Category Archives: UVC1 books

The sculptural imagination: figurative, modernist, minimalist: Alex Potts

Potts, A(2000)The sculptural imagination: figurative, modernist, minimalist [online] publisher unknown. Available here: [accessed 24th July 2017]


David Smith sculpture as an adventure viewed.

Sculpture seen as a lesser form of painting that often has to sit in spaces designed for pictures, not objects.

sculpture had”in a way become painting that had moved out into three dimensions with the frame extended to encompass the viewer” (p3)

Ok, so the impact of scale isn’t a modern thing, classical art was grand and impressive, is Jones capitalising on this?

Charles Ray Boy, oversized impact.

I only had access to the introduction of this book, the copy I ordered from the US never arrived, and I found the text I was looking for before I finished the chapter.

So this one is light on notes.

Michael Camille “Simulacrum”

This essay was recommended by my tutor in assignment 5 assessment.

Camille, M(1996)Simulacrum. In: Critical terms for art history, ed. Robert S. Nelson and Richard Shiff. University of Chicago Press, 1996. pp. 31-44. Available here:

Visual arts as a study between the real and a copy (abstraction rejects resemblance, thats a negative way of putting it) Simulacrum as something trying to represent what its copying begs question of which one is real. Term ignored for a few centuries while art was valued most for being as close to that which it portrayed as it could. Postmodern re entry of simulacrum to explain representation theories.

Simulacrum latin for phantasmic-semblance Plato banished artists as he didn’t trust semblance (?) simulacrum to him was a “false claimant to being”

So Plato’s era sought to distinguish between “good and bad copies”

Old testament and false idols or Plato’s false claimant. Ambiguity surrounding image. Deluze Image without resemblance god made man in his image, we sinned, so lost resemblance while keeping image so becoming simulacra “We have become simulacra. We have forsaken moral existence in order to enter into aesthetic existence”(Deluze 1990,257) (Love island…)

Deluze argues a simulacrum as a copy needs to be viewed as equal to the original it denies the original and other copies.

Deluze used simulacrum to unpick surrealism, ‘ceci n’est pas une pipe’ Foucault argued that we no longer looked to the original item in art to compare it to the copy, simulacra was distinguishable in its own right without the comparison. He saw this as a bad thing Notes that this all came from philosophy rather than art criticism itself.

Photography in the 70’s comes under the spotlight as each repeatable copy seeks “authorship, subjectivity and uniqueness” Reagan blown up on screen being waved to by his wife small below, representing “the President” (Assignment 5)

Gaze of the camera we are :voyeurs standing behind the spectacle”  so whats the real image?

Boudrillard Simulacres et simulation. social not philosophical debate.

Uses Disneyland as a simulacra, better than real? asks what if god disappeared and all that is left is the image not the fact? if we stop basing a copy on its original, what do we reference it against?

“Baudrillard’s argument, that mass media have neutralised reality in stages, at first reflecting then masking and finally substituting themselves for reality” a reactionary lament.

Debord “the image has become the final form of commodity reification” Jameson argues that images distort history nostalgic looks at past events. Biased looks at what has happened (Corbyn through the Daily Mail?)

Cave paintings at Lascaux painted as a representation of what existed or as a memory of what had passed? (present past tense)

Look at p15 for possible quote on desire of the viewer to see what they want?

how politicians distort history to make it fit their plans for re-election?

creating a simulacra?

Derrida Reformed

Written by K Malcolm Richards, Derrida Reformed was a recommendation by my tutor. These are my notes.


Deconstruction from Heideggers original use, Derrida didn’t take it as a destructive term, more as a chance to see something in all its parts, to review to find out if its still fit for purpose.

Felt that speech was being held as more important than writing as it was of an instance and true whereas writing could be copied, changed forged etc.

Ecriture: an expanded notion of writing: one perceiving any physical trace, including a brushstroke, as something that can be thought of in terms of linguistics.

sign, signifier the object signified the meaning.

However, the meaning is only in relation to the context it is used and the culture and language of those it is used with.

The signified is never complete, its meaning has more than one answer and will change over time.

An original can be ‘supplemented’ meaning it may not have as much power? either through essays about it, copies by other artists or other pictures around a theme.

Parasite an organism in its own right and part of its host that enables it to live

Para also nods to unexplained phenomena, which leads to sight

Frames, physical things that separate work from the wall or framing in a museum or gallery ie how its put forward culturally etc.

context, when and where was a work of art made?

Derrida notes that we’ve only ever discussed whats inside or outside the frame, never the frame itself

Derrida makes a claim that the frame embodies properties of the work?

Frame surrounds us.

Labels allow us to understand the work better and act as a framing tool

Aesthetic contemplation is not pure given that we are taught how to do it, so the venue for the art has framed our interpretation because of our mindset on the establishment before we arrive.

Title acts as a point of entry into the work

Williams curation of a museum exhibit allows a link back through the historical objects in a museums archive to make us think about the past in more detail, not obliterating the bit of it we may feel uncomfortable with.

The signature on or in the painting, on the back, how does this fit into Peregon?

Clothing discussed through Kant’s clothing on statues Kenneth Clark, the nude, a figure seen without overt sexuality, add a veil and its not nude, its naked.

Using nude models in unusual spaces while wearing small amounts of designer gear look back through the contents of the image to question the labels and value of the items on a nude model?


Derridas essay on Van Gogh’s shoes. refers to previous essays about ownership of the shoes in the picture and that they aren’t real, don’t know they are a pair and distance ourselves from them the moment we think they are. Touched on holocaust, Heideggers text mirrored some forming Nazi propaganda. Then because we are dealing with the owner of the shoes, ownership in arts (ownership of the objects represented), adds another layer.

Marche, march, touch. The marks on the art.

An artists work is recognisable as a series of repeated marks that represent them. Whilst the artist remains absent.

