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GE 20: Reading Visual Arts
An Introduction
Weeks 1-2
BIG PICTURE IN FOCUS
At the end of the unit, you are expected to
demonstrate in-depth knowledge on the
definition, importance, and elements of reading
visual art.
Essential Terms:
 Reading. A particular form of visual practice; is both an
active and a creative process.
 Reading the Visual. We draw on our general and
specific knowledge, tastes, habits, and personal context.
 Visual Culture. Its concentration is on the interface
between images and viewers rather than on artists and
works.
Cont’d…
 Spectatorship. Is the production of social media,
especially digital media.
 Visual Matter. It is considered beautiful or appealing.
 Semiotics. It is an analytical approach and a research
methodology that examines the use of what we called
signs in society.
Cont’d…
 Sign. It is a basic unit of communication; it is just
something that has some meaning for someone; means
something, and not one thing.
 Text. The name of a group of signs- a collection of signs
organized in a particular way to make meaning.
 Context. This means the environment in which a text
occurs, and communication takes place.
The Activity of Seeing
The Activity of Seeing
•Planning and taking a photograph is like
many human activities, an intensely visual
experience, so is driving a car, where we are
constantly visualizing and making sense of
the space through which we are moving.
Cont’d…
•Driving a car is a relatively unreflective
activity and even below the level of
consciousness, while taking a photograph is
usually conscious, deliberate and self-
reflective.
What is Reading Visual Arts?
•The visual arts embody physical, cultural
and spiritual aspects of life. They function as
an important communication system through
which meanings are construed in ways that
are different from other language systems.
Seeing as Reading
3 Main Points in Seeing as Reading:
 We see things we are actively engaging with
our environment rather than merely
reproducing everything within our line of sight.
Cont’d…
 Every act of looking and seeing is also an act of not
seeing-some things that must remain invisible if we are
to pay attention to other things in view.
 The extent to which we see, focus on and pay
attention to the world around us. (Three actions are
inextricably linked, depends upon the specific context
in which we find ourselves).
Cont’d…
•If a subject does not construct a rich mental
model or scene in her mind, then reading,
thinking, or problem-solving cannot occur.
Without a visual model, there will be nothing
to think with, and nothing to think about.
Seeing in Context
•Seeing's context exhibits focus on how the
environment affects the way we see
everything - even things as fundamental as
color and brightness. How do you really tell
whether something is dark or bright?
Cont’d…
•What role does the light falling on an object
play in your perception of it? At Bright Black,
you'll be presented with a simple card and
asked to describe it. But your perception of
the card changes spectacularly as more of its
surroundings are revealed.
Techniques of Seeing as Reading
•Up to this point we have concentrated on
explaining how and why people see in
particular ways, and we have referred to
habitus, cultural trajectory and cultural
literacy as the most important factors in
determining what we see.
Seeing as Conscious or
Unconscious
•The techniques we will consider include
selection, omission and frame, signification
and evaluation, arrangement, differentiation
and connection, focus, and context.
Cont’d…
• It is important to keep in mind that there is
no necessary temporal distinction among
these techniques; they are part of the same
process of making the visual, and one cannot
be conceived without regard to the others.
1. Selection and Omission
•The first and most important techniques of
reading the visual as we pointed out that
every act of looking and seeing is also an act
of not seeing.
A photograph of a woman sitting on
the steps of a house with a dog.
Cont’d…
•The photograph only shows us a selection of
these: it includes a woman, a dog, the steps,
some flowers or bushes, the lower part of the
door and a shuttered window.
Cont’d…
•The selection of these details (and the
omission of the others) helps to constitute
and make the visual.
Cont’d…
•This is productive in two ways. Firstly, it
suggests a set of relationships between, and
stories about, the various parts—perhaps the
woman is playing with her dog at her house;
perhaps she is simply relaxing on her steps.
Cont’d…
• Secondly, it establishes a (usually temporary)
hierarchy regarding the potentially visible; that
is to say, whoever took this photograph or
observed this scene decided (at a conscious or
unconscious level) that this content within this
space at this time was interesting or worthy of
attention.
Cont’d…
•In other words, they made an evaluative
decision. This may have been careful and
deliberate (they set the scene, posed the
woman, took the shot) or spontaneous (they
were wandering by, the scene appealed to
them, they took a photograph).
