Epistemic modality in the visual ‘art of dissent’: the expression of ‘realism’ in ideological and political Sardinian murales


This study, part of an ongoing research project based on identity and authenticity in building the image of Sardinia in international tourist discourse, will focus on the active roles played by the ‘language’ (both visual and verbal) to “narrate the story of the many Sardinian identities and myths: rebellion against authority, ethnic uniqueness and strenuous protection of local values” (Fodde, in print). The study tries to investigate the rationale that lies behind, and the rhetorical and pragmatic content of the social and political wall murals created between the late 60s and early 70s in Sardinia, as well as the representational function they have played not only as an instrument to describe class conflicts, but also the active role they have served in efforts to catalyze cultural support for the organization of political goals. Initially introduced in the late 60s to reproduce scenes of everyday life, wall murals quickly became the striking medium used by political activists to express themes beyond local events: criticism of the capitalist society, denunciation and social conquest, accompanied by a sensibility and by a feeling of disillusion concerning the Italian government’s centralization policy. Therefore, a political, social and historical analysis of the main events that have led to this mural production is necessary to understand the wider context in which the factors and the dynamics of this form of “artification” (Cozzolino: 2014: 167) has acted. The methodology refers to modality as one of the key dimensions of “social semiotics” (van Leeuwen 2005: 91) and aims at analyzing the ways in which the symbolic contents of Sardinian murals create a communal self-identification, legitimizing this form of narrative to further ideological and political goals. In more specific terms, attention is called to the concept of epistemic modality of mural images, with the scope of providing a systematic and comprehensive account of the grammar of their visual design. By analyzing the formal elements and the structures of the murals’ design, that is colour, perspective, framing, composition, and the texturing of their texts, this contribution aims to examine the ways in which mural images communicate meaning and create the truth or reality values of their representations.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v28p227

Keywords: epistemic modality, social semiotics, murals, symbolism, ideology


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