Category Archives: UVC1 Part 3

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


Pt 3 Project 5 Deconstruction

Most people who have not studied philosophy or critical theory really struggle with the writings of Jacques Derrida who is the major writer on ‘Deconstruction’, which is really the subject behind this project. Art in Theory has a piece (on page 944 et sec) by Derrida taken from one of his seminal works Of Grammatology. You may well find it rewarding to read this section and see what you make of it.

The writer has to write within the rules of text so their personality cannot completely come out. Also, the rules of how we write dictate how it comes across to the reader.

The writer includes some history in their writing, be it by the language and rules with which they write. However, upon reading, the reader should understand this history coming through.

The reader should only read the signs in the text, they should not ‘double’ the commentary by reading into it their own history.

The reader cannot as a result refer outside the text either.

And as much as they have an existence outside the text, all that is needed and real is within it.

However, if you can take your psychological biography completely outside the text, this can complement it.

Is it impossible to separate signified from signifier? We have to take into account the history of the text, the context of the text, the history of the author.

Then through some Herculean reading dismiss it all and just read the text.

Is this possible?


I’m getting a firmer grasp of how unfairly my sex has been handled down through the ages and whats worse is the knowledge that whilst this changes subtly with every generation, the background we are brought up with is underpinned by a raft of literature authored by people with a backward view of equality through their own history, written in times of less equality than our own. Given that we learn in schools through history, I don’t think we are taught how to suspend all of the stuff around the text to get at the initial message. not content with that, I don’t believe that message can be read with regards to where we are without some of that historical context leaking out.

I also think Derrida knew it wasn’t possible and was making a point.


Art = signs and imitation. Art only works through culture. signs are linked to the customs within a culture and represents itself through signs.

References music from one area not being liked by someone somewhere else, which makes sense.

Then onto gluttony which precludes taste and “uneducated un cultivated sensations” delving into Rousseau is a bit of a digression at this point.

He then argues that in art we find the value of the meaning of the sign more important than the object or symbol itself it has to “imitate an object, and, better if it expresses a passion”

The symbols work, even if stripped of colour, they appear in print as lines, in original form they already hold the ability to be beautiful in imitation because the symbols are readable?

This is the reason for the death of art, although as a personal aside, we’ve been learning how to do art on the back of other artworks for a few centuries now which means art died somewhere around the cave painting when there where only a handful of people on the planet and their ability to verbally critique was quite poor.

However, imitation leads to a copied line which loses some of the passion thus killing the art.

Also, by creating art we are supplying the bit of nature that is missing.



We are asked to search for more information on Deconstruction and make notes in your blog. Then see if you can put what you have discovered into practice on an image, a film, some literature or a piece of music.

Deconstruction;- Looking for what is absent in the document or art and comparing that to what is in it.

Andromeda 1962 by Alexander Liberman 1912-1999

Andromeda – Alexander Liberman

This painting on a circular support 1650cm in diameter. Painted in acrylic. Divided into 4 sections, the canvas shows 3 colours.

There are 2 moss green sections either side with a thick curved line going through the middle of the canvas vertically. This is split into 2, on the left, thicker at the top and to a point at the bottom is a curved wedge of deep lilac. Next to (on the right of centre) not quite parallel curved sides (slightly thinner at the bottom), is a very dark brown/black block.

This piece is called andromeda.

If this piece is referring to the Andromeda galaxy, then what it is lacking is stars. It is missing the colour and light that the stars give. It has the immensity of its size to encompass space.

stars/no stars

How does it represent the stars by not having them present? is a trace here because of the title? or is it implied in the size of the canvas?

are the stars in the galaxy absent because of the giant curve representing where they could be?

dull colour/light

Is the absence of light hinting at the galaxy’s distance from us? again referencing size.

Is his lack of descriptive detail referencing the uncertainty of the era he lived in and the space exploration that was ongoing at the time? this new style of hard edged art representing the leap in capability of man into the unknown?