Cont’d…
•Either way, these acts of selection, omission,
framing and evaluation produce a visual text.
What do we mean by the term
‘visual text’?
A 'visual text' is usually just a fancy way of saying
'an image' when it's related to English and
analyzing texts. Basically, it means that whatever
you’re analyzing is a visual medium – think book
covers, picture books, posters or still frames from
movies!
Cont’d…
• Visual texts are images or pictures that don't
move. They may or may not have words that add
to the meaning. You can analyze images, meaning
you can look closely at images to figure out
information.
2. Attention and Focus
•These are the two important factors if we are
attending closely or carefully to an event,
person, thing or scene, we will create a text
that is made up of what we can call
contiguous elements.
Cont’d…
• So, if we were staring out of a window, we might
see tree branches waving in the wind directly in front
of us and a cloudy sky above, but we would also be
likely to include the window and curtains or blinds,
the computer that is partly between us and the
window, a section of the desk on which the computer
is sitting, the telephone and the pile of books slightly
to the side.
Cont’d…
• We might be more peripherally aware of
other objects within our purview, such as the
walls of the room, bookshelves, papers,
carpet or the ceiling.
Cont’d…
• Our eyes may be caught by the color or
movement of things—the deep purple of the
walls, the brightly colored, whirling images of
the screen saver on the computer. But the
decision about what is included within the main
frame and what is left to the periphery is very
much of the moment.
Cont’d…
• In other words, if I watch the computer
screen or look out the window, the function or
context of my looking and seeing (whether to
do something specific like check email, or
just to look dreamily away from my work) will
determine what is included in the visual texts
I produce.
Seeing in Time and Motion
A few elements contribute to or facilitate the process
of suturing the world to make a text:
 Colors help us to differentiate elements within our
purview.
 Shape and movement
 Other elements (such as texture, distance and
light)
Text and Intertext
Cont’d…
5 photographs were shown at the
former
•They were not originally taken as a series,
intended to be placed together, or considered
for public consumption; rather, they were
private family photographs which we have
put together, not entirely arbitrarily, to make a
text.
Cont’d…
• We might take this text as being about the
family and its history, which would involve
identifying the different generations and their
relationship to one another, through
reference to features such as clothes and
physical characteristics.
Cont’d…
• A sign, we have suggested, is anything that is
treated as a meaningful part of the unit that is
the text. We identify signs and group them
together as if they were a unit by a process of
relating available material to the other texts
and text-types with which we are familiar from
our memories and cultural histories.
Cont’d…
• The use of other texts to create new texts is
called intertextuality, and the term for text-
types is genre. In order to consider these two
concepts and how they inform or influence
visual activity, let’s look again at the series of
photographs in Figure 1.4.
Cont’d…
•We made the point that every photograph in
the collection is made up of potential signs
(the people, their clothes, their facial
expressions and poses, the space between
them, the setting) that could be treated as
individual texts—without needing to refer to
any of the other photographs.
Texts and Genres
•Genres—which we discuss in more detail
can be defined as ‘text types which structure
meanings in certain ways, through their
association with a particular social purpose
and social context’ (Schirato and Yell 2000:
189).
Cont’d…
• We normally think of genres in terms of cultural
fields and mediums such as fiction or film—for
instance, detective, science fiction or romance
novels; and action, horror or erotic films. Each
of these genres is identifiable in terms of its
content, narrative, characterization, discourses,
values and worldviews.
Cont’d…
•Genres then, like intertexts, do not provide us
with special access to visual reality; rather,
they are frames and references that we use
to negotiate, edit, evaluate and in a sense
read the visual as a series of texts.
Conclusion
•What is important, in any consideration of
how we read the visual, is that as ‘readers’
we are also ‘writers’, selecting, editing and
framing all that we see.
Cont’d…
•Most of the time this work is unconscious, but
even when our seeing is conscious and
attentive, we will still make what we see by
using the same kinds of techniques (such as
selection and omission) and be limited in
what we see by factors such as context,
habitus and cultural literacy.
Thank you for listening!
