[4D] Week 1 Notes + Class Exercise

Class exercise: To put an object that represents you into an envelope

I chose a polaroid photo of my friends and me, because:

  • I’m always taking photos
  • I’m very sentimental (keep a lot of things, like receipts)
  • My friends are very important to me
  • I like hard copies (like letters over texts, polaroids over digital photos)

Although most of my classmates managed to guess which object was another person’s purely by chance or by elimination, some managed to guess as some objects were very characteristic of their owners/had the “attitude” of their owners.

1) Looking at an image

  • Visual Literacy – knowing how to make your images meaningful

Red background: Communicate danger/get our attention


Sally Mann: Photographer


  • Style is very distinctive
  • Subject: Family in suburban landscape
  • Medium: Large-format photography
  • Process: Platinum printing process


2) On making images

  • What makes an image successful?
  • Components of an image: Subject // Story // Visuals // Sound // Medium (e.g. film, interactive media)
  • We should make our images stand out on its own; semiotics w/o relying on captions and titles
Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893-1910)  Seth Boyden’s Hoof It (2014)  Yoko Ono’s Voice Piece for Soprano at MoMA (1961)  Screaming Girls – Jo-Anne Balcaen (2005)
– During war: anxiety
– Scream: not a literal scream, but a scream of existential angst at a time of war
– Very explicit scream of fear in comparison to Munch’s – Performance piece
– Scream is very differently presented
– Protest: for women & women artists as a whole
– How pop culture can cause hysteria of teenage girls
– Lack of sound: focus on something else, not that she neglected the sound

Class discussion

My research: Bill Viola – Silent mountain (2001)

  • Video artist
  • Based of the 15th century painting The Anunciation (Virgin turning away from Archangel)
  • At first they look provoked & anxious, then feelings become more obvious
  • Like watching a painting move


My groupmates mentioned artists like Bring Me The Horizon and Francis Bacon.

3) Study of Semiotics

Rene Magritte’s The Treachery of Images // This is not a pipe, but it is an image of a pipe


Icon Index Symbol

Why is it important for us to learn semiotics?

Cultural context:

In Roman times, if audience voted this, it means gladiator should die  In Russia, this sign means to offer a drink  Used for the press = middle finger = disaster!

Semiotics: Cultural Codes

  • Rich: How? Posture, Chihuahua
  • Blonde: Dumb? She’s very smart actually, the movie plays on stereotypes
  • Know your audience



Visual Semiotics in Films

Grease (1978) Eyes Wide Shut (1999) American Beauty (2002)
We understand images through stereotypes (which we get from their appearance and costumes) Couple is detached; something is wrong with their relationship (Husband asks for babysitter’s name, Roz, even though the wife mentioned it already) Wife is the alpha (Sign: Family portrait) // teenage girl is detached from her parents (angry teenager vs typical only child who is well-loved and cheerful) // Façade of warm intimate family (rose in the middle of table signals absence of love in the family)


Ferninand de Sassure – Signifier and The Signified

  • Johnie Walker Black Label Scotch: The road to success is paved with rocks (ice). Let us smooth them for you (with scotch).
  • Twice the power, won’t let you down –  Innuendo. We know what is is, but it is implicit.
  • Keira Knightly and Chanel perfume ad: Signifier: linking notion // Qualities: beauty, elegance
  • Betty Crocker: Housewife to corporate looking modern woman // Age: aligned with target audience // Style: becomes more trendy // Race: White to more mixed, brown



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