Hello Everyone!

Welcome to GDes 8362 The Nature of Representation. Please post a paragraph of your response to the first reading by John Berger (from Ways of Seeing). I’m interested in your responses to his emphasis on the importance of the context (architectural, social, cultural, etc.) in which images are viewed, and also how this idea of context might resonate with your own design practice, or with your own interest in and engagement with visual culture.

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3 responses to “Hello Everyone!

  1. Reading Berger, the section that struck me the most was the chart on page 24: “Of the places listed below which does a museum remind you of the most?” Most respondents chose church or library, and this makes sense to me. The inside of a museum – at least in my experience – is usually quiet and contemplative, a place to revere art/artifacts. Admittedly, I am often agitated in such spaces. While I appreciate and have deep respect for the artwork on display, the interactive human element is missing. A place to visit art/artifacts would be more welcoming with an atmosphere similar to a coffeehouse or public plaza. Conversation and discussion seem integral to being with art, allowing it to live with the modern population instead of hanging in a quiet room on its own because of market value (such as Berger mentions on page 23, re: The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist). That which gives value to art today may now be its publication. Reproduction and publication of artwork removes them from the environment for which they may have been intended… but a museum may do the very same thing. However, as Berger concludes this chapter, the politics and ethics of copyright and ownership add another layer of understanding and interpretation.

    As a designer/artist, I’m creating work for an audience – not necessarily tied to single work in a specific place (i.e., cathedral or private estate) – and I attribute this to the culture in which I was raised. This provides opportunity for interpretation, influence, change… and, unavoidably, reproduction and reuse. In a time when printing and digital reproduction are almost taken for granted, these are things that I must expect to happen.

  2. Thoughts on Berger's thoughts by Alex

    When Berger states, “The reciprocal nature of vision is more fundamental than that of spoken dialogue. Often dialogue is an attempt to verbalize this- an attempt to explain how, either metaphorically or literally, ‘you see things’, and an attempt to discover how ‘he sees things’”, I think he’s implying that short of actually experiencing the moments when an image is created, one is left to their own interpretation using what they know, feel, or learn.

    With an impression/interpretation of an image already in place, viewing that imagery out of its original context (a reproduction, placed amongst other imagery, etc.) could be cause for more confusion of true meaning, the real story, or how it is intended to be understood. This said, Berger’s claim that “..the art of the past is being mystified because a privileged minority is striving to invent a history which can retrospectively justify the role of the ruling classes..” takes this idea one step further, suggesting that the true story behind an image can be insisted upon by a voice of authority that people might trust is the truth.

    So if we’re relying on dialogue to tell the story of a work of art, it’s no wonder that part or the entire story is lost. This seems to me to be not just nature of time passing, but also the nature of storytelling: stories evolve and ideas get mixed. But when there is an image that is a testament to an event (isn’t this every piece of art ever created?), should the image be able to speak for itself? I don’t know whether I think this is possible!

    That a grouping of images is a language really appeals to me. It seems to give freedom to imagery and art, and for one to ‘use’ it seems to imply that the ‘user’ has some understanding of some part of its meaning or appearance.
    Much of my own work is about groupings of images, so this is encouraging me to think more intentionally about how they go together.

  3. Berger’s discussion on meaning and context was a great jump start for developing some ideas for my first project. There is much to consider when contemplating the semiotic relationship between artifact and meaning.

    However, I don’t completely agree with his statement regarding images and literature on page 10. He states that artifacts of the past, “In this respect images are more precise and richer than literature” Although my personal strength and focus is in communicating with elements and principles of design rather than written language, I don’t feel it is always superior. It seems like they are two roads to the same destination. As phrases such as “a picture is worth, or doing the work of a thousand words” and a passage of text “painting a picture” suggest, they are often in consort. They work together to expand and refine the meaning of an artifact or story.

    The realm of visual and verbal artifacts seem to have similar genres. The styles of declarative, persuasive, narrative, informative all have text and form based examples. So I consider visual and verbal abstraction to be closely related, whether the audience is viewing a piece of cubist sculpture or reading a poem. The visual is not uniformly superior to text. They both engage the mind and are enriched by the knowledge and experiences of the viewer.

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