Heidegger and Schapiro both attach an ownership to the shoes which hints more to their attachment to the narrative they have created.

The shoes represent an inside and outside, they conform to the foot and there are lots of theories on shoes down through history, including Freud and fetish, Derrida then starts on inside and outside of the body as well, including genitalia.


Derrida wrote about De Man, who had been a friend in life. He had to acknowledge his authorship in the text.

Who can judge art? a picture of a cow, looked at by people knowledgeable in the art world, are too involved in aesthetics to give an innocent judgement. The cow is the best informed.

Old tale Zeuxis and Perhassios. Two paintings in a paint-off, one of grapes that a bird then tries to eat and the other is the canvas veiled, so by fooling the artist, the veiled canvas works best?

Innocent eye. Rousseau.


Comic books of 1980’s, using marginal issues like Derrida to pull something apart to analyse. Also they blur good and evil unlike the originals, as well as pushing all situations to there ultimate option thus exposing the flaws.

Pop art, as a way of discussing fine art in a modern world, of asking questions as to how we deal with this new age and the technologies.

The title being used to explain, a marginal method used well like Derrida. Williams.

Uses a marginal idea, explains why its marginal and how it supports the structure of the rest of the piece, whilst destabilising that structure.

Turner nominee cast of the inside of a house, placed in its street which was about to be knocked down. showed us how we live in our intimate spaces.


A ruin is also the decay of the building it once was and the potentially romantic destination it turned into through decay.

Derrida wrote a book around an exhibition he put on, work surrounded by stencilled text, 2 elements working together.

Of sight, blind soothsayers capable of seeing future. a poet verbalising images to the future they have seen. is the visual more important than the word?

Imagine a world with sensory input with no word to describe it.

Derrida links this to a type of purity, Ponty leads to a blindspot, string theory rests on that which we cannot see.

Benjamin’s view of cities, collapsing decaying bourgeoise structures

“Temporal dimension of structures” The fact that how we believe the world was created shapes our values. A structure of identity.

On to self portraits, revealing the Artists soul Rembrandt and van Gogh revealing their individuality.

The self portrait captures a moment that is over, bringing decay “every image we ascribe our identity to becomes a mini tomb”

difference marks these interpretations as transformations. (they are always what we choose to portray, we can destroy the ones we don’t like).

Corinthians woman traces lovers silhouette in candle soot, acts as a ruin when the owner is at war.

Quinn’s frozen blood face, needs freezer to continue and will change/decay over time.

the blind spot gets filled with memory

purity and wholeness of the original, the ruin is already implicit in the initial idea the memory structured in the past.

blinking and mourning: mourning involves taking in a piece of the other intense identification in relation to another. absence.

Holocaust, privileging Auschwitz we forget all the other sites where atrocities took place, other acts of genecide around the world, right to our current time.

Patriarchal society Derrida mocks this while pointing out that male domination has come from male dominated philosophy.

Feminism shouldn’t all be grouped under one heading (true) leads to a stereotype that should be avoided.

Hirschhorn instant memorials, observers relate to the artist, the reason for his work, the objects of his work or create false memories to justify them in their location.


Postcards, the error in relaying messages, only half of Derrida’s texts appear, decay means some portions that do exist have disappeared.

All acts of communication have the opportunity to become public (posthumous release of artefacts). also how true is whats written?

Work of van Gogh has taken on the quasi – relic status of his history and mythologising.

Shit created by machine in the foods available in a city and artist selling his crap at the weight of gold.


Photo essays, mixing mediums to activate deconstruction

appropriation; images from art in the past, redone in photography,

Photographs, how real? staged.

California porn industry run in areas of suburban housing, juxtapose of Dr’s and lawyers houses being used in porn industry and funding upwardly mobile lifestyles of those with solid occupations. the moral dilemma of porn in an upwardly middle subset of America.


online/televisual comes to mean ecriture, our representation over media

“The way we frame the world determines the meanings we construct.”


Richards, K(2008) Derrida reframed. First edition. London. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd


Deconstruction as Analytic Philosophy

This book was recommended by my tutor. I am hoping it gets easier than the intro…

  1. Interdeterminancy of French Interpretation

Frege; at any given time, how a term is used is defines its meaning. A sense has a presence that gives it a meaning that can’t be disputed to start with and is so linked that everyone when hearing the word has a mental picture that is similar.

Husserl is more interested in how we give the sense to the sign, the language etc. Husserl and Frege both antireductionists. Both link a prelinguistic ability without the sign, we have heard a term used in that way before so the present speaker is merely reinforcing its use in that context.

‘Presence’ theory “hardheaded and antimetaphysical. Theory of knowledge.

Derrida starts from Sausure. “signs are arbetory” What defines is somethings difference from something else within a system.

Words have a non fixed meaning however senses content and meaning do and they can be identified on their own. Arbitory linguistic signs need supplimentation to be understood.

meaningful? (iterable) ie can have had more than one application, can be repeated. Derrida thinks that the exact expression would need to be used by the same speaker in a different context to have meaning, whereas Davidson says that to ascribe meaning you need to look at what the speaker is saying in total or all the possible things they could say, so you give theory to the speaker. Derrida thought that for something to be meaningful, the conditions under which it was uttered need to have truth conditions, ie used in a context that is acurate. this grass is green. said standing on a lawn.

Tokens are understandable as the type of token they are, thought token, ideas are tokens in the language of thought mental tokens understandable to the thinker.

Repeatable, and used with other tokens of type to group them (this is all about how we put meaning into words) ie tokens to do with animals would be repeatable? similar?

However, a token has a history and a future that is present and unthought of when using the token.

Nothing significant can be totally present, always refering to something non present .

Its a miracle we’ve ever understood anything given this theory. An utterance only has meaning in the context of which it was uttered, and even then its potentially ambiguous given the non fixed nature of the meaning of any given word.

