MODULE 6SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS Art 100 Understanding Visual Culture
M6 overview What is semiotic analysis and how do I do it? Practicing semiotic analysis Together as a group Then in small groups
Ferdinand de Saussure FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE Born Geneva, Switzerland, 1857 Trained in ancient and modern languages at the University of Geneva and later, the University of Leipzig. Taught in Paris and Geneva. Died in 1913.
Course in General Linguistics Taught at University of Geneva, during academic years 1906-7, 1908-9, 1910- 11. First published 1916 by a team of students who carefully collated their lecture notes.
Key implications of thisshift 1. The sign is arbitrary. There is no necessary link between a particular set of sounds and the concept it designates. The sound and concept are united within the confines of a particular language and culture. In English the rooster says “cock-a-doodle-do”; in French “cocorico”; in German “kikiriki.”
Key implications of thisshift 2. The sign creates meaning differentially, in relation to other signs. Dog is not cat, not chipmunk, not chocolate chip cookie. Meaning is context-dependent. “You dog!” might sometimes refer to a dog, other times to a human.
Why are we studying thistheory of language in artclass? Does this mean visualimagery is like a language? To some extent, yes.
How do these insights help usto understand the language ofvisual imagery?Let’s work with an example: the semiotics of the color red.
Jessica Alba for Campari Limited edition calendar, 2009What does red mean in this context?
There is no simple equation (signifier (red)=signified (x).The signified depends in part upon the context in which you findthe signifier.
So, what do you think red means in these next examples?
Mark RothkoUntitled, 1960oil on canvas56 1/8 x 54 1/8inches
Gerhard Richter, Party, 1963Oil, nails and cord on canvas and newspaper72 x 60 inches
Working as a group, use what we learned tonight about semiotic analysis to work on the possible meanings of this picture.1. Identify some major "signifiers" in the painting. These are the visual elements of the picture that you believe carry the most meaning.2. For each signifier you identify, come up with a range of possible meanings (or "signifieds") you think it might indicate.3. Write a sentence that gives an overall interpretation. What does this picture as a whole mean, based upon your semiotic analysis of the individual signifiers? What do you think the artist is pointing toward by putting these elements together in this way?