Conceptual Structures
 
John Baldessari, Perfect Painting, 1967.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semiotics foregrounds the process of representation.
 
1) Reality is always re-presented. What we treat as 'direct' experience is 'mediated' by perceptual codes. Representation always involves 'the construction of reality'.
 
2) All texts, however 'realistic' they may seem to be, are constructed representations rather than simply transparent 'reflections', recordings, transcriptions or reproductions of a pre-existing reality.
 
3) Representations which become familiar through constant re-use come to feel 'natural' and unmediated.
Vija Celmins, Eraser, 1969.
Acrylic on balsa wood, 6 5/8 x 20 x 3 1/8 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Representations require interpretation - we make modality judgements about them.
 
5) Representation is unavoidably selective, foregrounding some things and backgrounding others.
 
6) Realists focus on the 'correspondence' of representations to 'objective' reality (in terms of 'truth', 'accuracy' and 'distortion'), whereas constructivists focus on whose realities are being represented and whose are being denied.
 
7) Both structuralist and poststructuralist theories lead to 'reality' and 'truth' being regarded as the products of particular systems of representation - every representation is motivated and historically contingent.
Ron Mueck, Two Women, 2005.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Questions to Ask About a Representation
 
1) What is being represented? (Signified)
 
2) How is it represented? Using what codes? Within what genre? How is the representation made to seem 'true', 'commonsense' or 'natural'? (Signifiers)
 
3) What is foregrounded and what is backgrounded? Are there any notable absences?
Ron Mueck, Two Women, 2005.
Mixed media, 33 1/2 x 18 7/8 x 15 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Whose representation is it? Whose interests does it reflect? How do you know? (Addresser)
 
5) At whom is this representation targeted? How do you know? (Addressee)
 
6) What does the representation mean to you? What does the representation mean to others? How do you account for the differences? (Meaning)
Ron Mueck, A Girl, 2006.
Fibreglass, silicon, polyurethane foam, acrylic fibre, paint, mixed media,
110.5 x 501 x 134.5 cm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7) How do people make sense of it? According to what codes? With what alternative representations could it be compared? How does it differ? (Reception)
 
8) A reflexive consideration - Why is the concept of representation problematic? (Whose culture, point of view, ie. historically and culturally motivated)
 
 
Ron Mueck, Dead Dad, 1996 - 1997.
Silicone, acrylic paint and human hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 









 

 

 

 

John Baldessari, What this Painting Aims To Do, 1967.