So, it needs extra meaning beyond the words themselves.

Derrida gives some options.

First the present gives meaning. a presence in the company of, which the words are used.

Second the context in which the words are used also gives meaning.

Iterabilty (repeatable for different reasons) destroys the present argument.

Unless you speak in simple terms that are undenyable, the meaning of what is said is not fixed.

A sentence can have more than one meaning, both linguistic and nonlinguistic.

understanding is only reached when the interpreter (listener/reader)’s disposition matches that of the speaker/writer.

So as much as a sentence can have many meanings, its the interpretation of the situation that aids meaning.

If presence is absent, then there is nothing concrete to base the meaning on.

Deferral. signs always lack full meaning .

We must be using a nonverbal form of differentiation in our use of language to place meaning in any given situation or we would never be able to communicate.

Davidson says that you cannot separate scheme and content. language and what language is about is so linked. That we need the history to ground our knowledge of the meaning of words. and that this can alter future meanings.


“writing precedes speech and that all speech is really writing.” (Derrida)

Not true, you have to explain yourself more fully in writing than in speech when through gesture and intonation you can express other elements of your idea.

Speech is brain tokens? or is it inscriptional and therefore more like writing?

Chapter finished pointing out that without a non written form of interpretation, we would have nothing to compare text against.

2.The extension of deconstruction.

Deconstruction theory has been misunderstood, Derrida originally said the “traditional inferential bases are dispensable prejudices”.

Start by showing 2 arguments that include text or docturine that “undermine” itself  by giving an idea that its built upon that negates itself in the text.

“A text that argues for a thesis t uses essentially a premise p that presupposes that not-t. The thesis of the text is undermined by presuppositions of some of the premises used to support it. “Presuppose” in the original form of deconstructive argument is defined truth conditionally. If p presupposes not-t, then if p is true, t must be false.”

There are a given number of things that make something recognisable as itself, these are necessary truths. without them the thing is unrecognisable. However, eliminating things from the object is difficult because you end up giving the object more qualities that it has? and yet more language is needed….

For a statement to be true we have to distinguish between the meaning of the words and the fact they make up in the language, the example used is “frogs are cute” versus “frogs are animals” the second can still be taken 1 of 2 ways. so is there a “social contract” of understanding?

“Objects” then, exist as posits of a theory.

Quinean theory means that if there are necessary truths that are true in meaning, then there must be necessary truths that are not true in meaning.

Signs work as a mix of the past present and future, so are not totally present. They are repeatable, or they cannot be recognisable as signs.

However, as language is a non precise translation of words, we come back to language being used to understand language.

impossibility of separating meaning and fact.

The world is more than words but we cannot get at the more (especially without words given our reliance on language)

Plato- , there is nothing that is just itself and not also mixed with the opposite character.

all analysis is lacking in completeness, mostly because we never get beyond translation through language which is never-ending.

1 fact and value, cognitive and emotion content

if we rely on whats behind to give meaning, we cant reach the underlying connotation. can’t separate fact from value.

2 The rhetorical and truth condition

because we cannot isolate whats behind the sentence from language phenomena we cannot distinguish content and form, separate rhetoric from message.

don’t use rhetoric in philosophy. which is part of literature.

3 The metaphorical and the literal

metaphor has to be paired with truth to have meaning. my cats act like grumpy geriatric humans as a metaphor is only correct because in truth that is how they act.

“To interpret an utterance as literal is to make a choice about whether a sentence is true, from a Davidson perspective.”

4 textual essence and accident

by tone of voice or added humour we need to separate what is implied from the pun to find meaning.


Understanding the text misses the meaning behind the words?

3 Truth Conditions, Rhetoric, and Logical form

Plato put words into two categories,

Logical- concepts or thoughts expressed. And rhetorical properties that affect how it can function in discourse.

so, ‘red’ is logical.

Rejection of magical language – rethink of meaning.

For Davidson, the meanig of a word depends on what people say and in what circumstances they say it.

No magic words, no meaning over ordinary words in particular circumstances.

What someone says, their utterance is what is relevant to them at that time and contains truths that are relevant to that utterence in that time. however, in the future, the same utterence may have a different meaning or different truth conditions. so the only way to make sense of the utterence is to work out under what circumstances it could be used again.

However the meaning in what we say can be interpreted differently by how we say it, stress patterns etc. either by accident or for emphasis to change the value of words.

Only Fred loves Susan. The only person who love Susan is Fred, however this can also be read negatively.

Form and force the interdeterminancy of truth conditions

There is no truth condition to the sentence Fred loves Susan so we are reliant on language to decide if its true and its inadequate. so you go from logic to rhetoric.

Derrida takes issue with signs because they rely on language to define them and there is no end to the definition.

4 Davidson, Derrida, and Knapp and Micheals on Intentions in Interpretation

Knapp has a go at deconstruction for supposing a text can mean something other than the author intends.

Davidson agrees in principle however there is the internal meaning the author has. Knapp and Micheals claim utterance is only meaningful if its intended. “A sequence of marks can be meaningful only if it was produced on purpose.” This does not give meaning to the marks or utterance.

Because there is intention, they mean what they mean.

doesn’t work with things like the bible. (multiple authors mixed together not always a coherent join to text)

if an author writes with purpose in mind then it fixes meaning in the text. this informs the language used in the communication and the intention.

internal language first and sometimes unrepeated.

So the intention to speak creates the meaning?

Derrida’s view. the intention and the meaning is not fixed nor the motive of the author. the coms as a result have no definitive meaning regardless of the content.

The thing that gives meaning is the iterability, the repeat. There is no magic language. For a thing to be meaningful it must be meaningful in other circumstances.

Davidson allows that as long as its meant then it has meaning, and it can be understood even when its said in terms that part from conventional use of language. as listener you have to hypothesise there is a point to the words of the speaker as much as they have to have an intention in speaking them.

