Visual art, symbol formation, kinship, subjectivity, biographical time, Peter Gow


This paper explores the notion of painting as meaningful action (Gow 1999) and highlights the productivity of the idea as emerging from, and dovetailing, different strands of thought on the nature of symbols and actions. Bringing together Lévi-Strauss’ intuition on the dynamism and generativity of graphic systems, phenomenological studies on meaning making, and ethnographic analyses of Amazonian theories of corporeality and sociality, Gow has shown how Yine (Piro) designs provide a developmental model that combines ontogenesis and social change. This paper argues for the productivity of this approach in Amerindian studies, in anthropology, and in a dialogue with psychoanalytic theory incipient in Peter Gow’s writings. It points at future research within the framework of returning to the centrality of objects and images as vehicles of people’s meaningful actions and processes in time.