This lecture was about Semiotics, symbolism and Allegory. Before this lecture I knew about semiotics and symbolism in films as I had previously studied it, however I had no knowledge of the term Allegory. I learnt that allegory is a form of extended metaphor with underlying meanings that have moral, social, religious or political significance. An allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning. E.g. The Statue of Liberty is a statue in its physical form but has other meanings such as liberty, freedom and welcoming.
We were told to go away and look at Plato and his film Allegory of the cave to get an understanding of philosophy and his film with two different meanings. After further research I learnt that the film has a narrator that describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and give names to these shadows.The shadows are the prisoners’ reality. The narrator explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the manufactured reality that is the shadows seen by the prisoners. The inmates of this place do not even desire to leave their prison; for they know no better life. Watching this film gave me a better understanding of allegory.
Today we had a visit from a photographer Sacha Ferrier, whose work is showered with symbolism. The focus of Sacha’s work is grief. In particular the human desire – perhaps, imperative – to search for some kind of relief or explanation, often beyond the seemingly rational or intelligible. Sacha is great at using metaphor’s in his work, so his work shows you something but makes you think its something else. Sacha bases his work on David Bailly self portrait. The idea is his paintings are meant to be read from left to right and the symbolism is the painting starts at youth and as you progress right, the symbols change to death. This can clearly be shown on the painting below.
Left – Youth Right – Death
Sacha’s work is very similar to that of Bailly in that the images can be read from left to right and are filled with hidden symbols.
Pronken 111 – 2014 – Sacha Ferrier.
I learnt from Sacha’s visit that not all painting’s and symbols are culturally understandable. If people don’t share the same concepts and understandings then they don’t share the same understandings.
The signified is the concept or the meaning, indicated by the signifier. It may not be a ‘real object. The thing signified is created in the perceiver and is internal to them, going back to different cultures having different meanings attached to the same objects. Such as the word Sick. To most it is a negative word, a disgusting word but in todays youth sick means awesome, amazing! Whilst we share concepts, we do so via signifiers. Colour is often used to signify certain things especially in films and photography such as the film 6th sense, it is very dark and red signifying the afterlife. The Godfather has an orange tinge to it which is a sign of immediate danger.
The sixth sense 1999 The Godfather 1972
To further our knowledge in the signifier and the signified, we looked at colours and what they signify to us.
After doing some work on colour and what colour signifies we then went onto looking at images to see what signs and symbols we could find, or least what they were meant to represent. We looked at a 2004 print from a Stellar Artois Ad.
We also looked at Storm Thorgerson painting – First floor from 1993.
And looked at Phillip Lorca Dicocia photo of ‘Eddie Anderson, 21 years old, Houston Texas, $20 – 1991.
Looking at all of these images made me look at images different to try and construct a meaning. It showed me that every sign has a different meaning but unless we share the same concepts, we wouldn’t have the same understanding of signs. It was a very educational lesson looking at different signs and meanings and looking at if the meanings and understandings we took from the image were those intended by the photographer/artist.
The last task this lecture on symbolism involved was us getting into groups and taking photographs showing symbolism. Each of us were to be the ‘photographer’ and find ways of showing meaning and symbolism in the photo’s we took. The letter I was given was ‘O’ and the word I had was ‘time’. I tried to look for unusual ways to photograph a letter ‘O’ and so photographed a light. By changing the aperture and ISO I was abled to create a letter O that I thought was quite symbolic. For time I just photographed a watch. The idea was for time to be stood still but I am not sure it gave off the full meaning I wanted it to. Other letters our group had was ‘J’, hence the photo of a smile, we thought showing joy was a good way to symbolise the letter ‘J’. This task made us really think about meaning and how to create meaning in images.
The letter ‘O’ The passing of time
The letter ‘J’
After looking more into symbolism and semiotics I don’t think this is an area I want to base my critical studies essay on. Although linking signs and semiotics to disability could be very interesting, I feel I would enjoy looking at censorship or representation more.