5 Metaphor According to Davidson and de Man

Metaphor is a balance of truths based on them being true or false and that knowledge is unknowable – Davidson

Davidson and de Man both  have same view that “every level of representation” can be descibed/explained in words, not magical though language “metaphorical as a matter of the force with which a sentence is uttered”.

An account of meaning can be no more than the sum of its parts when they were said, in the order they where said.

As much as the words can -by evidence- linked to other words, this is not their meaning. “in the same way, a scientific theory does not mean the data that confirm the theory”.

So as Davidson does not believe in magic language of thought, how does he understand metaphor? A metaphor does not say anything different from its literal meaning?

Davidson argues that literal and metaphorical differ only in the “force” they are pronounced (on paper)

Metaphorically is how a sentence is meant, not what its meaning is.

However, a metaphor if taken literally is not true. we have to suspend disbelief in its meaning and presuppose some of the truths of the words to understand the meaning of the person uttering.

De Man mixed with Rouseau aims at a sense of the language with a metaphor being created by someone. the verbalising of the metaphor turns it into a literal state.

However, a sentence can have many meanings without knowing the intention or the force with which it is said.

Read through Davidson, once a metaphor is out of the head of its owner, “it loses its privileged tie to a particular rhetorical force. that of a hypothesis,” becoming more factual.

Objects are named and similar objects are grouped by names, this conceptualisation for Rouseau was metaphor, the name of the objects had a previous meaning that became to mean something else. This process can be analysed as a turning of rhetorical force.

De Man does not agree that process will fix the language in place. This phase works because we can see the difference. “Thus Rousseau takes denomination to presuppose conceptualisation.”

By saying its all unreliable, again denying magical language of thought that anchors things.


When understanding metaphor, we use what we already understand of the language and sometimes what the speaker is saying fits with some of that historical knowledge.

A metaphor becomes dead when it is used so much that it becomes a valid term to describe something.

“Our conception of natural things is “contaminated” by the merely linguistic.”

6 True Figures

There is nothing other than tradition that links language to the object it portrays.

“Extensions of terms are fixed by “practices in culture.””

culture works by coercion and repression,

Dogs are called dogs because historically they are called dogs, not because there is an essential doginess to the word that defines dog. no magic language reference.

This is about language changing, which it does lead by innovation and youth use of words.

Culture as an unfixed ideal controlling the language as much as our parents did when they taught it to us and how the under-culture is still a part of it.

saying things to make them true – literal predication.

Without magic language, metaphor is more literal, so the need for force to make sense of the metaphor, ie linking it to humour etc is necessary for Davidson.

The word table is a metaphor, although a dead one. over the centuries, our language evolved the use of the word so that it now has meaning as a flat surface suspended/supported above ground-level upon which I put things.

7 A Rabbinic Philosophy of Language

Reviewing a religious text in the Talmud to assess the truth in language, discusses the relevance of magical language to decide action over a group decision. When is it right to decide the real? who gets to decide.

8 Deconstruction, Cleanth Brooks, and Self-Reference.

John Crowe Ransom and Cleanth Brooks 1940s literary critics who looked at poems et al as art over text, so the way the words fitted together was looked over content.

However, in terms of deconstruction as a way to analyse text, language is less formulaic than numbers so we have to look further.

“Literary theory is not a kind of language but rather a rhetorical take on a text”

First problem, no magic language, terms are not fixed.

So, the structure is most important as that is pretty static..

We have to read the text on different levels to get the meaning fundamental meaning of text.

level beyond literal metaphor figurative

analogical allegorical

with no magical, there are only words to explain, leading to language-like options.

If a contradiction is based only on the part of a text it deals with,  (non-formal language text) its ok. difference between formal theory and belief.

Brooks writing on poetry observes that rendering it into another language destroys the meaning it originally has (wonder if this works for Derrida?) Wheeler uses this argument to show again no magical language or it would make the same sense. So this is a study of the words of poetry, as we cannot get away from the meaning of words to give us the message of the poem.

How the poem is written is part of what it means. Loosening the reference can be about the poem itself as well as the content of its words.

back to deconstruction. a poem has to be assessed sentence by sentence for strength of authority power relations, prestige.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        9 A Deconstruction Wittgenstein

now looking at Derrida and Wittgenstein by Staten. writing meaning doesn’t become apparent because it exists

Some truths have to hold for us to believe a plane will fly.

“Aristotle figured we where the sort of organism that knows, that is naturally disposed to get things right.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Davidson, objective, culture independent truths. ie a rock is a rock if its a rock. as a truth this can’t be broken down any more.

10 Wittgenstein as Conservative Deconstructor  

Maths holds its own set of irrefutable truths.

1expressions. cognitive meaning (knowledge) – Emotive meaning                                                                                                                                                                                                                   dualism out of which an explanatory scheme is built (foundational)

2Value hierarchy, cognitive / other value, if the same, can be used to deconstruct.

3 contrasts, logical v rhetorical, complete v un complete.

deconstruction works when both sides of the argument are coherently describable.

so attack knowledge, with known opinion of knowledge of the time versus the other meaning at that time (rhetoric metaphor etc) Contrast at this point is incoherent.

second phase abandon first phase and shows incoherence

because one side of the argument  must presuppose the other side.

other factors can squew the argument, gender freud etc

“use a text to show how it undermines itself by implicitly denying the division it is explicitly promoting.”

problem with using an argument to resolve an argument is that tboth arguments can be found to be wrong.

remove theory keep argument?

Wittgenstein, notion of meaning being as something behind language.

11 Deconstructed Distinctions are OK

“Deconstruction points out inconsistencies or incoherence in a distinction, text or discourse”

Deconstruction, does not necessarily show that a discourse is defective.

Deconstruction does not necessarily stop a discourse – be it instructions or founding information for culture – from working.

