. [...]

One of the tasks assigned by Francis Bacon to the human mind is the elaboration of a science of gestures. It seems now possible, Bouissac suggests at the conclusion of his methodological reflection, to spell out the birth of this science of gestures. The basic task is the segmentation of dynamic corporal sequences into elementary, measurable and discrete units and to build a system which, in its initial phase, is truly independent of linguistic notation, of anatomy, or of social context.

In his first approximation of a model, Bouissac holds that ‘any movement describes a volume in space. The constitutive gestural units of the analyzed sequence are then defined by the intersections of successive volumes.’ Bouissac thus looks at the body as emitting articulated volumes, theoretically measurable. A sequence becomes an ordinated series of volumes independent of the body which defines them, and capable of mathematical expression.

In his proposed model, space, represented by three-dimensional geometrization, becomes the primary postulate of the system with time and dynamics having the status of variables. The distinction of body movements and gestures disappears since the aim at this stage of the game is to look at motor configurations rather than their symbolic meaning. The notation system is truly arbitrary. No symbolic notations for arms, leg, feet, etc., are used, these being replaced by mathematical symbols. [...]

In two concluding chapters, Bouissac attempts to integrate his model of successive intersecting volumes with the perplexing problems in semiotics: that of structure and that of meaning. [...]

In perusing these pages, the reader marvels at the sophistication, the historical scope, and the awareness of contemporary thought; and yet, the gnawing question emerges, is a three-dimensional machines a Riesensspielzeug or a castle in the air? Or does it present the essential ideas which points to vistas for the further development of kinetic research?"

Norbert Freedman

Semiotica, 15,1 (1976) (83-96)

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" Le projet de cet ouvrage n’est ni biologique ni anthropométrique, mais bien sémiotique. Les gestes sont des messages signifiants dans un contexte, et spécialement l’acrobatie, l’exemple restreint mais suggestif auquel l’auteur, meneur de jeu fort abstrait, accroche l’imaginaire du lecteur. Mais avant d’aboutir à une grammaire du geste, il faut d’abord le décrire en le mesurant scientifiquement, ce qui semble à ce jour n’avoir jamais été fait. [...] La méthode de l’auteur est résolument appuyée sur le postulat de l’homologie du langage et du geste. Les deux comportent une double articulation et donc deux niveaux d’analyse: le découpage segmental et le syntagme gestuel.[...]

L’intérêt de cet ouvrage technique et abstrait est d’ouvrir une voie aux sémioticiens du geste. C’est évidemment la pratique de la méthode indiquée qui jugera en définitive son bien-fondé; en tous cas, s’il est vrai qu’un problème bien posé est déjà à moitié résolu, il nous semble que le mérite de l’auteur est d’avoir précisément bien posé son problème. Mais la science des gestes reste entièrement à faire. L’anthropologie de demain disposera alors peut-être d’un outil nouveau réellement scientifique."

H. Maurier

Anthropos 70 (1975) (293-294)



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