Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Image vs. word

Here is a quote from the Kress reading:

“while the reading path in the image is (relatively) open, the image itself and its elements are filled with meaning. There is no vagueness, no emptiness here. That which is meant to be represented is represented. Images are plain full with meaning, whereas works wait to be filled. Reading paths in writing (as in speech) are set with very little or no leeway; in the image they are open. That is the contrast in affordance of the two modes: in writing, relatively vacuous elements in strict order (in speech also, to a somewhat lesser extent); and full elements in a (relatively) open order in image. The imaginative work in writing focuses on filling words with meaning-and then reading the filled elements together, in the given syntactic structure. In image, imagination focuses on creating the order of the arrangement of elements which are already filled with meaning” (4).

I am wondering if I am the only one that disagrees. I get his statements about reading paths and whatever, but not his discussion of filling with meaning. Images are vague. There can be as many ‘readings’ into one image as into one word. There is no set definition of what an image is supposed to represent, the viewer is just as free if not more so to bring their own meaning to an image than a word. And words are not ‘empty’-authors choose certain words over other precisely because they have different meanings. If I say someone is wearing turquoise today it is because I do not mean they are wearing blue or green. Words too are chosen so that what is "meant to be represented is represented". Yes, the reader does bring their own understanding and meaning to it, but within the parameters of some definition of the word. And the same is true of an image, that is why art can be so powerful. Images are allowed to be much more symbolic. He honestly thinks that the "imagination" in images is in how they are arranged, not what the images themselves can represent? And anyway, what exactly does he mean by an image?

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