12 Derrida’s Difference and Plato’s different.

difference itself is an entity so whatever is different between a and b is itself an entity.

Because of the differences, things become beings?

“No explanation of B by A is possible if the understanding of A requires that B exists”. (Davidson)


I think I understand Davidson’s view more than Derrida’s  It strikes me as much more common sense and dealing with what exists and how we currently describe it.

Good book, I hope to delve into lots over the years.


Wheeler, S (2000) Deconstruction as an analytic philosophy. First Edition. Stanford. Stanford University Press.


Vintage Barthes- Mythologies

My tutor suggested I read Mythologies for part 3 of UVC1, Can’t say I was looking forward to it, so I’m doing notes chapter by chapter.

The structure is essays written one a week over a 2 year period, and from the first, it seems like its the Bill Bryson article that used to be at the start of the weeks TV guide in the Mail on Saturday.

The world of wrestling

ITV on Saturdays used to have wrestling. It was showmanship and false. Barthes likens it to classical drama with key characters where the justice is a stronger requirement than the fair play. And he was right, the spectacle was everything, the wrestlers themselves, cast as good or evil.

The Romans in film

The sign of a roman, a fringe, the sign of just woken up, unkempt hair or asymmetry of the plait.

This essay is dealing with artifice, the obvious sign shouting from the rooftops and having little meaning, whereas the subtle use of signs (the flag in Chinese theatre) to highlight an overlooked aspect.

The writer on holiday

Sarcastic little piece about how writers don’t stop being writers even on holiday or dressed in PJ’s.

The Blue blood cruise

About how royalty are reported as being special and normal at the same time then rule. The french did believe there king was a god though, pinch of salt required reading that one.

Blind and Dumb criticism

I’m guessing during this week Barthes read a book critique he didn’t like. The comments run something along the lines of critiquing based on linguistic response, philosophic or its relevance to life. Then purporting to know none of these (which is supposed to draw the reader of the critique in), whilst still critiquing on a book.

At this point he notices the text understands the reader better than the reader understands the text.

Soap powders and Detergents

He looks at 2 washing powders and the words used in their adverts, assimilating the actions of washing as being the same as those of a washerwoman and their difference as a powder from a cream. (importance of language)

Whilst both being owned by Unilever

The poor and the proletariat

Charlie Chaplin portraying the proletarian in films and handing prize money to proletariat causes, the obvious contradiction here is that he had great wealth. as much as he played the bum, his bum lived quite comfortably and always seemed to have access to whatever he needed. I think Barthes is praising the character for opening political debate around what you have to offer.

Operation Margarine

The ills of an institution are what saves it, Barthes uses 2 examples, the army and the church

The army is run by a bunch of puppets, to an order with a hierarchy,  however someone joins up and gets turned from average into another member of the army, which they learn to follow with a zeal.

Army again, all it destructs in the name of science is then used to explain its necessity.

The church, narrow minded about those outside of the faith yet protective of this within it.

Then skips to a margarine advert that tries to persuade you your prejudice against the product is wrong in the same way Barthes arguments with the army and church work.

That you are better off with the prejudice and an open mind.

Dominici or, the Triumph of literature

The Murder trial of a landowner accused of killing a family camping near his land.

Barthes is disparaging about the fact this lowly chap was by a raft of literate wordy types who condemned him without physical evidence.

The iconography of the Abbe Pierre

The many images of Franciscan monks and how we define what they are like by this.

From the haircut to whether they have a beard.

I don’t think Barthes likes religion very much….

Novels and children

after seeing a piece in Elle about female writers all of whom are announced with how many children they have had, Barthes writes about this link in Elle’s mind between childbirth and creative ideas to write. Noting that while men are not discussed in the magazine, they are a watching subject that haunts all the articles.

Are we defined by our overriding procreation capability?


Moaning about how toys aid playing at life, not creativity.

This then conforms to social stereotyping, playing mum, soldier etc.

Then about what they are made from, and the time it takes to make them, finishes with old farm toys, the carefully created animals. Or the stereotype of playing at being a farmer.

He does like to contradict himself.

The face of Garbo

“Existential form from an essential beauty” I’m guessing he found Audrey physically pleasing to look at.

Wine and milk

Wine is French. Levels the brainy with the not so, and makes the blue collar workers job more bearable.

The french don’t drink to get drunk, thats just going to happen because its alcohol. Its also been talked about and philosophised over so much that even the thought of wine is as French, also if you don’t ascribe to this view you are a touch stuffed because of the large proportion of the population to whom this view is sacrosanct.

Water was suggested as the opposite of wine, Barthes suggests thats actually milk.

Also points out that if you can forget the land grabbing(?) then wine can remain the joyous drink.

Steak and Chips

Bearing in mind the love of French food that would kick after use of jump leads, Barthes links steak to life and its consumption to strength

Eulogising over the rarity of steak and its associations to our blood, taking steak and chips as a national dish.

The Nautilus and the Drunken boat

Jules Verne and his own little world with its own physics. Barthes likens him to a child creating dens and hiding from uncertainty and the infinite. Verne uses ships as a means to carry his characters, the lead owns the ship and is surrounded by all they need, take away the ship and Barthes likens whats left to an eye roving around. Then discusses the opposite of this as Rimbaud’s Drunken Boat. (deconstruction theory dealing with the opposite that isn’t present to compare?)

The Brain of Einstein

Einstein is signified by his brain. He is mythologised, he almost found the secret of the universe and then he died.

The Jet-Men

This is about (I think) a film or comic? The idea its based on is the mythical jetman who dons a nylon suit and against the laws of physics shoots through everywhere without the adverse effects of gravity or bug splatter mucking him up. How they forsake a normal life with religious values and as an inventor (?) seclude themselves and worship the myth of being the jet-person. Discusses the god like nature of the elderly mentor?

The Blue Guide

The picturesque is found any time the ground is uneven. I like that.

