This is our first Seminar of the second year and we are going to be looking at Semiotics, we apparently were meant to have looked at this already in our lecture series but i found the lecture series this year confusing and lacking direction so we are looking at it again in our seminar.

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation. When we were first explained this we were shown some examples of obscure road signs and we interpreted their meaning, this led me to thinking about a roadside i had always misinterpreted as a child, because i had yet to develop the necessary understanding of visual language to interpret it correctly:

 i had always thought this sign was not a builder using a shovel, but a man who could not get his umbrella open! now i am older and have seen roadworks and understood them i can interpret the sign correctly, i think this shows how children can rely on imagination when lacking an understanding of visual language.

We learnt that it is not just the sign or symbol we interpret, but our interpretations change based on the context we see the sign or symbol in, the sleeping baby sign we were shown would have clearly implied sleeping babies in a nursery setting, but if i were to see it in the street i may have thought it showed some sort of night sky scene.

It is not just signs and symbols semiotics relates to, but anything in everyday life, a good example we were shown was a bollard:

this bollard, placed in the middle of the road on curb, implies that it is there to protect you from oncoming traffic and you should cross cautiously. Because it is new, and the road around looks well cared for and safe then you could interpret it as the council taking care of the towns safety, but if the bollard were to be fallen over and left for some time, or dented even, it could imply something entirely different. That the road is unsafe, and drivers are clumsy and careless and that the council are not bothered by the safety of their towns people and are lazy. So much can be inferred by the location and condition of something.

We use our knowledge of visual language to make judgments about things we see, our visual knowledge we get from living in the world, by seeing things in public, watching television shows, going on the internet and reading books. This knowledge helps us to understand things when we see them and to form opinions on what they are about.

Semiotics cannot infer all things though, it can be different depending on the culture of a person, different cultures will read into things differently. For example we would look at this image:

and think of the Klu Klux Clan, because that is what we have seen on television and in films and in history, but a Spanish person would see the Holy Week Procession, a religious festival that takes place in spain every year where they carry the virgin mary through the town. People from different cultures will gather a different visual language than those on the other side of the world, like if we were to see images of animal cruelty in this country we would on a whole be mostly upset by it, but in a country like China animals are not high priority to be cared for and the rules on animal cruelty may be different, so there would be a different emotional conclusion .


This is a useful seminar because it will aid our essays, this has allowed me to think that if i saw the work of Peter Dreher in a different setting and curated differently, then its whole message might have been different.

We have been given a list of artists to choose from that we can look at from “Kitsch” culture, which i am very excited about because it happens to be my favorite yet most shameful type of art! I have chosen to look at David LaChapelle and Jeff Koons 🙂


I am also going to look at the iconic photography of Diane Arbus, because she used alot of semiotics in her work.


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