The existential value of the work of art, as a declaration about being, cannot be extracted from the adherent signals alone (its symbolism), nor from the self-signals alone (the medium). The self-signals taken alone prove only existence; adherent signals taken in isolation prove only the presence of meaning . . .
Recent movements in artistic practice stress self-signals alone, as in abstract expressionism; conversely, recent art scholarship has stressed adherent signals alone, as in iconography . . .
George Kubler (1962)footnote1
Movies can be located on a scale, abstract expressionism to absolute naturalism. The one, composed of self-signals alone, has as subject the medium itself. The other stresses content above form, technique only as a means—adherent signals predominate. Hollywood movies come near to this end of the scale, one reason for traditional contempt— ‘. . . the misguided efforts of the present-day film which imitates more or less successfully the pictorial composition of the old easel painting, its monocular vision and its picturesque settings.’ (Moholy-Nagy, 1965)footnote2
Moholy-Nagy held an extreme view, though one still worth recalling . . .