Key Ideas: Image

Key Ideas: Image discusses our understanding of the image in its many forms; from its role as signifier of status and thing to be consumed to barometer of good taste and vehicle for communication. It is trite to say that images are everywhere – that their effect is unfathomable and that our experience of them is virtually uninterrupted so; Key Ideas: Image will attempt to address the multiple readings of imagery in contemporary society, exploring the image via three themes:

Image and Taste/ The social and cultural associations & readings of imagery, Image and Consumption/How we curate our identities through the consumption and creation of images, Image and Aesthetics /The role of beauty in image-making...

Image and TasteThe social and cultural associations & readings of imagery.

“Whereas the idealogy of charisma regards taste in legitimate culture as a gift of nature, scientific observation shows that cultural needs are the product of upbringing and education”

Bourdieu, P. Distinction – a Social critique of the judgement of Taste, Routledge and Kegan, 1984, p.1]

We learnt in the ‘Object’ symposium that our terms of reference for the ‘readings’ of images and objects is borrowed from the study of language [linguistics] and signs [semiotics] and that images like objects are a ‘kind’ of speech. However Otto Neurath said that "Words separate" "Pictures unite". Neurath’s idealised/systematised modernism suggests a solution to the problem of qualitative readings of images, and an attempt to transcend the hierarchy of perception that is synonymous with Western Visual Culture. In a world where choice of image and matters of taste are part of complex social and cultural hierarchies do images really unite or do they atomize?

Image and ConsumptionHow we curate our identities through the consumption and creation of images.

“Images come to us more than we go to them” – [paraphrased from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing.]

“The trend of all mass media is toward the visual – from the fairly recent replacement of the cash register in fast food chains and cafeterias with computers with icons and keys, to the proliferation of computer games”

Seward Barry, A.M. Visual Intelligence – Perception, Image and manipulation in Visual Communication, New York: State University of New York Press, 1997

Arguably the proliferation of transmitted and broadcast imagery has shifted the emphasis in mass culture away from the word towards the image.

To what extent are we defined by the imagery that we consume and in an image-saturated world how much choice do we really have?

Image and Aesthetics - The role of beauty in image-making...

Aesthetics [its numerous readings and misappropriations] and the idea of the viewer’s sensibility, or gaze, has been the subject of Artistic and Philosophical debate since the 18th Century. Aesthetic, the word, can mean: "to perceive, to feel," and according to Immanuel Kant: "the science which treats of the conditions of sensuous perception."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper

Bourdieu claims that our ability to read/appreciate/quantify an image or object is the result of ‘upbringing and education’ but Kant argued that there were Universalities – things that everybody agreed were ‘beautiful’. As designers and image makers we all have very different sensibilities, very different ideas of what is and is not ‘beautiful’, in short a unique and particular aesthetic.

Where does communication/function end and seduction begin? Who decides on beauty and is the notion of direct communication in commercial image making redundant?

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