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The Belsey reading got me thinking this week about its relevance in the ongoing struggle between art and craft, concept and execution.
There always seems to be an argument going on between those who think that art (why you make it) is more important, and those who think craft (how you make it) is more important. I tend to believe that they’re both really important but my innate predilection always draws me toward craft and I have to force myself to consider concept.
I was delighted with Belsey on page 47 when she says, “Form and content cannot be read separately”. It seems to vindicate some works that I love that have always appeared to be more about craft than about concept. I like the idea that by giving form to an object you are automatically imbuing it with content.
Saussure is introducing the concept of sign, which is composed of signifier and signified. When it applied to fine art, the visual image of the artwork would be signifier and the meaning; concept of the artwork would be the signified. And the relation of signifier and signified is arbitrary. Saussure believe different languages have different value(I am not sure I get confused when I was reading this part).
Claude Levi-Strauss’s Structural Anthropology is starts from the idea of Saussure, and Levi-Strauss believes that language (or linguistics) have connection with social phenomena. For this his writing was about arguing of the relation and value of linguistics of different societies. Since this article is written at 1958 which is after the world war 2 he is noticing the differences of “primitive (Levi-Strauss seems to hate to use this word) society”/Asiatic societies and the one of the differences is these societies have kinship systems. Levi-Strauss is following the idea of Marx but he denounces some Marxist historians like Rodinson who doesn’t respect the difference of the non-(or pre-) capitalistic or primitive societies and have the point of view of imperialism. I was wondering since this reading was all about the relation between linguistics and societies and value of the different societies, what could we talk about art or media related to this reading. And also Levi-Strauss mentioned that Marx’s ideology was simply a “mirror image”. Is this concept of “mirror image” coming from Lacan?
Barthes’s writing (Camera Lucida) was interesting to read because the time he wrote this article was when the photography was already familiar to the public and he was trying to classify or organize the definition of photography by using examples of different kinds of photography. Barthes seems like he was really fascinated by photography, but for me I didn’t fully emphasize with him about the part he mention about he had to “pose” front of the lens and he feels like photograph creates him or mortifies his body.. because before photography people had to “pose” front of the painter and painting created the person. Is it because as photography came out it was opened to all kinds of people and it gets democratic than before?
At “S/Z”, Barthes is focusing about the role of the reader (viewer) and stated that the reader have to be actively relate to the reading, and this is mentioned at the writing by Belsey. However I was having a hard time understanding the definition of post-structualism.. Is post structuralism is about viewer/reader have to be act actively to the writing or a piece of art and find a new signifier not from the auther or the artist?
Readings 2- Structuralism/Semiotics/Post-Structuralism
The two articles that caught my attention the most were Structuralism and Semiotics by Kate McGowan and Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes. In McGowan’s article, she discusses the word Semiotics. She described the word as “signs”: more in depth, a study of signs and symbols and communication behaviors (Dictonary.com). Before I finished the first paragraph about semiotics, I asked myself, “…does semiotics profile people, or a culture of people?” McGowan also mentioned that advertisements uses semiotics to market towards a group of people; hence the words ‘target audience’.
In Barthes article, he mentions how photographs are just like language. He even stated he, “…wanted a History of Looking.” Barthes believed that just like the cave drawings, photographs tell a story and record history. With this thought, I reflect back to McGowan’s article about semiotics. What if people read the “signs” wrong? What if the semiotics is one sided? How can ones cultural history be told truthfully if the photographs only tell one side of the story?
Barthes discussed how the images from Nicaragua affected him as a spectator. The images were recorded documentation about what was happening during that time period, but the images were being read as documentation of ones cultural behavior. Images, just like semiotics, can be one sided. If one does not know how to read the “language” one can misread the image and interpret the message wrong. Barthes stated, “… their homogeneity remained cultural.” I understood this to mean the images from Nicaragua were a poor representation of the culture. Even though, war was taken part in Nicaragua this does not mean all Nicaraguans are poor and fighting in wars. These images in Barthes articles are not telling the other side of ones culture. And this can be a problem with semiotics; one culture reads the signs wrong for another culture.
Because of this era, Barthes discussed that photography is a real document. Unlike the cave drawing, which people ask if the drawings are even real, photographs are/can be factual. And photographs need to be able to communicate the messages successfully, not with a bias point view.
Ferdinand de Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics (1916)
The article breaks down language into two functioning elements, sound and ideas. An articulus creates meaning, “in which an idea is fixed in a sound and a sound becomes the sign of an idea” (de Saussure 6). This concept was hard for me to grasp at first, but with further investigation of articulus I realized sound was being used as a joining flexible material to attach a sign in language to an idea. It is functioning in the same way as the elbow of an arm. In this way root meanings are created. The article then breaks down value vs signification. value is just a part of signification Value is also an interchangeable element. When value is changed it doesn’t affect the idea or the sound. Before the system of language is created by the signified and the signifier there is neither idea or sound.
1.) If different values creates duality, and have no affect on the phonic or psychological elements, how is value translated in different languages? Wouldn’t the phonic and psychological elements be affected by the translation?
2.) If differences implies positive terms, why are there only differences with negative terms?
Kate McGowan- Structuralism and Semiotics
The article begins by breaking down the cultural understanding of the term spinster and the image of an older woman that is culturally attached to the word. Structure is created by man, its not created by an all knowing entity. Structure is established to create meaning. Without language there is only chaos. The image of spinster could not be created without recognizing the conceptual difference between man and woman. Then the concept of marriage would have to establish the symbolism of a relationship between a man and a woman. McGowan then argues that cultural concepts of gender can be changed. She goes as far to say “that the culture we claim as ‘ours’ is in turn neither natural nor inevitable” (McGowan 6). The human made structure produces cultural understandings. She then breaks down film into a system of images, and how images can be manipulated to signify different meanings. She argues that meanings can be changed. Both articles made me consider how I depend on cultural understanding of gender in my projects. Right now I’m working on my thesis script. My story focuses on monsters whose sex, gender, race, and ethnicity is left ambiguous until they are infected with humanity.
1.) If as a culture we changed the meaning of gender, how could we remove our already established understandings of gender?
2.) Could adaptions of literature into film or other mediums produce a change the structural understanding of literature McGowan desires? If so how?
I would have to agree with Kit’s reading of Belsey. The form and content quote is a great pull. When thinking of my work conceptually, I include the craft and construction. I’m very interesting in the emanation of the work. Thus my interest in process art to an extent. When performing improvisation, I like to think of it as un-composed entirely and that I’ve simply learned the tools to construct. So the performance is the construction of a patch, of a soundscape and the deconstruction of that same material. This semester I had performed for the 558 studio course in this manner. Starting from nothing but the blank instruments and tools and built up the sound performance over time. While altering and demolishing components throughout.
Though, when I think craft, I think of Hobby Lobby decorative work, not really utility. I think of uninformed gluing and glitter and googly eyes. While craftsmanship leads me to quality, hard work, effort, respective of any medium. Perhaps the art* is the conceptual, or merely the fact that the creator took the time to think on their product.
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