★Semiotics: The study of signs
-Content and context
Semiotics, is the study of signs and sign processes, indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication; a branch of linguistics concerned with signs and symbols. In particular, it is the study of how ‘meaning’ is created and how we interpret the meaning which is being communicated. René Magritte, The Treachery Of Images,1928-9.
All which illustrates Magritte’s point, which is simply that ‘an image or sign if a thing is not the thing itself.’ One could make the same point with any number of images, signs, and symbols.
Charles sanders Pierce 1839-1914 states that ‘nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign’.
A sign is something meaningful which stands for something other than itself. Signs can take the form of words, images, sounds, acts or objects. The sign is constituted of two parts:
★A signifier (the acoustic image; the ‘thing’/object represented)
★A signified (the mental concept; the idea this ‘thing’ signifies
★Content & context
-What is the image of?
-What information does it give us?
-Context in which image is made
-Social processes in which it is produced.
-Context in which the image is seen
-Mechanisms governing its circulation & consumption
The image I have chosen is a poster which can be seen below. At first glance, yes, it seems like a very disturbing image. In spite of this, I have specially selected this image as it possesses a very interesting context associated with social and political concerns.
This particular image immediately captured my attention, I had originally borrowed this book from the library for research for a project but found some fascinating posters and works. The book is called ‘The Design of Dissent’ by Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic. This book examines graphic work that focuses on social and poilitical issues around the globe. The images within tests visual literacy and political awareness of many readers and challenge preconceptions and assumptions. Of course, I found some graphic work both controversial and disturbing but the images alone portrays indeed a powerful message without the need of much text.
The poster above is titled: ‘Seamline‘, produced by the artist Yossi Lemel in Israel, during the year 2001. From the first impression, I would have not thought it was an image concerned with political reasons if there were not the title, ‘Israeli Palestinian border 2001’ & the words placed in large size at the bottom, making sure it is very noticeable.
On the centre of the page is a close up shot of raw meat tied together with string, I think the most disturbing aspect is that there is a reason why the two pieces of meat are strung so tightly together and the way it seems forced. Most of all, is that we are so used to seeing eg. food being cooked to perfection with good presentation; in contrast right in front of us is a close up image of raw flesh is enough to make people feel uneasy. We cannot ignore the fact that this poster depicts something more serious than just displaying a plate of food.
From this, enigmas are created. What is the purpose of this image? Why are the two sides different shades of colour? Or maybe a more inevitable question I may ask is, ‘what kind of flesh is this’? Maybe that doesn’t matter though, what concerns me the most is does the context have something to do with segregation of a sort? With the string binding the two parts together reminds me of another poster ‘Israel Palestibe 2004’ depicting a peace process that was brutually cut off in the middle to achieve cooperation, the graphic image also references the graphic realities of lost limbs and body parts that are a result of this on going conflict.
Context creates meaning. This image of raw meat bound together by string could almost appear in a cookbook as an example of how to tie a roast. When placed into the context of the seamline; the border between the Israeli and Palestinian terrritories-the meaning darkens. The subtle colour variation between the two sides intentionally and cleverly reflects the skin tones of those involved.