Week 1 – July 13th

EEA212 Visual Culture

Week 1 – 13th July, 2015

Merinda Kelly

What does Visual Culture mean?

Resource (Merinda read this) – A text about a girl getting ready for school – who encounters multiple images –

We live in a society that reproduced multiple images daily –

Modern culture now has an image explosion – overload

VC is also about icons – logos – symbols that are close to universally recognised – e.g. the disabled image

Like a global form of hieroglyphics (ancient Egypt) –

We rely on symbols for communication cross cultures.

Need to read, understand and critique images just as one reads text –

  • Teachers need to teach image reading
  • Artists need understanding to enhance their communication and effectiveness.
  • Art, design, aesthetics, signs/semiotics, logos
  • Construction of an image for social media – the development of a narrative – over the

The death of the Author concept

  • The art space is democratised – everyone can be a practitioner – e.g. posting picture, music or text on the internet.
  • There is less editorial control – less selection of what is available by a publisher, editor etc.
  • More and more need for the ability to assess the verity of what we see, hear, consume
  • More than ever the option is there to put out an edited version of the self (or even a complete lie – e.g. the predator paedophile posing as a teen girl)

Art in history – how politics manipulated the populace using visual images and icons

  • g. Alexander the Great, Hitler’s Third Reich,
  • Signifiers, logos,

There is more than one way to interpret a visual image

  • While there may be a general, obvious meaning, each individual, through their unique background, will bring different knowledge, experience and biases to the meaning of a work.
  • Cites Duchamp – that the viewer completes the work


Look at a photograph – what does it signify –

A fist with thumb – thumbs up, thumbs down – many meanings

Cultural context – can be seen as a very negative gesture – there is no universal answer to this gesture – can lead to misunderstanding (e.g. pointing is rude in some cultures) – thumbs up – by pilots – means affirmative, in mid-east is a negative,

e.g. the history of thumbs down – e.g. in Hollywood epic – of meaning death – is based on a 19th Century artist who misused the thumbs sign – should have been a turned in thumb.

Artists, whether consciously or unconsciously, edit their environment when depicting it in the work they make (e.g. the cropping of a scene in photography).

When looking at art consider why the art was made? What was the artist’s purpose?

  • Appropriation of imagery for a new purpose – e.g. use of fine art to enhance the luxury name of something – Mona Lisa is the most recognisable image on the planet.
  • We recognise the image – but the purpose may have changed. (e.g. now Mona Lisa is in an art museum – not a private house as it was originally intended)


  • Some symbols become so endemic that we don’t even see them any more – e.g. Coke symbol
  • Branding in supermarkets – what makes you change brand, – look, price, purity, etc.

Activity – a B&W photo of an aging bearded man

What does this show?

  • Focused – meditative – drug-affected? – Ascetic?
  • Stereotyping – beard – could this be cultural? – e.g. Jewish
  • The image is of an artist – the gaze shows looking out onto the world – serious – gaze could be highly analytical –

Aside – the VW Beetle – desire to create a ‘lovable shape’ – an appealing shape.


Film – product placement – manipulation of sets, clothes, etc. To both sell the film/sell a product – also web sites – are manipulated/designed to sell the product/fit with how we view images

  • Neuroscience used to design and sell products.

What the unit covers

The material is on the Cloud – you do not have to do all activities

What to do

  • Follow the 2015 unit guide

Assessment – 2 assignments

  • Merinda will direct this – Waterfront may have different assessment – may have an exhibition element for the major assignment.
  • Assessment 1 – 5 activities (not 6) –Merinda has a guide for the first 4 weeks which she will email to students. (expectation is 8 hours a week on the subject inclusive of the 3 hours on Thursdays)
    • 4 art making activities
    • Written task 500 words (consolidation of thinking)
  • Assignment 2 – 50% – exhibition –

Keep a journal – with links to material – that will disappear from the Cloud when one is no longer at Deakin student. (needs to be handed in- notes, images etc.)

Vis culture – the relationship between visual images and their cultural context.

  • Includes investigating the context and intent of the image
  • Looking through various lenses – e.g. feminist, psychological, post-structuralist (post modern) – there is no one way of looking at an image – there are multiple meanings (Merinda’s concept of our personal metaphorical ‘backpack’ of our background, culture, gender, family background, life experiences, knowledge of language and how to articulate it, knowledge of art including contemporary art) uses Bill Henson and Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ as examples of works which have been criticised negatively by particular cultural groups.
  • Early days – no literacy – so imagery used e.g. pictures, windows to depict stories (e.g. the stations of the cross)
  • Strong emphasis on John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (Marxist theories of art which are starting to re-emerge) e.g. art as a commodity (also the female as a commodity to be exploited)
  • Use all this new learning to inform one’s own work – whether art or writing about it.
  • TIPIT – Theory informs Practice informs Theory

Week 1 – introduction –

As above

Berger Ways of seeing – Episode 1

Likens fine art oil paintings to modern advertising – but this advertises wealth – Berger is heavily influenced by Marxist theories on art (Research this).







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s