Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Challenging the Literal" Daniel Chandlers, 2002

Daniel Chandler gave an extremely thorough grammar lesson in chapter four of his book, and a new way of looking into things. He speaks about the impossibility of universal language, the improbability of two different phrases having the same meaning, and defining the differences between metaphors, synecdoches, irony, and metonyms. These tropes could be easily translated into art speak, and aid the artist in their quest for universal concepts or towards the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Chandlers speaks both in a literary sense and a visual sense using photography and advertising as his examples. A truer statement could not be said that when something is seen it must resemble something. Every time there is a critique of artwork, especially abstract works the words, “It looks like …” nearly always come up. I had never stopped to think that literary devices could translate directly into visual ones, something I should have known since I make art in English, and metaphors plague my work. They are inescapable; completely ingrained into our world. As mentioned in the essay even when I call someone bright it is simply a substitution for intelligent that many take for granted. At the same time a metaphor like that one will not always translate to other cultures. This is the idea behind Connotation. Connotations are the personal and cultural associations to a metaphor. An example of this is in America the car is a sign of freedom, but of all these metaphors, a synecdoche will be my personal favorite. A synecdoche is a type of metonym where only a portion of said object is used to represent it. An example as mentioned in “Challenging the Literal” would be the use of the word sails to replace ship (“we have ten sails on the water”). This has got to be a literary device that translates the most into the visual arts. When a picture is cropped your mind uses that one portion of the image to fill in the rest. Freshman year I was told not to use metaphors in my work, that it was over done and old hat. This essay politely states the impossibility of that task. coming away from this essay I feel that metaphors should be studied further, and a sharp eye kept out for metaphors within your own art that you might not catch, but a viewer will.

From this my three questions:

1. Because metaphors are so easily mistranslated or over analyzed should we as artists worry about their meaning beyond our own experiences?

2. Is the use of metaphors within art destroying its original meaning beyond the literal object.

3. As a culture we are now over saturated with imagery. Is art being over interpreted because of our ready memory bank of visual associations?

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