This essay is a review of a series of guide books called Guide Blue Its a bit condescending, in part because of Barthes slightly scathing view of hills (he sites our love of them as historic restorative) but he’s right, any time you reduce the entire population of an area to an extended noun phrase and downgrade them as lower than yourself, I would say its a book to avoid.

He goes on to point out how the countryside of Spain is reduced to its historical buildings of churches and misses out the modern town around them or the fact that the building of any of it desecrates the picturesque landscape initially discussed.

He notes that had the authors been from other publications, the emphasis would have been on something else.

Ornamental cookery

Elle again, cookery recipes that look great but are outside the financial expectation of its demographic, and are dressed for the picture in a fashion suitable to the time this article was written.

Neither-Nor Criticism

Suggests that an anonymous view Barthes read in the paper, about how criticism had to be so equal in all ways, as to be not possible to do.

This over equal view had to have no historical knowledge, in anyway, shape or form, in fact the person doing the critique should have done nothing with their life prior to writing.

This reads like Derrida’s “Of Grammatology” extract we are asked to read in Project 5 only its more openly saying that its not possible to be that bipartisan.


Barthes looks at the act of striptease, suggesting its only erotic in the initial removal of clothing and accessories, that the dance itself with its constant movement removes that eroticism. Amateurs who fumble removing their clothing and stop moving gracefully throughout the process are unwittingly erotic.

That the Moulin Rouge has turned the striptease into a profession, with aspirations which is in Barthes mind what nationalises the art of striptease. Not sure I’d be too proud of that, even if its supposed to be an empowering act.

The New Citroen

How new cars are like cathedrals, made objects seem dropped from heaven as you cannot see the making process in them, the sides smooth metal and glass.

The inside is likened to household space, the dashboard a fitted kitchen, then trying the car out demystifies everything through the reality of touch.

Photography and the Electoral Roll

Sarcastic piece about what the photo of a candidate on electoral propaganda means, from mirroring the public into believing ‘I’m just like you’ to reflecting their background in clothing or their views in where they are looking and how they are posed.

The Lost Continent

Reviews a film(?) about an expedition into somewhere Eastern. Scathing about anything you could learn as its in colour, has a christian bent to its explanation and non authentic music in the background. It also uses typical signs to strengthen and support stereotypes.


Elle again. Horoscopes as a description of their shared ambiguities and relation to the majority of the female working woman.


The endless mutation possibilities of plastic. How it can’t seem natural and is now so ubiquitous its filled our houses, and potentially us with replacement heart valves.

The Great Family of Man 

Review of an exhibition transplanted from USA, how its meaning changed with the addition of the word Great to the title and the constant use of similarities across the world in various processes are supposed to draw us together.

Then refers to a black girls murder and asks if her family feel so in tune with this view of togetherness given her killer was white.

Whats the point of reviewing birth and death, they are factually unavoidable and if you take history out of the discussion, have nothing to offer the exhibition.

Suggests that in discussing birth, the background story of the pain, infant mortality and future prospects would be more useful. That its only natural as much as it is profitable.

The Lady of the Camellias

Review of a play and about how its not a love story, as the heroine has a different placement to the love involved than the man who is supposed to be her lover, what she is looking for from him is recognition.

Myth is a type of speech

The signified is the picture of the subject, what it signifies is the meaning, and the sign is the word that means the whole thing?

The myth is the sign emptied of meaning added to the new story and combined to become a new sign. The previous history glossed over and ignored to embody something whole and complete in itself.


Barthes, R(1957) Mythologies. Translated revised Vintage edition 2009.London: Vintage


Decoding Advertisments

Decoding Advertisements – Ideology and meaning in advertising. Judith Williams (Robert Maclehose and Company Limited. Great Britain. 1978)

When we look at adverts we use the same criteria to analyse them all, the object within the advert is personified, or talks to you (the voice over ‘speaks’ for the object) changed into a meaning from an object (Diamonds and eternal love).

Adverts turn objects into trade-able items with a value, a value that either complements how we see ourselves (and they are sold to ‘us’ individually, directly) or how we wish to be seen.

The ads even help us construct our list of things that group us and we are informed about how and what people like us should have, aspire to, or in some cases behave.

Advertising (remember this copy is written in 1978) has led to an overlay hiding the fact that 2 cars and a colour tv doesn’t make you middle class.

This hiding of the class system beneath is ideology, which continues the to keep the class system the same by creating a place we identify with being.

We do need things, to use and because they help define us, so advertising crosses the two purposes.

Part 1 ‘Advertising-Work’

Signifier, Signified, Sign.

A thing that has meaning to people/person. ‘it is neither the thing or the meaning alone, but the two combined’.

Signifier-material object

Signified-its meaning

Sign-thing plus meaning

Adverts are not simply one message. Here is a product, please buy it, it wouldn’t work, the adverts stretch the truth and we don’t need half of what we buy.

Next stage is looking at adds, and decoding.

A4 linking objects in an image, same colours ‘objective correlation’ between pack of mild cigerettes and cup of espresso.

A5 box of lambert and butler represtented in square decore of scene behind, filled with a smart social gathering, text reads ‘the world of Lambert & Butler’ . The people and world are an accessory of the product.

A6 woman in kitchen, her outfit is the same as the inside of one of the cupboards, hair – outside of cupboard, the tone of her skin matches the eggs, she blends into her kitchen, they are as one.

A7 Bronzing advert coloured in gold and brown, reflecting the colour you are supposed to end up after using the product.

pictoral advertising uses strategies differently than moving image adverts, the plane you are watching can move, cut edit and link to the product in a more obvious way than a flat picture, so use of colour and product has to fill the gap

differentiation of a product within category is first task, establishing what it isn’t.

