Can pictures bridge cultures?

text and image r.v.

Paul Messaris investigates in ‘Visual persuasion, The role of images in advertising’ whether something as a visual Esperanto exists. Being analysed is till what extent visual language is a universal language. Especially in part 1: Images as simulated reality, chapter 3: Can pictures bridge cultures? is covered what an ad-man, or other profession in the visual communication, needs to keep in mind when he expands his working area beyond his own border. Surprisingly enough it’s not just specific events or specific persons that are simply not being recognised outside the culture from which they originate, but do also more general signs lead to confusion or miscommunication when they’re being presented to an outsider. Even when one uses the to a certain extent directly readable ‘iconic signs’, as in the case of photography. For instance is in Thailand a tiger much more an ordinary phenomenon, much less a symbol of power then in many other countries. Or is the wearing of jeans in China strictly reserved to the lower class. The message is in such a case only being understood till a certain level, the deeper meaning is being lost or is falsely being interpret. Therefore it’s advisable to first explore the present knowledge and used values in a certain culture before communicating a message. In the special visual case of sign language it’s also interesting to examine how far an absolute standard applies, whether unlike text no bilingual “dictionary” is necessary. But for sign language as well counts that there exists no real lingua franca. The ‘Ethnologue: Languages of the world’ even lists 124 different sign languages. There are only a few signs that do not vary between the different sign languages. But then, many of the signs, in contrast with written or spoken language, do have an analogy with the thing that’s being represented. Semiotically sign language can therefore partly be classified in the category of ‘iconic signs’ and partially in the category of ‘symbolic signs’, whereby the relation between sign and object is based on an arbitrary agreement.

Short text as a possible preface for the captivating exhibition ‘Endless Attempts’ in ‘De Kijkkasten’ Amsterdam, from July 23 through August 29, 2010.


Accompanying information:

Pieter Numan (Surhuisterveen, 1979) studied autonomous visual arts / photography at the Groningen Art Academy Minerva and obtained in 2006 his MFA photography at Post St. Joost Breda.

The starting-point for the in ‘De Kijkkasten’ shown installation Endless Attempts are 7 monologues of 7 deaf people from different countries. Numan has through the internet asked them to record self portraits with a web cam. The deaf communicate trough signs about their experiences and problems in a by hearing dominated society. Without knowledge of the sign language the images remain an endless attempt to explain something to the viewer, but the signs get lost in the public space.

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About The Bleeding Tomato

The Bleeding Tomato is the online sketch book of Roberto Voorbij - Visual / 3D Artist. A place for his spin-offs, new ideas, personal frustrations and fascinations. Blogging about art, sociology, technique, marketing and more…
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