Metaphorphosis

Metaphorphosis is the title I have decided to use to describe the process by which the substance that the word refers to changes, from something literal to something metaphorical, or from something complex to something of simpler character, often in such a way that we are unable to see the difference between the symbol and the symbolised, the new and the old.

The visual arts are prone to this pitfall, particularly photography, although this idea was most famously pointed out with the painting of a pipe that declared it was not a pipe.

Casual observers and non-participants are mostly likely to commit this error, as they lack the domain-specific knowledge to differentiate between types. Where one merely sees trees, the other sees coppiced birch, pollarded oak, and leyland cypress growing like a green skyscraper.

The key to this process is a successful prosthetic, which is why photography is such a naturally potent medium; because it is counter-intuitive to refer to a photograph of an apple as a photograph of an apple.

Industrialised society is full of examples of these idealised versions (photos, movies etc), and diluted versions (free-running, street-dance etc), replacing their whole and holistic counterparts.

We are under a metaphorical illusion – we call photos of apples, “apples”, without even realising that we are unintentionally using a metaphor, when the conscious use of a simile would be more appropriate: a photograph of an apple is like an apple, and so on. This takes effort.

The basis of this idea is that there exist significant differences between things which get lost and forgotten when we implicitly recycle or carelessly use words.