“Art is in the eye of the beholder, and
everyone will have their own
interpretation.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

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Week 1-2. Reading Visual Introduction.pptx

  • 1. GE 20: Reading Visual Arts An Introduction Weeks 1-2
  • 2. BIG PICTURE IN FOCUS At the end of the unit, you are expected to demonstrate in-depth knowledge on the definition, importance, and elements of reading visual art.
  • 3. Essential Terms:  Reading. A particular form of visual practice; is both an active and a creative process.  Reading the Visual. We draw on our general and specific knowledge, tastes, habits, and personal context.  Visual Culture. Its concentration is on the interface between images and viewers rather than on artists and works.
  • 4. Cont’d…  Spectatorship. Is the production of social media, especially digital media.  Visual Matter. It is considered beautiful or appealing.  Semiotics. It is an analytical approach and a research methodology that examines the use of what we called signs in society.
  • 5. Cont’d…  Sign. It is a basic unit of communication; it is just something that has some meaning for someone; means something, and not one thing.  Text. The name of a group of signs- a collection of signs organized in a particular way to make meaning.  Context. This means the environment in which a text occurs, and communication takes place.
  • 7. The Activity of Seeing •Planning and taking a photograph is like many human activities, an intensely visual experience, so is driving a car, where we are constantly visualizing and making sense of the space through which we are moving.
  • 8. Cont’d… •Driving a car is a relatively unreflective activity and even below the level of consciousness, while taking a photograph is usually conscious, deliberate and self- reflective.
  • 9. What is Reading Visual Arts? •The visual arts embody physical, cultural and spiritual aspects of life. They function as an important communication system through which meanings are construed in ways that are different from other language systems.
  • 10. Seeing as Reading 3 Main Points in Seeing as Reading:  We see things we are actively engaging with our environment rather than merely reproducing everything within our line of sight.
  • 11. Cont’d…  Every act of looking and seeing is also an act of not seeing-some things that must remain invisible if we are to pay attention to other things in view.  The extent to which we see, focus on and pay attention to the world around us. (Three actions are inextricably linked, depends upon the specific context in which we find ourselves).
  • 12.
  • 13. Cont’d… •If a subject does not construct a rich mental model or scene in her mind, then reading, thinking, or problem-solving cannot occur. Without a visual model, there will be nothing to think with, and nothing to think about.
  • 14. Seeing in Context •Seeing's context exhibits focus on how the environment affects the way we see everything - even things as fundamental as color and brightness. How do you really tell whether something is dark or bright?
  • 15. Cont’d… •What role does the light falling on an object play in your perception of it? At Bright Black, you'll be presented with a simple card and asked to describe it. But your perception of the card changes spectacularly as more of its surroundings are revealed.
  • 16. Techniques of Seeing as Reading •Up to this point we have concentrated on explaining how and why people see in particular ways, and we have referred to habitus, cultural trajectory and cultural literacy as the most important factors in determining what we see.
  • 17. Seeing as Conscious or Unconscious •The techniques we will consider include selection, omission and frame, signification and evaluation, arrangement, differentiation and connection, focus, and context.
  • 18. Cont’d… • It is important to keep in mind that there is no necessary temporal distinction among these techniques; they are part of the same process of making the visual, and one cannot be conceived without regard to the others.
  • 19. 1. Selection and Omission •The first and most important techniques of reading the visual as we pointed out that every act of looking and seeing is also an act of not seeing.
  • 20. A photograph of a woman sitting on the steps of a house with a dog.
  • 21. Cont’d… •The photograph only shows us a selection of these: it includes a woman, a dog, the steps, some flowers or bushes, the lower part of the door and a shuttered window.
  • 22. Cont’d… •The selection of these details (and the omission of the others) helps to constitute and make the visual.
  • 23. Cont’d… •This is productive in two ways. Firstly, it suggests a set of relationships between, and stories about, the various parts—perhaps the woman is playing with her dog at her house; perhaps she is simply relaxing on her steps.
  • 24. Cont’d… • Secondly, it establishes a (usually temporary) hierarchy regarding the potentially visible; that is to say, whoever took this photograph or observed this scene decided (at a conscious or unconscious level) that this content within this space at this time was interesting or worthy of attention.
