Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Crop Circles and semiotics

To reflect on the signifier and signified of a crop circle photograph.

The question baffled me for a while, am I writing down about the content or the photograph? I expect that’s what the question means by ‘reflect on the signifier’.

The photograph, the signifier, is composed to include the Silbury Hill, a place of special scientific interest. The mound has been recorded as a monument of historic significance due to the age of the site, believed to have been started in Neolithic times (English Heritage, 2019).

Crop circles have also been a source of much speculation. Many sitings of UFOs are claimed to be along ley-lines. These theories however have been ridiculed by the scientific community.

Wiltshire is a place of huge spiritual significance to the pagan and druid religions in the U.K. due to the siting of several monuments, including Stonehenge. Ley-lines converge within the county, and these are believed, by pagans and druids, to bring substantial energies from the earth and the universe. British ley-lines were originally discovered by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s, he believed they were prehistoric travelling lines created using beacons on hilltops (The Guardian, 2000).

“We must be on our guard for despite common parlance which simply says that the signifier expresses the signified, we are dealing, in any semiotic system, not with two, but with three different terms. “

Roland Barthas, Visual Culture, the reader, page 52, 2007

Meanwhile Roland Barthas states that when we talk in terms of signified and signifier, we are missing the object, the sign. I mention this as I return to my original question, was I commenting on the content or the object, and Barthas aids me in understanding it is all three, the signifier, the signified and the sign.

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Ways of Looking by Ossian Ward.

One of those books which I’d have missed if my tutor hadn’t recommended it. It breaks down viewing artwork into a formula which I can’t wait to try out.

  • Time: 5 breath rule. Just look at it whilst you breath.
  • Association: Do I relate to this piece of art? What do I feel?
  • Background: What’s the artist’s story? What’s their meaning behind this piece?
  • Understand? Has this helped you see the art from the artist’s point of view?
  • Look Again: Has your perception or opinion changed with this information?
  • Assessment: What do you think of the art now?

Apparently this is different to when Ossian Ward is critiquing a piece, when he uses Quality, Consistency, Endeavour, Originality & Bravery.

When I’ve read some more, I’ll come back and expand this post.

Terms and Definitions

Thought I ought to add a space that crosses all the units of my degree of terms I had to google!

  • Avant Garde. From the term advance guard. Forward thinking; radical; experimental.
  • Marxism. The belief that capitalism is unsustainable and socialism’s time will come. That the fundamental problems facing modern society are inherent in the capitalist ideology.
  • Postmodernism. Not a movement, a philosophical ideology that crosses industry.

The Seven Basic Plots

by Christopher Booker.

I loved this book so much I returned the ebook to the library and bought it instead. As a reader who inhales books, I have found this book so enlightening. Although the downside is now I’m breaking books down as I read them.

The book is constructed with four parts. The first part is the plot types. I’m half way through and loving it. So many notes….I’m still reading this book, it’s a whopper of a book, so I shall add to this post as I go. 

So the first part is the plot types. Christopher Booker, what an apt name…sorry I digress, has broken them down into 7 types. He then takes each plot type and breaks them down into a plan. For example, the first plot type Overcoming the Monster, I now realise how many of my books are this plot type. I read mostly fantasy sagas and they fit this type really well. Then C. Booker breaks the Overcoming the Monster plot down into the journey. Anticipation, Dream, Frustration, Nightmare, Escape from death, Death of Monster. Even watching the Avengers has become a different adventure!

At this point I’m torn between breaking the whole book down for you, or making you buy a copy. For now it will be making you buy a copy. 

Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction

by Christopher Butler.

This is one of those books that looks fabulous, a concise book to illuminate the reader. Then you open the cover and realise you need a dictionary for every other word. Rather than translating Postmodernism into a book for the masses it, which would have been fantastic, this reads as an academic essay. You’d have to already understand postmodernism for this book to explain it to you.

I shall endeavour to find a digital copy so I can use the inbuilt dictionary to translate this to english.

Longplayer – Interpreting sound

My initial reaction to the music (http://www.longplayer.org) is that I find it very haunting. It’s very atmospherical, but also rather theological. It reminds me of Tibetan monks and temple bells, but then they’re Tibetan singing bowls.  Meanwhile when certain bells play my dog Henry charges downstairs and barks at the front door making me jump, so maybe not as calming as it could be.

I certainly get the motivation behind the piece, and I find it does make you consider the cosmos, and our place within it. Knowing the piece will be playing long after my body has decomposed into dust adds a philosophical approach to listening to the piece. Will someone rewind the music at a later date, to this place and time, when I’m listening to it? Doesn’t that make this piece an exploration of time travel as well?

I’m sure when Jem Finer considered the instruments to use in the piece, he wanted to go with something ethereal. The bells certainly fill the space around me, even through laptop speakers. I wonder if Finer has ever visited Jodrell Bank because the sounds certainly complement the space sounds that are played there from the satellites.

The quality of the sound is great, really clear and I presume this was one of the reasons singing bowls were chosen as they are both crisp and carry the notes for a long space of time. They also cut through other noise, which I imagine would be very important if the site became busy. The longevity of the instruments were also an important consideration, many other instruments would need more maintenance as strings or reeds would need replacing. I love that the bowls can be played equally well by machine and person. With the webpage discussing artificial intelligence and the question of will machines be able to emotionally create art. Will this happen within the timescale of the composition?

I find the 2 perspectives of the piece really interesting, if I visit the site I’m kept out on the peripheral of the instruments looking in, but not able to really see the complexity of the arrangement. Whereas the view online seems more inclusive, the bird’s eye view feels like I’m more connected.

The connection with the cosmos and the repetition within it, is seen throughout the website. It talks about revolutions of planets and how some take 1000 years to circle their star. So although the piece was designed as a time-based piece I find, personally, it’s more about space and place.

There is an interesting dilemma about how the composition has been designed to last 1000 years. The choice of instrument and computer based performance is fine, but as with all art there is an element of doubt as to whether it will last the full term. I can see the practical side of using a computer, however with computer technology moving at such a vast rate of progression, will the piece become impossible to play on future technology?

***

Emulating a solar system, with its concentric circles, Longplayer rings out an atmospheric composition using a mix of man and technology based performers . Jem Finer uses Tibetan singing bowls to contemplate our place within the universe through a philosophical solar year of 1000 years.  Although you are able to view the bowls at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London, the design of the piece has taken into account the fact the piece may have to moved, and this keeps the audience on the outside of the revolutions of sound.  However Finer’s clever use of internet based technologies, such as live streaming, has allowed human interaction through artificial intelligence. It’s a clever juxtaposition between man and machine, which does leave you contemplating our existing in the future.

Glossary of Interesting Terms

So as part of exercise 3 of the first project I had to pick out terms that I either didn’t understand or felt were interesting. So I though I’d collate them all together in one, ever growing, post. Now do I add alphabetically or by date!

Bauhaus
This was a school which endeavoured to bring together arts with crafts. Walter Gropius felt that it would move those industries forward if they were developed under the same roof.  http://www.bauhaus-movement.com/en

Braque
Georges Braque was a person. He started off in impressionism, the painterly qualities, but adding stronger colours influenced from African art. (Fauvism, 1906) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/georges-braque georgesbraque.fr

Primitivism
Art movement which borrowed visual forms from non western culture. It was a fascination of early European artists with tribal/african art. Its believed that it was the discovery of primitive art that inspired Picasso co-develop cubism. http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/p/primitivism