The relevance of a film star’s image in an advert is only important if you know who she is, then you can understand her as a sign. (referent system, star lifted from an understood place and used in adverts to refer to other meaning)

A9 tomboy image of known star used to sell perfume in a different way to a more feminine style of advert. So ad is new as is the perfume. The style is differentiating it from standard perfume adverts and the known perceived  qualities of another star.

Even companies like Chanel differentiate between their own products, advert shown for No. 19 in contrast to No. 5. the models used are different, the situations in them are different

The star =’s the product however the star is ≠ to another star in the same way a product is ≠ to another product.

Adverts are supposed to create emotions, they are formulaic in that they try to create a link between emotions and products. feelings moods or attributes connected to objects

So, maybe it doesn’t invoke feeling, but promotes a link to the feeling from the product?

Beanz meanz heinz. All beans mean Heinz, not Heinz means beans.

Pavlov’s dogs, the product is linked to the feeling and over time we see the product etc…

We exchange symbols to a monetary value, even emotions that are owned by the products we are looking at.

Chapter 2

Who is the ad refering too? by talking directly to me, I am part of the ad. I am placed in the best seat to view the image.

However, the inference is all about me being the person the ad is referring to so I am the person in the ad. I have become part of the advert. I am part of the club of people the advert is writing about, everyone else is outside this group, its talking directly to me (even though I’m not the only one who will view the ad).

Advertising is sexist. (I want to see if this still holds as true, the book is from a few decades ago) split personalites, where women are either working in a ‘mans world’ or being femenine. Men are either manly or doing what the family needs. however women are seemingly comfortable with this in the ads and men not so?

‘Differences are essential to signification’. each split is a difference from the other parts which then relate to you the viewer/subject.

The advert works because we want to be that person the ad is referring to.

Levi-Strauss “We have each become our own totem”. The way our society works is so linked to us and through us it effects how we react to signifiers in adverts and what signifiers go into adverts in the first place. So, if advertising seems sexist, its because its not only reflecting society, its reflecting our views. A bit chicken and egg really.

Lucan Mirror phase. Children are unformed initially free flowing. “disengagement of the ego from the general mass of sameness” then happens. Child sees themselves in the mirror and realises that its them self however it is another. Also, as child cannot see all of self, the mirror displaying a whole other form helping to separates the identity from the form.

Subject and object (of self) not separate. Sameness of images is imaginary and differences between selves is symbolic. Mirror image empty vessel this helps advertising as we put our personality into the mirror image and state that it is us. At some point it becomes a social-I instead of imaged-I once this has happened, you can’t go back to image-I.

Image we aspire to but never achieve. The person of ourselves that we see in adverts. Which is how the person in the advert can be us.

Ads are a misrepresentation of the position of us (we are not in the ad) and the person (we are not the person in the ad)

Absence in the ad.

The idea that a picture lays out the personality of a person through the objects they surround themselves with and that the absence of an actual person or people in the ad leads us to put ourselves into that place.

The sexed absence, the picture contains objects or people in a situation that refers to an ownership of the contents of the image.

This is male sexed, female is described differently. the person in the ad isn’t looking at you the viewer.

Nature:- Adverts contain the natural object, hollow it out and fill with the ‘cooked’ product.

Science:- By offering science (thats science as a whole, not a specific form or any real answers) in an advert, it is a fact and true.

Sex:- Linked to nature and culture? Advert offers concept of sex having happened or is going to happen because of product, but through knowledge of nature or science, and if its nature, its within the known boundries of the garden, not the wild (well the MG ad anyway)

Romantisism:- Links back to an ordered view of nature controlled by us/culture rather than the actual dangerous wild.

Culture:- Links into the cycle of the above by not taking the product back to nature totally, having transformed it through cultural views.

Magic – transformational referent system.

Shows movement from the real to a different future which is bigger better brighter, without explaining how its achieved. Magic

Time – Through the story in the advert, and the objects pictured, time is referenced in past and future, present can’t be as you the viewer are in the present looking at the ad.

Adverts mythic own structure so that the ad can refer to adverts in itself so supposedly rising above all ads whilst still being one.

Adverts equate the object to something completely unrelated  ie OXO mum and family love sells OXO cubes. The shared history of the Sunday lunch and the future purchase of OXO to create those Sunday lunches (and memories) with your own family, replacing Linda Bellingham with yourself.

Good book. Definitely recommend it.


Williamson, J(1978)Decoding advertisements. Paperback edition. Marion Boyars publishers Ltd. London





Techniques of the observer

This book was recommended by my tutor and partway through my first reading, I didn’t get much from it till I had to answer project 2 Barbarous taste. This seemed to resonate with the book and everything became clearer. These observations and notes represent the incredibly long winded second read through.

Chapter 1

The time period discussed in the book is very brief, a lot of views on how we see changed in a very short amount of time.

Current understanding of viewing is changing because the things with which we can view and understand are changing regularly also, ie mapping tools, cameras that detect different frequencies of light etc

Guy Debord ‘society of the spectacle’, power of society over medium used and content and who watches.

History has taken into account the different way the impressionists used to view the world, however the accounts miss the change in thought about how we actually see, the physical process, what affects it. this in turn changes how modern art comes about as a way of looking externally from the self with a regard to the normal still prevalent, which makes it all a bit less surprising.

this period in time was a starting point of cataloging sight, the studies used in these chapters are linked.

it also heralded a break down of class that meant symbology of content became more watered down as everyone could create it (photos) see it Obscura recreate etc.

whilst the camera photos a landscape we recognise, its in a form so vastly different, it has different meaning.

the new technologies created, ostensibly for research (ended up in the realm of entertainment) were made before photography and mass  construction.

Debord relates to 20th century however this is relevant as a starting point for the spectacle.

flaneur – an excess of stimuli and an inability to take it in and act. the process of reacting to what happens because there is so much happening rather than acting before to deal with it.

