Language operates between literal and metaphorical signification. The power of a word lies in the very inadequacy of the context it is placed, in the unresolved or partially resolved tension of disparates.
A word fixed or a statement isolated without any decorative or “cubist” visual format, becomes a perception of similarity in dissimilars – in short a paradox. Congruity could be disrupted by a metaphorical complexity within a literal system. Literal usage becomes incantory when all metaphors are suppressed. Here language is built, not written. Yet, discursive literalness is apt to be a container for a radical metaphor. Literal statements often conceal violent analogies. The mind resists the false identity of such circumambient suggestions, only to accept an equally false logical surface. Banal words function as a feeble phenomena that fall into their own mental bogs of meaning. An emotion is suggested and demolished in one glance by certain words. Other words constantly shift or invert themselves without ending, these could be called “suspended words.” Simple statements are often based on language fears, and sometimes result in dogma or a non-sense. Words for mental processes are all derived from physical things. References are often reversed so that the “object” takes the place of the “word”. A is A is never A is A, but rather X is A. The misunderstood notion of a metaphor has it that A is X – that is wrong. The scale of a letter in a word changes one’s visual meaning of the word. Language thus becomes monumental because of the mutations of advertising. A word outside of the mind is a set of “dead letters”. The mania for literalness relates to the breakdown in the rational belief in reality. Books entomb words in a synthetic rigor mortis, perhaps that is why “print” is thought to have entered obsolescence. The mind of this death, however, is unrelentingly awake.
– Robert Smithson, LANGUAGE to be LOOKED at and/or THINGS to be READ (1967)