Do I contradict myself ?
Very well, then, I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
Vorrei e non vorrei
— Zerlina, “Là ci darem la mano”, Don Giovanni
I can’t go on, I’ll go on
− Samuel Becket, «The Unnamble»
Either it is raining or it is not states a simple principle known
as the principle of non-contradiction : no contradiction is true. Following this principle, it cannot be the case that the proposition «It is raining» is true and the negation of this proposition, «It is not raining», is also true. The conjunction «It is raining and it is not raining» cannot be true, because nothing can be true and false.
If contradictions were true, nothing could be meaningful. Something is indeed meaningful only if it excludes something : a claim that rules out nothing, says nothing. This goes further : if
a proposition (like «It is raining») does not rule out the negation of the proposition («It is not raining»), it rules out nothing. The premiss here is the following : a proposition is meaningful if and only if it rules out something. But is this true ? Consider the claim «Everything is true». This rules nothing out : it entails everything. But the claim is meaningful, since we can test it (it is false, not everything is true). Moreover, the negation of the claim, «Something is not true», is meaningful (and true).
However, in a range of ambivalence, contradictions lies at heart of value judgment. Often, speakers affirm contradictions of the form «a (a proposition) is v (a value judgment like «good», «bad», etc.) and a is not v». When affirmed in full awareness, what can be said of the people holding those contradictions ? They believe them and do not believe them, like illustrated by the«Sorry not sorry»or «I’m not sayin’ I’m just sayin’» trending meme on social medias. In marketing strategies, «work not work» has been taken by Samsonite (the luggages), «Guilty not guilty» by Gucci.
Sometimes, in cases close to irony, it is the recognition of the apparent contradiction that the speaker exploits to generate the higher-order coherence of the message : Not punk enough to be punk but not not punk enough to be not punk. Another way to produce an effect is to use contradiction involving prosody (playing on auditory measure such as tone) : He’s still great, but he’s not GREAT.
Either it is raining or it is not (at a particular space and time) is therefore a proposition about certain operations inside a frame. Playing on the dry formalism of contradictions and the way they move throughout a determinate logical system, it uses the shifting and entailments inside an operative framework to act on a certain rationalization of the exhibition. Outside of a usual pathway, the works in WallRiss perform at the intersection between exposure and retreating. They voyage then as a vessel : as a sign of previous arrivals and departures, a threshold between worlds, a contact zone for communities across time. As Sherlock Holmes states in the «Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax», it is in this kind of in-between that one finds the truth : «Now we will take another line of reasoning. When you follow two separate chains of thought, Watson, you will find some point of intersection which should approximate to the truth.»