  • 25. Cont’d… •In other words, they made an evaluative decision. This may have been careful and deliberate (they set the scene, posed the woman, took the shot) or spontaneous (they were wandering by, the scene appealed to them, they took a photograph).
  • 26. Cont’d… •Either way, these acts of selection, omission, framing and evaluation produce a visual text.
  • 27. What do we mean by the term ‘visual text’? A 'visual text' is usually just a fancy way of saying 'an image' when it's related to English and analyzing texts. Basically, it means that whatever you’re analyzing is a visual medium – think book covers, picture books, posters or still frames from movies!
  • 28. Cont’d… • Visual texts are images or pictures that don't move. They may or may not have words that add to the meaning. You can analyze images, meaning you can look closely at images to figure out information.
  • 29. 2. Attention and Focus •These are the two important factors if we are attending closely or carefully to an event, person, thing or scene, we will create a text that is made up of what we can call contiguous elements.
  • 30. Cont’d… • So, if we were staring out of a window, we might see tree branches waving in the wind directly in front of us and a cloudy sky above, but we would also be likely to include the window and curtains or blinds, the computer that is partly between us and the window, a section of the desk on which the computer is sitting, the telephone and the pile of books slightly to the side.
  • 31. Cont’d… • We might be more peripherally aware of other objects within our purview, such as the walls of the room, bookshelves, papers, carpet or the ceiling.
  • 32. Cont’d… • Our eyes may be caught by the color or movement of things—the deep purple of the walls, the brightly colored, whirling images of the screen saver on the computer. But the decision about what is included within the main frame and what is left to the periphery is very much of the moment.
  • 33. Cont’d… • In other words, if I watch the computer screen or look out the window, the function or context of my looking and seeing (whether to do something specific like check email, or just to look dreamily away from my work) will determine what is included in the visual texts I produce.
  • 34. Seeing in Time and Motion A few elements contribute to or facilitate the process of suturing the world to make a text:  Colors help us to differentiate elements within our purview.  Shape and movement  Other elements (such as texture, distance and light)
  • 37. 5 photographs were shown at the former •They were not originally taken as a series, intended to be placed together, or considered for public consumption; rather, they were private family photographs which we have put together, not entirely arbitrarily, to make a text.
  • 38. Cont’d… • We might take this text as being about the family and its history, which would involve identifying the different generations and their relationship to one another, through reference to features such as clothes and physical characteristics.
  • 39. Cont’d… • A sign, we have suggested, is anything that is treated as a meaningful part of the unit that is the text. We identify signs and group them together as if they were a unit by a process of relating available material to the other texts and text-types with which we are familiar from our memories and cultural histories.
  • 40. Cont’d… • The use of other texts to create new texts is called intertextuality, and the term for text- types is genre. In order to consider these two concepts and how they inform or influence visual activity, let’s look again at the series of photographs in Figure 1.4.
  • 41. Cont’d… •We made the point that every photograph in the collection is made up of potential signs (the people, their clothes, their facial expressions and poses, the space between them, the setting) that could be treated as individual texts—without needing to refer to any of the other photographs.
  • 42. Texts and Genres •Genres—which we discuss in more detail can be defined as ‘text types which structure meanings in certain ways, through their association with a particular social purpose and social context’ (Schirato and Yell 2000: 189).
  • 43. Cont’d… • We normally think of genres in terms of cultural fields and mediums such as fiction or film—for instance, detective, science fiction or romance novels; and action, horror or erotic films. Each of these genres is identifiable in terms of its content, narrative, characterization, discourses, values and worldviews.
  • 44. Cont’d… •Genres then, like intertexts, do not provide us with special access to visual reality; rather, they are frames and references that we use to negotiate, edit, evaluate and in a sense read the visual as a series of texts.
  • 45. Conclusion •What is important, in any consideration of how we read the visual, is that as ‘readers’ we are also ‘writers’, selecting, editing and framing all that we see.
  • 46. Cont’d… •Most of the time this work is unconscious, but even when our seeing is conscious and attentive, we will still make what we see by using the same kinds of techniques (such as selection and omission) and be limited in what we see by factors such as context, habitus and cultural literacy.
  • 47. Thank you for listening! “Art is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own interpretation.” ― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly