1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

abstract images & meaning

Discussion in 'Resonance' started by PilotX, Mar 22, 2004.

  1. PilotX

    PilotX Tom syzygy, not Dan ;)

    following on from amukidis questionin the politics or not thread about abstraction & meaning:

    when I first read the post, I read the question as can abstract images carry meaning? I may have misinterpreted amukidi's question re-reading it, but the question of meaning is the one I have been thinking about so I'm going to stick with it..

    firstly, we must have some idea of what is meant by meaning, where it comes from and how we judge it..
    Is meaning simply having an effect on peoples actions or feelings, does this give us enough basis to ascribe meaning to a video piece, or does there need to be an explicit expression & transmission of ideas from the artist to the viewer?
    Personally I think that in order to talk about meaning in a piece of art there needs to be an explicit transmission of ideas. I do not, for that reason think that there is any meaning in the work of Rothko, or Pollock (although I love both artists work).

    I think it is probably worth saying here that because a piece doesn't have meaning, doesn't mean that it is pointless, there is point in bringing happiness..

    Of course, the smallest amount of symbolism can give meaning to an apparently abstract piece.. perhaps in Rothko's work there is symbolism in the particular shapes/colours that are used, that I am unaware of.. but too much symbolism and in order for ideas to be transmitted the viewer must also be aware of that symbolism and the meanings of those symbols (this might be simple if using symbols common to most people, such as a plus sign), and so an extra component is added to the transmission.

    I think what my position is coming round to is that meaning only exists in the relationship between the artist and viewer, that a piece has no meaning if the viewer ascribes no meaning to it, and likewise if the artist ascribes no meaning to it (even if viewers do).
    I think that it is harder to transmit meaning from artist to viewer the more abstract you become and so the more abstract something is, the less meaning it has.

    So really curious, especially with those of you who use abstract alot or entirely, to hear other thoughts on this matter..
  2. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    "I think what my position is coming round to is that meaning only exists in the relationship between the artist and viewer, that a piece has no meaning if the viewer ascribes no meaning to it, and likewise if the artist ascribes no meaning to it (even if viewers do).
    I think that it is harder to transmit meaning from artist to viewer the more abstract you become and so the more abstract something is, the less meaning it has."

    I feel that we are thinking along similar lines. I think though, that the above statement can just as easily apply to figurative imagery, but perhaps for different reasons. I also suspect that the longer an artist makes art, the more that he or she will want to present a visual challenge to both themselves and their viewer. When I am in the middle of an intense period of work, and these can last for months, I find myself seeing even literal imagery in an abstracted phase! It is perhaps a good time to remind people of Paul Cezanne's ideas of everything roughly fitting into a geometric shape or volume - the pre-cursor of cubism. When I am in this mindset, the surface details or general back-ground information become surplus to requirements - I can watch a film and almost break each scene up into its fundamental compositional elements. I personally tend to inclue recognisable elements within my work, say, water, clouds trees etc, but purely as a texture, something to hang the flesh of my compositions on. Whilst I realise that I run the enourmous risk of losing my audiences attention, so far this has not been a problem (as far as my feedback tells me anyway!).
    We are bombarded with literal imagery on a daily basis 24/7, 365 days of the year, most of it has some sort of meaning, which the viewer can take on board or ignore however they please. For the last 25 years or so, I've tried to communicate via the less literal device of abstraction simply because that's the way I see things, and if I choose to produce a figurative piece, which does happen occasionally, I still approach it with the same attention to compositional detail as I would using simple shapes. My messages are equally less defined - I am dealing with emotions, and their contrasts, harmony / Dissonance, Optimism / pessimism, balance, tension etc. I suppose that the bottom line for me is to visually entertain, to stimulate and question the obvious or obscure. My work is, in principle, motion painting.

    "I think it is probably worth saying here that because a piece doesn't have meaning, doesn't mean that it is pointless, there is point in bringing happiness.." - There's a lot of point in it - I'd take it as a real result to make someone happy with my work.

    Have a gander at this - http://www.matthewdallman.com/kandinsky.html
  3. fluchtpunkt

    fluchtpunkt Moderator

    my personal understanding of the word 'abstraction' does not in any way imply 'without meaning' (& the dictionary seems to support this). rather i would argue that it is precisely the other way round - i.e.: abstraction is about portraying 'meaning' without a context (...or perhaps - since it is impossible for us to visualize things without any context - with an alien context). ...what we call 'meaning' is the abstractions our mind associates with things, thereby allowing us to live in a meaning-ful world.

    ...so what do i mean with this concerning visuals/arts?

    if i for example draw two lines on a paper and in doing so try to portray a love affair between the two lines - then i would call the result an abstract drawing. if i on the other hand draw two random lines then i would call the result a drawing 'with no meaning'.

    ...perhaps the 'goal' of abstract artwork is to try to communicate with the viewer (more) directly on the 'abstract' level in our minds that thinking(?) takes place. or put another way: abstract artwork is about portraying our mind itself rather than about portraying the objects it perceives.

    (...still trying to sort my thoughts on this topic... perhaps more later ;) )
  4. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    ".still trying to sort my thoughts on this topic..."

    You and me both fluchtpunct! And I've been trying to sort them out for decades!! But I like your analogy of the two lines!
  5. PilotX

    PilotX Tom syzygy, not Dan ;)

    the Kandinsky article was interesting, although it needs a second read, thanks..

    what came from that article, to me, is the idea that the use of colours/shapes can emotionally affect people. I don't disagree with that (McD etc. use red alot because, apparently, it makes people hungry), and the idea that this can be taken to the next level, and affect people in a particular way. I suppose my main issue with abstract images and meaning is the possibility of misinterpretation of meaning by the viewer..

    picking up on your analogy, Fluchpunkt, which is great, would the meaning of the two lines be lost if I saw your drawing and interpreted it differently or just as two lines on a page? would the piece retain the meaning you wish to give to it (of being about a love affair)?
  6. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    "I suppose my main issue with abstract images and meaning is the possibility of misinterpretation of meaning by the viewer.. "

    Ah, there's the rub! I guess that is true, but then I'd point you towards filmakers like Peter Greenaway.......thus illustrating the point that this is, or at least can be, true with figurative imagery too. Certain artists take me way beyond the place where "meaning" is important, not least, musicians, especially instrumental, where there are no lyrics, just melody, harmony, colour and rhythm, analogous I think, to abstract imagery. When I listen to something like "Apollo" - I know it was concieved as a response to the apollo space program, but the actual musical passages, well we have to take the writer's word on that!
    Mr Kandinsky did write a specific piece on the relationship between the artist and viewer, but I'm fecked if I can find it now - it's certainly worth reading more of his essays etc.
  7. BrainStove

    BrainStove The Brainy Stove

    With "ES" of <S>


    Hehehe, just to stablish I?m reading & following all the comments in this legerdemain?s thread. ;)
  8. robotfunk

    robotfunk Feed your Machine

    'without meaning' isnt the same as 'meaningless' in my book. I'd say using abstract imagery is trying to get away from 'literal meaning' ie people intepreting the symbols in your work ...
    same as making instrumental music when you can't or won't use words to make your point, but want to express just 'a feeling/mood' but don't want to fill in the whole scene, just drop a few hints and let the viewer/listener fill in the blanks in their own (imaginative) way.
  9. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

  10. eirenah

    eirenah Moderator

    In this kind of discussions, why do we allways escape to debates about standalone Visual expression, and end it up comparing "our" art with painters? Offcourse there are many "rules" we can borrow from static visual arts, and we use them a lot (usually to break them in smartest way possible). But the picture without sound is not the same as the picture combined with sound. That's why Meta-media term is used as "what old media does to new"- the Meta-data (data about the data) is not only 1 level data. And that is even more crucial characterisation of what we do then being "multimedia" artists. It's not that simple at all (or it is, but i think too much? ;)

    In our case, the message, meaning or information is not only related to artist (us) and viewer, and it's impossible to isolate it as 1 on 1 relationship. Not only that we should give the meaning (or a feeling) to the music (the 3rd element), but we should be aware that in our case, the viewer is also a listener - a person who uses at least 2 channels when receiving / percepting / interpreting the audovisual information / message / feeling / stimulus. Regarding that, if 1 of 2 channels consists of non-abstract form (with a meaning), another one can be very abstract and still make sence in combination with the first one. In another words, video can exist as extension of audio (lack of lyrics, rythm...) and vice versa (music that overloads 1 sensor channel doesn't need the same type of visualization).

    If you don't agree with me on this one, then dare to disagree with good old McLuhan: Medium is the Message - irrespective to the medium, there is a message. Maybe this theory is possible to deny, but i'm just not brave enough:scared:

    ...if the "message" (feeling / stimulus / information) isn't "meaningfull" enough for the viewer, it will be percepted in his brain in a very individual, subjective way, but it still WILL be percepted and interpreted somehow. The success of this communication depends on how much noise there is in communication channels (regarding most of good old static visual art rules), and how do we prevent this "communication breakdowns" by using and/or breaking these rules... and all this, with respect to the audio as 1 extra (and more important?) channel...
  11. bluntfaktory

    bluntfaktory New Member

    visuals , like any art , is subjective . ultimately , it's the interpretation of the viewer that matters . ten people could look at the same thing and see it differently , and receive ten different messages . i think that is the joy of art , you can make it personal to you when you view it or make it personal for them when you make it . if there is a inescapable massage , very often it stinks of obviousness , and people don't like to be preached to . separate the art form the artiest . don't brake the spell that image can cast by trying to be to clever , it can be like talking down to someone when your trying to set there mind free , or like having a wank and calling it sex .

  12. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    "In this kind of discussions, why do we allways escape to debates about standalone Visual expression, and end it up comparing "our" art with painters?"

    It is just a reference point, no more, no less - I think that cave paintings were the first form of visual communication and subsequently all other visual media has derived from that. Primative music must have followed pretty closely (anyone know more about this?) - I can imagine a service in the Sistine Chapel in its early days as a pretty amazing audio-visual experience to its congregation, although they'd more than likely not have regarded it thus. Also - Art has been studied and pondered over for hundreds of years by a succession of academics from all over the world - this gives us an incredible knowledge base to draw from, as long as we are aware of the subjectivity of it all. Having said that - many periods of painting and sculpture had a rigid set of semiotic rules - The symbolism employed was hardly covert and had very specific functions. Its my belief that the subjectivity of art has increased over the years.
  13. Lara

    Lara alllgood

    Making meaning for me is the most important, most exciting debate. For me it is bound up with language, representation and culture.

    Representation for me is the most exciting because it deals with this 'transmission-interpretation' process that we have been talking about, in all its nuances. What the artists/designer 'intend' to portray/communicate, was it a fully formed idea, or just a particular resonance?

    I subscribe the the theories of Foucault on this one; he believes that representation is implicitly bound up with social and historical context. He speaks about representation in terms of discourses. We all understand that meaning is subjective. Foucault tries to be inclusive of this subjectivity, by suggesting that representation is a disscusion between various factors, and that meaning is made through this discussion.

    So if we were to talk about Rothko, and the 'meaning' made by his pictures, we would have recognise that he is employing a particular 'language' of representation- abstract. He chooses this over the more traditional figurative imagery. His work is situated within the Abstract Expressionist movement, in America, post second world war. How were Rothko and his contemporaries reacting to the trauma of the war? How does the shock of Hiroshima and Nagasaki filter through the work of that movement?

    Then we move to the Cold War, and the once revolutionary ideals and visual languages of Modernism are absorbled into American Establishment ideologies. This was a political manoevre, to showcase America's liberal ideals.

    These particular 'ways' of thinking are called discursive formations by Foucault. They shift and change according to time and context. So at one point in history Abstract Expressionism was thought, talked and written about as a radical, revolutionary movement; then it was part of High Modernism, and had become a visual 'norm.' The are two different discursive formations.

    Then we must consider the viewer, who he or she is, where they are looking at the Rothko painting in what time? Imagine the first truly Abstract Expressionist work, being shown to a very important critic at a high profile exhibition. Then imagine me buying a Rothko card for my Mum for her birthday. Two very different discourses, two very different meanings, and yet on one level, perhaps similar emotional responses?

    Foucault's theories are complimentary to the already existing semiotic theories developed by Barthes and, Levi-Strauss. They concieve of a world of signs that the viewer 'reads' or decodes using a particular cultural code. This helps us to understand the nature of symbolism- if we haven't been taught or given the codes to understand the work, we will not be able to 'read' or interpret it.

    As a Northern Irish person, there are many emblems of paramilitary groups that I would understand that a people from different cultural backgrounds would not. They haven't been taught the same codes.

    So usually, when we are 'representing' an idea, as Tom and Dan are discussing, we are manipulating the coeds of mass culture. Like the use of samples EBN stylee. The audience are required to decode the work, and also to decode the juxtaposition of the material.
  14. Lara

    Lara alllgood

    So for me the meaning made is different every time, because it happens within the discourse which is subjective. If the viewer has no codes, with which to read the work, then the work is not meaningless, just a different kind of meaning is made... like Eirenah and Robot were saying. McLuhan is the man on this one.

    Abstract languages of representation are for me, just as valid and exciting as figurative imagery. Hoever we have to remember like Amukidi says, that we are configured to understand figurative imagery. Sometimes we feel we can't 'accept' the meaning made with Rothko, because its not the kind of meaning we are used to recieving. We then look to the artists life, and writing to explain the work. Sometimes that makes abstract work seem to be not as resonant or potent. This feeling of having to read Rothko's biography to gain 'fulfilment' from his work comes from within our culturally specific psychology, not from within the artwork itself.

    I think that a well-developed practitioner of any art or design will seek to understand representation in order to understand and develop their own work. Many vjs work in a very intuitive fashion, which is good, but we end up understanding their work in a very absract fashion even though they might be using figurative imagery, because we are essentially trying to follow their particular train of thought at any given point in time.

    Including a 'message' in our visuals is one technique which works with codes- allowing the viewer to interpret our work in a different way. Other people, like me, start to work with narrative forms. Amukidi with colour and composition.

    I think as a vj you've got to have some kind of intention. For me, to have the intention of making visuals to entertain and look beautiful- well that's just as relevant as having a political message. The point it to be faithful to this intention by trying to assess your own work. If I wanted to entertain, then I would be asking myself and the sudience, how well I entertained them. If I wanted to portray a message then I'd be thinking about how well I communicated to the audience.
  15. Lara

    Lara alllgood

    An excellent book an all aspects of representation is:

    Stuart Hall:

    Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices

    (London Sage/The Open University, 1997)
  16. PilotX

    PilotX Tom syzygy, not Dan ;)

    it's interesting to see the work of Foucalt and Levi-Strauss used in art, simply because I studied these people as part of my politics degree and found myself disagreeing with them on many, many points with regard to the nature of society, which stems (from what Lara has said) from the same basic ideas of historical discourse.

    the question I would ask is similar to that which I kept asking in politics - if all meaning is bound within a personal historical context, which is only loosely applicable to contemporaries, let alone anyone in the future, then do we start to lose the point of meaning entirely?
    By this I mean that if meaning becomes entirely subjective, which depending on how far down the Foucalt and post-structuralist standpoint you want to go becomes a possible position, then is there any meaning at all? After all, for all I know Rothko might have been more affected by the death of his hamster, then the nagasaki and hiroshima bombings, but because I know of the bombings I read that into his work.
    If I can read, legitimately, any meaning at all into the piece(s) then does this not negate the idea that meaning is the movement of ideas between people (in this case through art)?
  17. sleepytom

    sleepytom VJF Admin

    sorry this is :-offtopic
    there has been a few intresting studies of the caves in which paintings are found and the acoustic properties of the caves - these studies have found there is a good corrilation between caves with intresting acousics (that make drumming sound really good) and good paintings on the walls - the cave men invented VJing - they did the best art in spaces that produced the best sounding music

    see http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/9461/
  18. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    Wow! Thanks for that - in a similar vein to the Sistine Chapel comment.
  19. unjulation

    unjulation Moderator

    aye good stuf sleepy, id read a little of this a few years ago, personaly id hazard a gues that the music came first, it would seem logical to me that it would be more inate to create sound useing whatever came to hand then go through the process of thought needed to create cave art but its a moot point realy
  20. vjpixylight

    vjpixylight AKA Will O' The Wisp

    Deep...very deep


    If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would
    _ _ _ appear to man as it is, infinite. _ _ _ _ _ _ ?William Blake

    I think abstration is really about perception, and the psychedelic experience..

    Jim Morrison onced stated in a song, "Before I sink into the big sleep, I want to hear the scream of the butterfly."

    The abstract is merely a componet of our perception, nothing more and nothing less..
    In our individual responses to what abstraction is, we all try to make it understandable to others, if not to reassure ourselves, that this is what we believe in.

    Jim also stated that "real poetry doesn't say anything, it just ticks of all the possibilities..."

    I think that the abstract image also can follow this logic..
  21. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    Yep - now you mention it, I'm sure our ancestors were banging on their chests way before they daubed coloured mud on the walls.
  22. maxavision

    maxavision New Member

    The term ?abstract art? is actually the popularized version of its more formal description, ?non-objective art.? The problem here is that the term ?non-objective? itself simultaneously spins off into two very different contexts, the first relating to ?the object? (i.e., the representation of something actually ?existing in reality?; the second relating to personal ?subjectivity? as opposed to collective generalized perceptions, or ?objectivity?, which according to Webster is defined as ?anything external to or independent from the mind; reality.?

    Unfortunately, the fact remains that everyone?s reality is subjective and everyone?s perception of reality cannot be separated from one?s mind or experiences. Taking this one step further, a totally ?objective? representative image, such as the thousands of paintings (or representations in other media) of the Virgin Mary with the baby Christ has as many viewer perceptions as there are viewers, none quite the same as any other.

    In the end, I suppose, we must therefore reduce the question to ?personal meaning,? i.e., how each one of us responds to whatever is in front of us.

    That spectacular moment in (art) history, when Kandinsky first set the world onto new paths of discovery, may be of some assistance here. While in the process of creating an ?objective? portrayal of a specific subject, he suddenly stopped the painting and considered it completed ? whether it had fully represented his intended subject or not ? because he felt that the work as it stood embodied all the ?meaning? he initially intended to portray. Thus, ?non-objective? lines, colors and forms were now able to assign similar identifications to objective reality.

    Of course, all this is subjective.

    I have always look at art not as something which gives a specific result but rather as a process of communication. Which is to say that the ?meaning? of any work does not come from the work itself (as process) but from the result of the communication (i.e. individual perception). Does this lead to negation of meaning? I think not. For I believe individual meaning results from all our individual experiences and perceptions. Where all this relates to politics or general social behavior is that such human interaction (which results in our cultures and societies) has always been subjective, and all the rules that we have created in our societies have always resulted from subjective interpretation (welcome to the Supreme Court and all court systems). Society in the end is the result of subjective interpretations of objective ?realities?. Art can be defined in similar terms and, in once sense, should be defined as such if, as they say, art is the reflection of society.

    A couple of other points: for the non-objective artist, the title of the work can lead to an ?objective? or ?meaningful? interpretation of the work, and has been used countless times for such purposes. A classic example of this is Mondriaan?s ?Broadway Boogie Woogie,? painted after Mondriaan moved to New York. Without the title, it is a further formal development of his accepted painting style. With the title, the painting is transformed into a brilliantly, dynamic impression of the City?s lights and constant activity. So words, having nothing to do with the visual process, transform the subjective ?meaning? of the interpretation. Once again, ?meaning? becomes a totally fluid element in human evolution.

    As for knowledge of the work?s background, that also creates violent changes of perception. On the one hand, in the above Mondriaan example, knowledge of the artist?s life, adds to the understanding of why the work was painted. A positive, reinforcing element as regards perception and ultimate personal meaning. On the other hand, if we take Degas? work at face value, we can marvel at the beauty and delicacy this impressionist was able to portray, using the grace of the young girls he painted. Learning that Degas was one of the biggest bastards in art history and that he willingly caused the death of his subjects by forcing them to remain naked in freezing conditions so that they died of pneumonia certainly changes the subjective interpretation and meaning we may get from viewing the painting as a work in itself.

    Having said all the above, "meaning" is what has allowed our species to survive as long as it has.
  23. syzygy

    syzygy non-verbal communication

    Wow! What a fantastic thread!

    Where to start...

    I personally divide art into three broad areas (not with strong dividing lines though - there rae intermediates)

    * Art that is intended to represent nothing other than itself. This art can be beautiful, can provoke an emotional response and can enhance the lives of those around it, but any actual semantics will be down to the viewer adding their own interpretation.

    * Art that does not obviously represent anything but which the artsist intends to carry an idea. This is where hints to the viewer, such as titles, can be so powerful. Those abstract shapes suddenly make sense once you know the piece is about conflict. When producing this sort of art, the artist has to be careful to provide anough clues to lead the viewer in the direction they intend, while still maintaining the subtlety and variety of interpretation that abstract art offers.

    * Art that is directly representational. Here the difficulty is not in the viewers knowing what the work shows but in getting around the fact that each viewer will have their own associations for each object portrayed. To one person a car might be symbol of freedom while to another it might remind them of the death of a loved one.

    All of the approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses. All of them can affect the viewer in a powerful way but all of them have their difficulties in controlling what the affect on the viewer is.

    I am personally most interested in the second and third groupings. For me, nature creates the most instrincily beautiful things - I have yet to see any human-created art that blows me away in the way that a forest or a mountain or flowing water can.

  24. PilotX

    PilotX Tom syzygy, not Dan ;)

    No, I agree with the first part of the statement, and understand the logical conclusion that it leads to in the second statement, but it still seems to me that it also says that meaning is not the communication of ideas, but is something internal to each individual.. and further then that, that it is not possible to communicate ideas through art, which is something I know you don't believe, so I think I've missed something somewhere.. perhaps it is my philosophical, rather than artist training..
    perhaps, also it is my annoyance at all post-modern philosophies difficulty in realising an effective political path that clouds me to postmodernism in other areas.. hmm.. sorry musn't derail this with my mumblings ;)

    I dunno, because it seems to me that by reducing things to personal, subjective experiences it is internalising them to each individual, shutting it off from the relationships that exist between individuals, and thereby removing communication as the medium of meaning (sorry I think this is phrased badly, I might edit it later). afraid I'm going to ask for further explanation because something doesn't add up..

    nicely put

  25. maxavision

    maxavision New Member

    You're not the only one who's confused. According to Webster, meaning is "what is meant." (ugh!) A second clarification (not much better): "what is intended to be, or in fact is." (ugh, ugh!)

    One thing Webster and I do agree on is that meaning is not, as you say, "the communication of ideas." Meaning IS the subjective interpretation of information (i.e. ideas) and experience. We achieve that meaning via communication. Meaning is a fluid process of growth that results from our interactions with life. And our most profound influences and meanings come from the fact that there are other human beings out there with which we can communicate (unless you're a Zen Buddhist). Dan's meandering in the forest certainly creates profound meaning but, unless he was a Zen Buddhist, his inability to communicate that meaning to other human beings would severely temper his reaction to that forest.

    Meaning results from communication. The artist's medium is simply another potential to voice what is meaningful from one individual to another - not to a forest, a cat or any other living thing (though certainly such communication is possible and can create profound meaning to one's life).

    If meaning was not "something internal to each individual," there would be no art, nor anything else to to talk about. The less meaning in the individual and the individual message, the easier for that individual to be completely manipulated.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of commercialism!
  26. maxavision

    maxavision New Member

    Personally, I regard all three of your categories of equal value and personal interest. Each of the three serve to support each other and create my fullest source of inspiration.

    I don't think it's necessary for me to go into my positions regarding "meaningful" vs. "meaningless" club visual projections. They are certainly clear to everyone by now. That aside, as I have always said, I totally believe in (and am equally interested in and committed to) non-objective art. I've never said it shouldn't be presented. And I?ve always said I use such material in my work all the time. I've only said that representational images should be included to a far greater extent than they are at present. We?re talking about balance here.

    So now, surprise of surprises, I will take the side of the abstractionists! One of the most important aspects of non-objective art relates to the purity of spiritual stimulation. Devoid of any obvious "objective" motivations, the non-objective work allows for journeys to and through our subconscious. This results in a totally different spiritual stimulation than would be the case when perceiving realistic interpretations.

    Without the spiritual (defined herein as internal awareness resulting from non-logical stimulation), subjective "meaning" resulting from perceiving "objective? works, loses a vital dimension. In the end, this all can also be related to self-confidence or the lack thereof. Because this spiritualism is wide ranging as well. For example, artists in a particular non-objective genre can derive great spiritual satisfaction from others simply developing the genre within its specific set of rules and parameters. It is a spiritualism born from the reaffirmation of the form itself, which leads to a confidence to continue developing the form.

    As I said in my previous posts, we're speaking about communication, in this latter case, artist communicating with artist on totally non-objective (formal, structural) levels of perception. And if the public can also realize and share in this communication, well, all the better for it. This sense of shared common perspective, values and security, as regards non-objective communication, is a prominent hallmark in the contemporary video mix scene. I don't view this as negative at all, nor do I consider negative the current scene's desire to impart this communication to its audiences.

    So, I believe that all three approaches are equally as valuable within my own particular approach to creation. Where I draw the line is in the creation of whatever material (objective or non-objective) solely as mindless entertainment. My only desire is to see a balance established between thought provoking and spiritual provoking material within clubs, equal to my desire to achieve a balance established in clubs between the music and the visuals.
  27. PilotX

    PilotX Tom syzygy, not Dan ;)

    thats why I hate dictionaries.. I looked up rebel once, and the definition: 'one who rebels' (really? I never would have guessed)

    Ok thanks, I understand better what you are saying now.. communication is the process, meaning is still internal, but unachievable without an external world.

    I will have a think about this tonight and come back to you.. your argument is swaying me, although I am still skeptical of the possibility of truly abstract art producing the experiences required to achieve something further than a basic emotional response.. to achieve the start, or continuation, or furtherance of ideas/chains of ideas in other peoples minds.. I think this moderation of my position takes into account your points whilst still leaving me with the possibility of maintaining my previously related belief that the more abstract art becomes the harder it is to communicate meaning through it. No it doesn't. damn. umm.. I'll leave this up anyway, perhaps the workings of my brain as I type will help clarify what I am trying to say.

    Ok, it doesn't work because, meaning is no longer something communicated.. communication creates meaning but meaning is not itself communication. So as long as someone has an experinence, and perceives an idea within the communication (piece(s) of art), then the piece carries meaning.

    So, I would say, as an artist, if I wanted a particular meaning to be communicated (ie: produce a particular set of ideas/experiences within the viewer) then completely abstract art would not be the way forward.. there must be some room within your subjective framework for people to communicate particular ideas, even though this will be interpreted within some kind of spectrum by the viewer?
    I guess I want to believe that I have the power to communicate particular ideas (although my experience tells me it's not that simple)..
  28. Lara

    Lara alllgood

    In terms of producing an expected reaction from a particular audience, vjing only needs to take a sidelong glance at the mechanics of cinema, to find a precursor there. Perhaps we can find a more concrete understanding of 'making meaning' in the conventions of filmmaking.

    This art form and industrial product straddles the divide between the philosophical and practical aspects of this debate. In classical Hollywood narratives, the director sets out to produce a particular emotive response from an audience. Mass marketing techniques ensure that this audience has been marketed to a particular demographic, so the viewers have in common another kind of shared cultural experience which is 'lifestyle.'

    Returning to the debate on abstraction, I think it's more difficult to communicate 'messages' effectively through abstract language because it makes such a break from what the human eye percieves.

    I've got to also again reveal my design college brainwashing by returning to the structuralist idea of 'codes' in semiotics. In the process of signification a real world image and the abstract or mental concept behind that image come together to form a sign. This sign is then read by the viewer (in a subjective way), and meaning is made.

    In reading these signs, we tend to use codes to interpret meanings. Codes are learned by us all in society in the course of our lives. In order to interpret the Queen's crown on a pound coin I must have access to a particular set of codes taught to me within a particular culture. Even though I have access to these codes, the meaning is still subjective, and would be coloured for example by personal political beliefs.

    Most of the imagery we encounter is figurative, literal, so we have a wide variety of codes to use to interpret figurative imagery. A simple image of the silhouette of a a woman can be resonant in many different ways because that image takes its place in a large and interrelated network of understanding.

    Speaking very reductively, our inability to interpret abstract work is partly due the lack of codes at our disposal. With the construction and knowledge of those codes (for example through the use of symbolism) we can understand developed messages through abstract language.

    For me, experimental film is the genre which really successfully portrays highly evolved ideas through relatively abstract images. Perhaps this is because movement or motion basic cinematic convention gives some sort of grounding to the work?

    BTW, a very eloquent debate Tom and Peter :D
  29. maxavision

    maxavision New Member

    Not necessarily true. If I wanted to create a very personal environment wherein people were encouraged to spiritually explore the (collective) moment in a "meaningful" manner, I would be most willing to utilize an abstract approach. For me to do this personally, however, I would have to take into account where those people are at that moment. As in any communication, without my considering those with whom I wish to communicate, my abstract approach would be a far less "meaningful" experience for either my audience or myself.

    For example, in the heyday of House culture, when the room was filled with community spirit and a collective sense of social concern, my abstract approach hopefully led to a spiritual connection within the environment which, hopefully, reinforced the community (i.e. social) "reality" which I subjectively perceived.

    By the same token, I would be far less inclined to present such a complete program of abstractions today, since such a presentation would serve to reinforce the desire to escape from "reality", which is so prevalent in the attitudes of contemporary clubbers. A really sad consequence resulting from all this contemporary resistance to content - that has been stated in a variety of these threads - is that the use of abstracts to give the "punters" a way of mindlessly escaping has actually served to bastardize attempts by those desiring to add a spiritual dimension via abstraction.

    With all due respect, dear Thomas, you're now talking like George Bush. You can't tell people what to do. All you can do is widen people's horizons, so that new perspectives are now revealed that may push the people to recognize the values of your "meaning" (i.e. your message). As everyone has said on both sides of the political thread, no one wants to hit anyone over their head to convince them one way or other, and nobody wants to be hit over the head and told what to do. All we can ever do is express our individual beliefs (i.e. our individual, subjective "meaning") and set it out to the world as an attempt at communication. Depending on our ability to communicate will depend on our effectiveness at presenting our particular subjective positions. Every other human being on the planet has the right to take your position into consideration (or not) and return a new subjective communication (or not). If it is, indeed, decided that such a communication is to take place (as happens on these forums), individual subjective "meanings" are either reinforced or inspired to change with the new communication experience.

    Love it!!!!!! :help:
  30. sleepytom

    sleepytom VJF Admin

    i think the easiest way to see it is that the more abstract work becomes the harder it is to control the meaning that people get from the work.

    i feel there is a slight problem with the statement though because it suggests that people always take the suggested meaning from figurative work - i don't feel this is the case because we all take meaning from pictures based upon our own experiences - the artist view of the meaning of the work (ie the message she is trying to convey) is based upon her life experiences which can be radically different to the experiences of the viewer

    in abstract work the meaning can be taken by the viewer in a way that fits precisely with there own experience, the artist has not directly attempted to control the meaning as interpreted by the viewer - traditionally the meaning of abstract works has been implied by giving the work a name - this is not a possibility for most VJs and often meaning of abstract visuals is controlled by the music (ie good abstract visuals enhance the meaning of the music)

    the desire to control meaning is an interesting topic that is at the root of many different discussions we have about content

Share This Page