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Introduction to Visual Culture

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  • Nicholas Mirzoeff offers an explanation…(paraphrasing what he says)Modern life takes place onscreen. Life in industrialized countries is increasingly lived under constant video surveillance from cameras in buses and shopping malls, on roads, and next to cash machines. More and more people look back, using devices ranging from traditional cameras to camcorders and Webcams.
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    • 1. Introduction to Visual Culture FYS: Week 2 Deborah Jackson
    • 2. Visual Culture seminar tutors and contacts:Deborah JacksonFYS co-ordinatordeborah.jackson@ed.ac.ukRuth PelzerTutorr.pelzer@ed.ac.uk
    • 3. Assessment: Semester 1For this part of the course,you will need to write anessay of 1,500, answeringone of a choice of questionsbased around lectures youwill have attended.Full details of theassessment are on the e-portal.Assessment hand-in Sean Landersdate: Monday 26th Soft Wood (2006)November
    • 4. What is Visual Culture?Very broadly, Visual Culture is everything that is seen,that is produced to be seen, and the way in which it isseen and understood. It is that part of culture thatcommunicates through visual means. Alex Frost Format wars (HD DVD), 2007
    • 5. What is Visual Culture? Visual culture, to borrow Nicholas Mirzoeffs definition, is perhaps best understood as a tactic for studying the functions of a world addressed through pictures, images, and visualizations, rather than through texts and words.
    • 6. We are all participants in Visual Culture“This is Visual Culture. It is not just a part ofyour everyday life, it is your everyday life.” Nicholas Mirzoeff Kevin Harman Hotel Room (2010)
    • 7. Visual Culture StudiesVisual Culture is a growing interdisciplinary field ofstudy, which emerged out of the interaction ofanthropology, art history, media studies and manyother disciplines that focus on visual objects or theway pictures and images are created and used withinsociety. Bob and Roberta Smith Hijack Reality (2008)
    • 8. Visual Culture is concerned with the production, circulation, and consumption of images and the changing nature of subjectivity.Keith FarquharBoy (2012)
    • 9. Visual Culture involves exploring, analyzing, andcritiquing the relationship between culture and visuality,from a range of diverse theoretical perspectives,including: Art history Postmodernism Gender studies MarxismFeminism Sociology GlobalisationPoststructuralism Literary theoryPhilosophy Cultural anthropology Postcolonialism Capitalism Queer Theory Film/TV
    • 10. Why study Visual Culture?Our experiences arenow more visual andvisualized than everbefore. In the era ofthe visualscreen, yourviewpoint is crucial.For most people, lifeis mediated throughtelevision, film, andthe Internet.
    • 11. Why study Visual Culture? The Visual Culture approach acknowledges the reality of living in a world of cross-mediation. Our experience of culturally meaningful visual content appears in multiple forms, and visual content and codes migrate from one form to another.d Roberta Smith
Make your own damn art...
(1999)
    • 12. Images often move across social arenas from documentaryimages to advertisement to amateur video to news images toartworks.Each change in context produces a change in meaning. Mark Wallinger State Britain (2007) A recreation of Brian Haws anti-war protest in Parliament Square.
    • 13. New Ways of SeeingVisual Culture studies recognises that the visualimage is not stable but changes its relationship toexterior reality at particular moments.A single image can serve a multitude of purposes,appear in a range of settings, and mean differentthings to different people.Representation and spectatorship involvesrelationships of power.
    • 14. Decoding imagesWe decode, or read, complex images almost instantly, giving littlethought to our process of decoding.We decode images by interpreting clues to intended, unintended,and even suggested meanings.These clues may be formal elements of the image, such as colour,shade, and contrast, or the socio-historical context in which it ispresented. Banner held up by Celtic football fans, deriding their rivals Glasgow Rangers
    • 15. Visual Cultural Perspectives Study of Visual Culture merges popular and low cultural forms, media and communications, and the study of high cultural forms or fine art, design, and architecture.Big Fat Gypsy Weddings Channel 4 (2010-)
    • 16. Visual Cultural PerspectivesVisual culture analysesthe relevance ofclassed, gendered,sexual and racedsocial identities.
    • 17. The study of Visual Culture can include anything from:• Painting• Sculpture• Installation• Video art• Digital art• Photography• Film• Television• The Internet• Mobile screenic devices• Fashion• Medical & scientific imaging• Architecture & Urban design• Social spaces of museums, galleries, exhibitions, and other private and public environments of the everyday
    • 18. High and Low Culture Avant-Garde and Kitsch (1939) • Art of the masses, or kitsch, is uncultured. Kitsch is tied to mass production, and is not genuine culture Many of Greenberg’s ideas have been abandoned in contemporary criticism, no longer does art criticismClement Greenberg(1909 – 1994) make such a harsh distinctions between high art and low art.
    • 19. What is natural and what is acquired in our visual experiences?Artifacts and pictures have been made to be seen ina certain way, that is to say, they are social andcultural, not natural.Visual Culture focuses on the visual as a place wheremeanings are created and contested. Jeremy Deller
Sacrilege (2012)
    • 20. Visual Culture Studies involves an analysis ofcontemporary culture, media and societyIt important to understand how societies constructtheir visual perspectives through knowledge, beliefs,art, morals, laws, and customs, amongst other things. Cathy Wilkes I Give You All My Money (2012)
    • 21. Images and PowerAll images are producedwithin dynamics of socialpower and ideology.Ideology is the shared set ofvalues and belief whichindividuals live out theircomplex relations to a rangeof social structures.Ideologies often appear to benatural or given aspects ofeveryday life. Stuart Murray Wohoahh… (2012)
    • 22. Images and IdeologyIdeologies are produced and affirmed through the socialinstitutions in a given society, such as the family, education,medicine, law, the government, and the entertainment industry,among others. Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan The Story… (2012)
    • 23. Picture Theory The emergence of Visual Culture develops what W.J.T. Mitchell has called Picture Theory. Spectatorship (the look, the gaze, the glance, the practices of observation, surveillance, and visual pleasure) involves many of the same strategies as reading in order to analyse an image (decipherment, decoding, interpretation, etc).Barbara Kruger. Your gaze hitsthe side of my face (1981)
    • 24. RepresentationRepresentation refers to theuse of images (and language)to create meaning about theworld around us.These systems have rulesand conventions about how toexpress and interpretmeaning.We learn the rules andconventions of the systems of Alasdair Greyrepresentation within a given Faust in his studyculture. (1958)
    • 25. Image and MeaningAll images have two levels of meaning:The denotative meaning of the image refers to its literaldescriptive meaning.The connotative meanings rely on cultural and historic contextof the image and its viewers. Jeff Koons
    • 26. The Myth of the ImageRoland Barthes uses theterm myth to refer to thecultural values and beliefsthat are expressed throughconnotations parading asdenotations.Myth is the hidden set ofrules and conventionsthrough which meanings,which are specific to acertain group, are made toseen universal. Scott Myles Thank You (2012)
    • 27. Visual LiteracyVisual literacy has no limits. It is not just theunderstanding of canonical fine art, or the business ofadvertising, but also the entire visual world.Visual Culture studies provide you with the ability toanalyse the visual world. Nam June Paik Highway (1995)

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