Chapter 2

we look at seeing through western culture and our history back through to the greeks, renaissance art leads through to the cinema as a link to a natural view of the world.

so the camera obscura is then linked to cinematography as a way of a controlling force by the elite.

the concept of the obscura was known since the Greeks, and was largely used as a piece of entertainment, however, Marx, Bergson, Freud et al thought about it more in terms of what was hidden and what was real.

it was talked about as much as it was used? Deluze “Machines are social before they re technical” [p31]

Used to create paintings, so art historians think of it within that confine.

Thought of by the users as producing a moving image that was more real than the real

Giovanni Battista Porta 1558 mentions obscura. Thought it would be a way to view specifics of nature and then use this knowledge to harness nature. Cassir thought he was referring to a type of magic, the knower and the know.

obscura becomes the way to define observing, as ‘isolated, autonomous’ [p39] sight is removed from the observer and done by the obscura. the experience replaced by machine and this version of the ‘truth’. which was a good thing to nietzche as ‘it is from senses that most misfortunes come’.

Newton and Locke wrote about a version of obscura, both describe a way for an enclosed space with the real coming in a small aperture one side displaying an element of the real on the opposite side and individuals being between the two planes. ‘free-flowing’.

Locke distances us from mechanism by hiding in the dark. this leads to theories on where thought happens, is it linked to sight?

is Vermeer implying the camera obscura in pictures? [p44-45] because they are inside looking at things relevant to the title of the work?

Descartes suggests using a dead eye as a lens, so sight is again separate from the individual, then how do 2 eyes create 1 vision?

Leibniz theorising that obscura was to localised a point to be anything other than fragmented and de-centralised.

flattening the landscape with a single point of view, a cone.

it doesn’t matter which external experience of the view you refer to, its a neat understandable view you are presented with on a wall, the memory is of less importance than the act of looking.

Berekley categorises sight as different from the other senses, not sure his example works independent of touch or because of it? [p58]

however, sight is linked to touch in many of these theories, Dierot theory on touch based on a blindfolded man over someone without sight, so reference to touch or seeing through touch?

end of the chapter is about how touch was bound up in observation. later artists could only have the view they had because of the work earlier in the century to define observation.

Chapter 3

Goethe observed the left vision after the light was taken away, ‘As the eye, such the object’ (p70) meaning we see what we can understand we see potentially over what is actually in front of us.

Now we have investigation into observing and sight, Goethe calls for a dark room or closed eye to help gain knowledge of how the individual being experimented upon perceives light and colour.

Maine de Biran proposed that as we get tired we perceive colours differently, that observing was not the passive act it had previously been thought to be.

Schopenhauer went on to state colour was physical and chemical perception he and Goethe thought secondary (based on how we sense something, see, smell, taste, touch, hear) qualities were more important than primary (things that are actual, the object is a pyramid). Schopenhauer said that given colour was something we perceived when our eyes where shut, that ‘”what occurs on the brain’ is wrongly attributed to what is happening outside of it.

1800-50 saw the cataloging of our physiology that became the backbone of our understanding of us. 5 senses, separation of sensory/motor nerves, different functions areas of the brain

elitist comment on artists and genii finding sight most important because of its “indifference in regards to the will”

Wave theory on light (p86) Fresnel

Muller (p89) nerves were different and could only process 1 type of sensation eg electricity created a different sensation based on were it was applied, to the eye gave light, you could feel it through skin etc.

“experience of light has no necessary connection with any actual light”.

so, we really can’t trust what we see.

Ruskin gets involved here with the “innocence of the eye” Which I understand, creating pictures for me is about a fascination with the accurate recreation, its a joy and an obsession.

Chapter 4

On dealing with the afterimage, Goethe studied ‘subjective visual phenomena such as afterimages no optical illusion, now optical truth.

sensory perception separate from external referent (smell separate from a real odour?)

Our own personal experience of everything cancels out the objectivity of ‘just’ being an observer.

Ampere stated that any perception/understanding blends with one we’ve already had/remembered.

perception is “un suite de differences successives.”

Herbart we don’t intrinsically get the truth of something, we ‘extracts it from an ongoing process involving the collision and merging of ideas.'(p100-101) He also thought this was all bound up in a way of displaying info into young minds to instil discipline and attentiveness.

Dr John Paris thaumatropes. spinning disk relies on afterimage for effect.

Zootropes, phenakistiscopes, all brought about as studying tools based around the observer, not as ideas to look at actual motion. This changes there value.

Because of this innovation and experimentation, the observer moved on from the restricted view of the camera obscura in a darkened room to a mechanical movement that became acceptable and paved the way for the next

Part of the reason the kaleidoscope was invented as a means to produce art in a mechanical fashion creating  a symmetry of pattern and colour that humans could not create as quickly, this was argued by Marx as a trick with mirrors.

Stereoscope. Wheatstone and Brewster wrote extensively on optical afterimages and subjectivity. Stereoscope was also involved in discussions on space, when we start to perceive space etc. study into binocular vision accurately started at this point. How does split image merge? “An effect of the observer’s experience of the differential between two other images.”

stereoscope pictures, Diderot surmised where enough information to recognise the object/place in real life and not gain anything extra from seeing them in the real.

Brewster believed he was disseminating the techniques of illusions to the common man by creating the kaleidoscope and the stereoscope.

Chapter 5

by 1840, it wasn’t a study of vision, but a study of perception.

Turner as an artist stopped using a single point of light to illuminate his pictures. The camera obscura helped with the study of the sun but Turners paintings still put it at the forefront of some of his pictures as an experience that wasn’t possible with the camera.

Turners painting The Angel standing with the sun. which includes a form that isn’t of this word and is as a result not possible to create with the other form , the camera obscura.

Fechner studied sensation and stimulation deciding that there was an odd relation between them and external causes of them.

vision became relocated in the subjectivity of the observer.


Crary, J(1990)Techniques of the observer. First Edition. MIT Press. Massachusetts.