According to Derrida we shouldn’t link the art to the history of the time, so should we not look at what was happening in the 60’s? or that this was a new style of art? I think it shuts off a way to view this picture if we can’t consider it and absorb it into our potential fascination of it.

It has to be said I am loving the fact that I now would really like to sit down in front of this piece and just take it in. Its not the normal thing I’d head for…


Derrida, J(1967)The exorbitant: question of method & The engraving and the amiguities of formalism In:Art in theory 1900-2000, Harrison, C. Wood, P. Oxford: Art in theory 1900-2000. pp. 944-949

Liberman, A(1962) Andromeda [acrylic on canvas] [online image]. Tate gallery London. Available from: [accessed 1st March 2017]




Pt3 Project 4 Author? What Author?

Read Michel Foucault’s essay What is an Author? pps 949 – 953 in Art in Theory: 1900 – 2000 and Roland Barthes’ essay The Death of the Author, in Image Music, Text xxiii pps 142 – 148 making your notes in the usual way.

1. Not all forms of the written word are documents that can be said to have an author (individual presence) and the ones that today we say have an author historically were anonymous although this was due to the fact that having an opinion probably meant sticking your head above the parapet regards religion and governance. It was only the scientific literature that needed a name to legitimise it.

According to St Jerome there are 4 criteria to distinguish whether text is by the same person, 1. out of all the texts that don’t come up to the same standard. 2. Remove all that don’t agree with the opinions. 3. Remove ones that don’t use the same style of language usage. 4. anything that refers to a point after the writers death has to be removed as well.

Modern critisism is because the author has a personal history that influences what they have written, be it due to their age, influences or the era in which they live. “the author also serves to neutralise the contradictions that may emerge in a series of texts”.

The class of the writer will also show in the text, not least in the type of text being written or the culture it was written from, (although this doesn’t take into account the throwaway nature of the ease in righting to WWW. Isolation and anonymity are probably more dangerous in this situation, not sure I’d want people to prefer not to be recognised by their writing)

Also, the writer should not be idealogical, trying to get their point across (not going to happen). He believed the author became more important than the point they were making, that the value on their words was more important in some cultures. This value on the author decided the subjects discussed and how, by taking away the value of the author, he believed that the subjects would change and the content with it.

Foucault thinks these personal distinctions are the reason we should be anonymous, however I’d argue they are the reason we should be open so that you can look at a persons views and openly decide as the reader which elements you need to trust (take reading the Daily Mail, any given day, everything will give you cancer and then tomorrow help you live forever, however I understand that is the nature of the writing so I can take it with the pinch of salt it requires then go fact check with other publications, why shouldn’t I be able to do that with authored work outside the papers?) Personally, this utopian system of work coming about in a way as to not inform of an author voice, that is, presumably to inform, but not judge or proffer an opinion wouldn’t be possible. I don’t believe that an anonymous person will be able to withhold their personal views over openly discussing the subject. I don’t think you need the personal history (ie the tortured Van Gogh) to inform on the why or how, but the individual history has to exist to reveal the want to create whatever it is anyway and creating so as to not leave a noticeable imprint on the work, is in a way still leaving an imprint on the work.



2.Barthes states that as writing is a conglomeration of previously written text, its not the work of the author. However thanks to capitalism the author has come forward as more important “the author ‘confiding’ in us.”

“A texts unity lies not in its origin but in its destination”. The readers engagement is more important than the writer. This isn’t always true. sometimes I make pictures because the idea is sat in my head for a long time and I need to get it out, so create. I’m not worried about how its interpreted at this point although as someone who wishes to sell art, I’d have to say the reader of the pictures has to be important or I run the risk of never selling anything. Should we really be saying that we will only offer the reader what needs to be written and not what they want to read? Are we as readers really not adult enough to make the decision? And does this deal with the purists who believe that arts voice is more important?

Writers shouldn’t use I

That criticism of writing is futile and that we should just read text for what it is?

He also seems to infer that the reader has no history? Which can’t be true or text would never reach beyond Janet and John. I get the idea, that in removing the importance of the writers voice and opinion, there should be more information for the reader, however, writers get better because they identify with their own use of the language and as informative as writing should be, it also has to be written in a way that I wish to continue reading. The context the word are used in are at least as important as the words used and understanding the person that put the words down in some instances can be as important.

