September 10, 2008
Interchangeably: Words and images coexist. Communication, in a sense, is as basic as show and tell: the showing is just as important as the telling and vice versa–to truly convey meaning, both tools of communication must be exercised. The use of one impacts the use of other; their combined effectiveness depends not upon an equal balance but a partnership as both support the strengths of the other and make up for the weaknesses.
MODERN LANGUAGE: The rich, constantly varying and ever powerful use of words and images interdependently.
Pictorial Representation: As a student in an Art History class right now, its impressive to learn about the extent of prehistoric art. Paintings found in caves date back to 30,000 B.C.E., and more importantly, the work is awesome for such a primitive form of civilization. The mere existence of such findings is testimony to the significance of images in basic communication. While art historians don’t consider these images a form of narrative until thousands of years later, the fact that these pictorial representations, alongside icons and symbols combined to form the beginning of primitive language. So, pictures came first–but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as eloquent or as useful as the written language. The earliest forms of language were derived from pictures–to combine the two in an interdependent medium only seems natural and highly effective.
Specialization (in art and literature): McCloud makes an interesting point as he demonstrates the the growth in the divergence between words and pictures upon the invention of the printing press. Words and pictures both became distinctly specific to the purpose–the written language was highly specialized and elaborate which art was highly representational and detail oriented.
Senses: As words and images moved away from one another, their intent and focus were directed towards specific senses. For art, these sensations were visible–“resemblance, light and color,” and for words, these sensations were invisible–“treasures, emotions, spirituality.” Naturally, it seems, if words and images were combined, the would possess the ability to impact a broad spectrum of senses–and even though modern culture doesn’t deem such a combination (as in comics) “high art”, shouldn’t it be? The most powerful art has the ability to make the largest impact on the viewer no matter what medium of choice, and it only seems natural that the more mediums employed, the larger the impact. (However, it’s interesting to note that while McCloud is disappointed in modern culture for its lack of appreciation in comics, he fails to recognize the power of film, which combines moving images with sounds in an interdependent relationship)
Meaning (in art and literature): Words and images will always be connected by “the realm of ideas.” Modern (relatively) movements in both spectrums have been directed back towards meaning and away from resemblance and elusion. Viewers and readers alike were better able to relate and understand both mediums as they headed back to the notion that had always connected them both. New schools of art like dadaism became increasingly abstract, which led artists to finally combine images with words and still (for some time at least) their work was considered works of “high art.”
Comics:Sharing the same “instinct” as such artists, modern comics was born, combining words and images to convey meaning and create narrative. However, unlike dadaism, etc., comics have never been a form of high art–rather they are considered a form of “new media,” which, according to McCloud, has always been misunderstood (see perception of “great” art and “great” writing). The beauty and nature of comics is to combine words and images to create “great” works on the basis of their quality and this “virtue” alone. With the ability to express a wide array of human experiences, comics have grown on the basis of this combination.
Storytelling:The art of combining WORDS and IMAGES to relay an idea(s) or experience(s). Storytellers behold the power to exploit both mediums and ultimately reach a larger audience as a result.
September 9, 2008
September 5, 2008
Ways of Seeing–
nature of vision is more fundamental than that of spoken
All too often we forget this—what we can see can, in return, see us. No, despite the many failed attempts in our lifetimes, we cannot get away with staring at someone. We should, though we usually do not, expect them to question why we kept our gaze and return the favor.
Yet in a crowd, who’s to say that what grabs your attention will grab the attention of another? This is where the complexity in the reciprocal nature of vision lies. As Berger demonstrated with the invention and following impact of the camera, the human eye cannot capture every image set before it, let alone the entire world. According, the eye of the beholder carries significance in the individual as well as the other individuals from which this limited vision diverges. Perspective arises from these divergences because it is through the differences in personal experience that the image of an identical crowd takes on two separate meanings.
Like Berger said, one’s way of seeing is reflected in the choice of subject matter. Through photography and painting, drawing, etc., and even the slideshow of memories that flashes before ones eyes, images are used to convey meaning and express emotion. The power of imagery captured and portrayed through the eye of another gives us insight into both the individual in question and more importantly ourselves as we see the world through a different perspective.
However, the vision of the human eye is limited. It is nearly impossible to free our minds of our own perspective and what Berger called “learnt assumptions”. It is these “learnt assumptions” that so clearly demonstrate the correlation between the written word and what we see. Images and their associated meanings all too often arise from cultural context, the associated words and experiences that follow the image. For instance, fire is associated with hell—but why? Crows are associated with death—but why? Ultimately, images cannot escape the connotations that follow according to its historical and social context. However, often artists, as well as average individuals, often rely upon these universal meanings to express ones thoughts. Even so, an artist and/or a photographer cannot expect the viewer to understand his/her’s original intentions for the piece. Ever since the Renaissance, individuality has reigned supreme. Everything is relative—I say tomato, you say tamato. This is the beauty of art: it has the ability to warp itself to the needs of the viewer, needing not change the content but rather adjust only to the viewer’s perspective. Unfortunately, however, as paintings are mass-produced and art museums less visited and acclaimed by those other than the rich, these works of art have seemingly lost their true purpose. (I will note, however, that artists like Andy Warhol have and continue to understand the changing role of art in society and created their masterpieces accordingly).
Again I say, everything is relative for this is the nature of history. Accounts of any and every event of the past will differ slightly if not significantly. Every human being holds a different perspective and viewpoint. Because of this individuality, a person’s historical account can seem completely irrelevant to a person who underwent the same exact circumstances. Maybe this is why we often look to the past with a sense of awe—it is, in a sense, a mystery, and, as we are all too familiar, never to happen again (at least not in precisely the same way).
Ultimately, the role of perspective must always be examined when interpreting history. This necessity again attributes to the interdependence of words and images. Try driest of history books lack the necessity pictures. To understand history, words and images go hand in hand. In a way, images carry more significance than the words themselves, for images can capture the present in a way no words can. Images, like Berger stated, outlast their subject matter. They are not, and never will be, however timeless, for these images and the meaning these images convey rely so heavily upon the time and place from which they are extracted. While photography introduced this reality, it now seems that this truth was always evident—humans just chose to be ignorant of this fact.
In the end, with all this discussion of art and history, Berger asks us, what is a museum? He does not, as I agree with his point, intend to take away from the value of fine art and historical masterpieces with this question. However, as everything is relative, wouldn’t the most fascinating of museums, the kind that give true insight into an individual instead of an individual time or movement in history, lie within the expressions of our own homes, our own rooms and closets?
Well, of course, because it is here that the present is carried out—where the moments of the presents fade to memories of the past.