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2 Concepts of Representation

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Mia Jankowicz

on 19 March 2015

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Transcript of 2 Concepts of Representation

ARTV/DSGN/FILM 2113 - Intro to Visual Cultures
Session 2: Concepts of Representation

Key terms:
Means of production

Folklore and traditions?
A native society?
What is culture?

The point: As a field of study, visual culture includes the technological means of image production and image circulation

François Auguste Biard, Four hours at the Salon,1847
Oil on canvas

Collection of: Musée du Louvre, Paris

Leslie Cardew, 26 October 1933. Photograph of women with a ‘Guy’, in Britain.

Crispijn van de Passe, 1606. Etching showing a group portrait of the eight Gunpowder plotters, all named.

Burak Su, “V for Vendetta in Gezi Park,” photograph from Turkey posted to The Guardian online. Date: June 12, 2013.

What is culture?
A case study
"text: anything considered to be a subject for analysis by or
as if by
methods of literary criticism."
(Dictionary.com) [emphasis mine]

* A visual text need not be based on images only, but the visual part will strongly affect our interpretation of the whole.
Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group effort.
Pop culture?
... and visual

Image by unknown artist, 1815. A shoeshiner at work during Guy Fawkes' Day celebrations
Dan Kitwood/Getty images, 2005. An effigy of Guy Fawkes about to be burned on Bonfire Night, Lewe, UK.

Sturken & Cartwright argue that while
is an arbitrary, practical act of daily life,
is a purposeful act of choice: a practice. This involves decisions and power relations, of looking and being looked at.
* Or as we found in our reading: "...the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us." (Sturken & Cartwright p12)
Visual text
* For now we can note that it is a term taken from Marxist theory, typically talking about the factory, which argues that whoever has control of the means of production has control over the whole situation.
* The tools for making things from raw, natural resources. These can be both manual and industrial tools (ie, a paintbrush or a camera.)

* In industrialized and digital societies, these tools tend to be organized into entire systems (which makes it possible for someone to own and control the
means of production
… we will return to this).
2008: 'V for Vendetta' masks worn at Anonymous anti-Scientology protest, Tottenham Court Road, London.
2011: The same mask appears in the Occupy protests.
2011: ... and is eventually worn in Midan Tahrir after the ouster of Mubarak.
A cigarette card of Guy Fawkes, 1930s
* The act of portraying, depicting, symbolizing, or presenting the likeness of something in the world (hence the word re-presentation). As we “make use” of things in the world by saying things, thinking things, and feeling things about them, we are representing them.
(Adjective form: Mimetic) A classical definition of representation that argues that representations work by mirroring reality, or imitate the appearance of real things.
A theory about representation proposing a different model of representation than mimesis. Social constructionists argue that the meaning of things is not fixed and cannot simply be “reflected.” Rather, the meaning of things is constructed in a social setting by means of systems of representation.
Social Construction
* The point is that the study of visual culture includes the study of both making and distributing images.
Even the human eye does not produce exact mimesis: our eyes receive images upside down and the brain converts them to the right way up.
Visual culture = a field of study concerned with cultural processes that rely on visual images, imagery, and practices of looking

Do you agree that there is a difference between looking and seeing?
Diagram of types of images from the 1984 article “What is an Image?” by leading theorist of visual culture WJT Mitchell
Production &

Means of production
Anonymous masks being made in a factory in Brazil. Time Warner owns the rights to this mask, thus they own the means of production. How does this change the meaning of the mask image?
... or social construction?
Everything we see is first mediated by the eye.
Rene Magritte, 1929 "The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe)". Oil on canvas
Pieter Claesz. (Dutch, about 1597–1660), Still Life with Stoneware Jug, Wine Glass, Herring, and Bread, 1642, oil on panel. [Collection MFA Boston].
Pieter Claesz (Dutch, about 1597–1660), Still Life with Silver Brandy Bowl, Wine Glass, Herring, and Bread, 1642, oil on panel. [Collection MFA Boston].
Rene Magritte, 1929 "The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe)". Oil on canvas
"Culture is the shared knowledge
and schemes created by a set of
people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them."
- JP Lederach, Professor in Conflict Resolution, 1995.
This course provides:
* A primer in visual literacy, a foundation for further arts learning.
* Familiarity with key terms and methods such as iconology, social history, art history, and semiotics.
* Case studies and readings of important thinkers and practitioners, in context.
* Welcome to your assigned seat; we will take
attendance every session.
* More than 10 minutes late will count as an
unexcused absence.
* More than 6 sessions missed, excused or unexcused, may reduce your grade on the grounds of attendance alone.
Make sure to contact me in advance if you have a good reason to be absent.
* There will be no make-up quizzes or exams; your
score will be calculated either as 0 (for an
unexcused absence) or a fair average calculated.
* Turn off your phones please!
Your grade will be based on :
* Attendance & participation (10%)
* Two assignments (25%)
* Three reading quizzes (15%)
* A mid-term examination (25%)
* A final examination (25%)
Academic honesty

- All assignments will be submitted through
Blackboard (NOT turnitin.com as previously announced).

- Follow the AUC statement of academic

By applying yourself to this course, you will be able to:
* Apply a toolkit of key terms and methodological approaches to interpreting visual culture.
* Think critically about a wide range of visual material.
* Trace a history of sight as a social phenomenon.
* Evaluate the role of images in a specific cultural setting as well as the global processes that link these settings together.
* Appreciate the complexity of visual cultures in the world.
* We will do this by looking at many types of visual texts coming from many fields: Paintings, adverts, movies, posters, old and new photography, TV stills, etc; from the worlds of art, cinema, design, news, etc

* We will learn about their technical construction

* We will look at them in context: how they were produced, when they were produced, etc

* We will use various different methods of analysing them, and evaluate the usefulnss of those methods

* We will look at the purpose and effects of the visual texts, both intended and unintended

Social construction

Their First Murder
, 1941, Weegee.

Reading: Visual Culture textbook, 11-21 (stop before paragraph beginning ‘another case study’).
Full transcript