This also doesn’t allow for stealing like an artist, we learn by looking at the work of other artists and emulating it, then cherry picking off the techniques that slowly inform our personal style or ‘voice’. No matter the medium of creation, we would have to allow for this or there would be no progress.

Look at Sherrie Levine’s images and the work of Cindy Sherman.

• Look at the work of these two artists – or another two artists whose work seems either to be derived from a reading of the two articles you’ve read, or whose work is better explained in the light of them. One of each would be ideal. You are probably best searching amongst the younger cohort of contemporary artists.

Cindy Sherman’s images are photographs where primarily she plays a different character each time. These have developed over the decades she has been doing them, so that earlier series have been noticeably cinematic in reference. Most current have been play acting strong characters from classical art or history: wearing a nude suit that doesn’t attempt to look realistic and carrying a sword. This image she is next to another character sat demurely in a feminine dress both against a background of a mirror image riverside almost looking like an etching. This untitled image seems to be making us think about female roles and their contradictions, whether those contradictions have come down through history or sideways from our own society, Cindy is asking us to review our relationship to them as the reader (much like Barthes) and think less about her impact as the author as she is playing all the roles with the same value.

Sherrie Levine’s 1981 work was rephotographing the catalogue of photos by a depression era male photographer, Walker Evans. If you take the Foucault and Barthes essays at face value when looking at Sherries work, it is more understandable, the images still have impact as showing the history of the people they represent within the timeframe they lived, however, the weight of the creater/author of the images changes and creates its own relationship with you the viewer while you puzzle out the why of doing it. The value of the images as hijacked photos may have a new value being done from the perspective of a known woman/author, however against the anonymous ideal of the essay’s it loses this area of impact.

• If the birth of the reader is at the expense of the author is there still any of Benjamin’s ‘aura’ left?

I believe the reader is important because they choose to look at/read what they want to, however taking all importance away from that which they choose to view devalues it to a point where its probably not viable to create it. The created, whether its a book, photo or a painting will have a history and I don’t think you can completely ignore it, it helps to place the item in context so that the reader can make an informed view on how to interpret. I think Foucault and Barthes views come from a marxist ideal that isn’t achievable from a capitalist construct.

• Does any of this explain or validate the un-regulated nature of the internet?

I have 2 children who I am constantly trying to get to understand that once its on the internet its incredibly difficult to remove and you need to be really sure that you want it linked to you until you earn enough to get Google to remove it…

I think that the freedom of information we now have access to is fantastic if you do actually swap channels every now and then to make informed decisions. The fact that not all of us do is worrying, I also think that making the internet anonymous would leave those in the public gaze open to abuse like you would not believe. Being accountable for what you write, even if it takes a court order to make you see sense proves that just because we have the capability to write and post online, does not always mean we should, and at least with capitalist values, the author who best represents society as we see it is paid to create that which reflects our time (50 shades of grey being the exception).

I think education from parents needs to be stronger at the point children receive electronic devices to make better decisions on what they put of themselves online.

• Does this invalidate the interest in the artist’s or creator’s intent at the time of making?

yes, if the reader is more important, then why it was created is of no consequence.

Sherman’s work is untitled, there is no explanation other than the reference that all her work follows the same pattern, so knowing her original idea is unnecessary.

Levine’s work is titled with the original photographers name, as an appropriation, it isn’t hidden, however without understanding why she’s doing it, I’m not sure that it stands on its own.

However if the author is not important, why are they going to create? it takes time to learn how to make, to sit and think through the whats and wherefores. Where is the benefit of refining the skill if it doesn’t pay for the roof over your head? Learning that what you don’t make is as important as what you do. And you won’t learn that in the utopian state the 2 essays reviewed here dream of.

