Reading image

In todays class we discussed different ways of reading image and different peoples interpretation of images.

Assuming many matters in the arts is almost a giving. How we perceive visual (movies, TV, art etc.) or written (novels, short stories, poems, etc.) arts is subjective.

From todays lesson I had come to realise that how we process and understand the given information is based on perception. The perception of the individual is based on various criteria including cultural/societal views, upbringing, socio-economics, and more. All we have to judge art is opinion, and opinions widely vary.

How literature is read and perceived is based on the reader, and unlike a mathematical equation, there is no one right answer. Which does not mean that every theory about a work of art is correct!

Our perception of an image is influenced by what it represents, where the ideas have come from, whether the image moves or is still, the position, color, light and shape of the represented objects and our context and background.

The semiotics of image: we discussed the semiotics within an image and the meaning of semiotics/semiology (the study of signs, symbols and signification) and the reason behind semiotics. Firstly we came across the signifier, reducible in an acoustic image or physical form of the sign, or any material thing that signifies, e.g., words on a page, a facial expression, an image. And secondly the signified (concept, reality) a mental representation of the sign, or the concept that a signifier refers to. Together, the signifier and signified make up the Sign: the smallest unit of meaning, anything that can be used to communicate.

The basic, most fundamental form of sign, that is, of the relation of signifier to signified, is denotation. The term denotation refers to the literal meaning of a sign; to what is objectively present and easily recognised or identified, what you can see in the picture? We then have the term connotation. Connotation is a term used to refer to meanings, which lie beyond denotation but are dependent on it, what does the image suggest or imply?


In this magazine the editor is encoding the message of the latest fashion on the catwalk on this cover of “Elle” magazine. The reader may decode the message as either a) the latest fashion on the catwalk b) this is what “beauty” is and that this is what all women should look like or c) in order to make it into themodelling industry, you have to starve yourself to the point where there is nothing left of you. The way you interpret (decode) this magazine cover will depend on your social, economic and cultural background amongst other interests.

Having watched 4.33 by John Cage I found it quite interesting because sitting quietly for any length of time is not something to which people are accustomed to in general, much less in a concert hall setting. Confronted with the silence, in a setting we cannot control, and where we do not expect this kind of event, we might have any of a number of responses:  we might desire for it to be over, or desire for more interesting sounds to listen to, or we might feel bored, agitated or sleepy, but part of what makes the drama so compelling is the utter simplicity of the concept.  The composer creates nothing at all.  The performer goes on stage and does nothing. I believe 4 33 is used to inspire silence.  It can remind us that it is up to us to turn our minds towards the silence, to recognise it as we encounter it, even if only for a moment.

To conclude from this lesson I have learned that vision is not necessarily what we see but how our brain interprets images and the world around us, our own experiences can shape how we perceive this world.


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