Foucault, M(1979)What is an author In:Art in theory 1900-2000, Harrison, C. Wood, P. Oxford: Art in theory 1900-2000. pp. 949-953

Barthes, R(1977)The death of the author in Image music text. Fontana Press. London

Pt3 Project 3 Myth is a type of speech (pt 2)

Think carefully about the passage on meaning and form. “The meaning is always there to present the form; the form is always there to outdistance the meaning.” Annotate an artwork of your choice to illustrate your thoughts on this passage.

I’m picking Duchamps ‘Fountain’ (1917).

The urinal in its original form was signed in black paint R. Mutt. it was a white glazed earthenware piece without further plumbing. It appeared to be clean.

The story goes that during a conversation with his peers, Du Champ postulated that anything could be art because the artist said it was. he then proceeded to (under a pseudonym) enter a urinal as a work of art (this was all after not getting a picture accepted for exhibition on moral grounds). This is the form representing a point that as a form transcends the point because of its juxtaposition as a work of art. Although most of the thought against it was based on moralistic views of the time on women seeing a thing in which men pee (it wasn’t accepted).

Barthes understanding of myth took the history out of the object, so the signifier is the urinal, the signified is Du Champs (in his mind) unjust rejection of a picture he created as an artist, using a pot to piss in to display his disdain? This urinal/disdain is taken as a sign, emptied and as myth is added to the ‘all I say is art, is art’ (signified) and the urinal becomes art.

I think thats the problem that John Berger struggled with when he looked at the background value of art, the myth overcame the meaning.

So, in studying the sign, do we devalue the chosen object to the point where the original intent of the artist is completely lost?

This was I think the bit about studying art I was afraid of, the point where you have dissected the image beyond its original emotional/skill value negating it to zero and then giving it a whole new set of values, because its art.

I need a paracetamol.

Reference (Barthes and Berger included previously)

Duchamps, M(1917) Fountain (replica) [porcelain] [online image]. Place: Tate gallery. London. Available from:



Pt3 Project 3 Myth is a type of speech

We are asked to read an essay in our course reader by Roland Barthes titled Myth today, originally taken from his book Mythologies (1973)

First read.

Signified – object

Signifier – What it means to me

Sign – both together

Signification – its mythic form? “This word is here all the better justified since myth has in fact a double function: it points out and it notified, it makes understand something and it imposes it on us.

Myth is taking something factually natural emptying out the history, stating its happened and issueing it as fact.

England was an empire (ignoring all the death and servitude and cultural destruction that achieved the empire).

Second read

it refers to an object but isn’t one and is a type of communication.

Myth is a type of speech, it must be told to be mythic. Anything can be told into a myth, “open to appropriation by society”

The money we would save after brexit as a number has value on paper, however it achieved mythic value after appropriation by the brexit team. It would save the NHS… (social usage added to pure matter)

Myths come from history and can disipate.

Whilst the meaning (signifier) ‘expresses’ the object (signified)  because they are in different categories, one corresponds with another in value, this cannot make them equal because of the way we define the object and its meaning..

Bunch of roses used to signify passion so the sign (third classification) is passion filled roses, the mix of signified and signifier.

Saussure, Freud, the behaviour, the underlying meaning of the behaviour the fact that they are linked.

Sign is the myth? not substantial?

Signified+ signifier = sign, then next level for myth, sign becomes a signifier


Once we get to myth, the object is kind of irrelevant.

Image on cover of Paris Match Black child saluting tricolour. (signifier) showing France is a multicultural hotchpotch of loyal subjects (signified) so saluting child represents both of the above, this is the start of the myth, the sign being the photo content and the knowledge the child is saluting whilst being supportive of  French nation + representative of the empirical multicultural = the myth.

At which point the actual meaning behind the photo is irrelevant because it just comes to mean patriotism (the myth) and forgets the historical battles.

Myth de-politisizes the content, makes it innocent and purified.

Look up who Minou Drouet was. Why does Barthes site her?

Minou was a child poet at the age of 8 who set Paris alight, mostly in contradictions of whether she wrote her poems or her foster mother did. I think that Barthes was sceptical about either the origins or the quality of the poetry.

Think about this reference to a bunch of roses and a black pebble. Can you think of a couple of examples of elements within images that you know that signify passions, emotions or even other objects or events.

Diamonds thanks to a very successful De Beres advert campaign now represent the symbol of love at the start of your engagement.

The baby Jesus at Christmas, represents the gift and hope of the midwinter festival. Partially as a symbol of the new.

Physis comes from the Greek meaning material existence. Hence anti-physis is linked to the real and pseudo-physis is linked to ideology. So Barthes’ myth changes the real, the image, the miner in a Soviet Socialist Realist painting, for example, into ideological statement, the freedom of the worker from exploitation through fulfilling the norm or more. For example, see Leonid Kotliarov’s Portrait of Stakhanov (1938) (try 36stakhanov&Year=1936&navi=byYear). Or find your own example. It doesn’t have to be propaganda: James Ravilious’ Devon photography might fit the bill. (www.

I have chosen to look at James Ravilious’ The French family watching the Cup Final, Brendon Barton, Exmoor, England, 1985

A black and white photo of a farming kitchen from the 1980s, the rayburn is in the back left under what appears to be a water tank. next to the burner is an outdoor bin, there are clipboards on the wall and an old clock. to the right is a large kitchen table upon which are things to make tea, a milk bottle, teaspoons cups. In front of the rayburn is a sofa, it does not look new.

The thick old walls of the house visible, cracks showing, coat hangars attached to visible pipework.

There are 5 people in this picture older careworn couple (60’s?) in utilitarian clothing, the man in work boots and the woman in wellies, in the kitchen. There are 3 children 1 girl (fashionably dressed for the era) and 2 boys, one bare chested. The children appear to be teenagers and are lounging.

This family are in their own space, they are comfortable as they are and even as the daughter is trying to fit into social norms of the time, her home is a workplace before it is the middle class kitchen as a pretty thing. The items are functional and there are not many of them, so either extra things are unnecessary or not affordable within this life-choice.

The fact that the man is still in his cap inside and the woman in her wellies shows either the break for the photograph or the value of the space.

All signs of the country folk in the older generation stereotypical of the myth of the country bumpkin. The hard work and the long hours are absent from the background, the potentially well decorated other areas of the house or the middle class dress of our couple outside of this break in the day to watch football, we cannot see the tv to understand its quality, the image is only showing us what we need to fulfil the basic understanding of the type.


Barthes, R(1973)Myth today In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp.51-58

Ravilious, J(1985)Dick French and family watching the Cup Final, Brendon Barton, Exmoor, (black and white photo) viewed here: [accessed 17th February 2017]



Part 3 Project 2 Structuralist analysis (b)

We are asked to find two examples of portrait photography, One formal and one informal, and annotate them to see what conventions from the formal are observed in the informal and give your thoughts on why this might be so.

The formal (informal) picture is my family visiting the White House. The blue sky above and the family statically placed directly in front of the landmark. We tuck around my Dad and Stepmom as the respectful place and the children fit in where they can.

Everyone smiles for the camera however they aren’t convincing smiles and everyone is standing as if to attention.

I understand this isn’t a proper formal photo, I’ve never had one of those done for my family, finding me that side of the lens is a rarity in itself, I’m damned if I’m paying for it.

Anyway, this as a memory has more effect for me. Its an occasion at which a photo was taken, formally smiling at the camera, me holding a coffee (now theres a sign).

The informal (informal) photo is at a jaunty angle pointed at the table this last Christmas day. There are 10 places and we sit the children at either end (2 girls and 2 boys) this way the adults can chew the fat in the middle. No-one is looking at the camera and an annual feast is in progress. lighting a before is natural, through the door at the back, a window just off one side and through the kitchen window front right. The glow from the candelabra is minimal

Aside from the convention of a family unit being together, the children crammed in and the photo marking the occasion its difficult to find similarities. the clothing is smarter for Christmas than the White House photo, which is contrary to the requirements of a formal photo.

Respectfully the adults sit together, but as the convention always states the hosts are closest to the Kitchen (and I have the best chair -a 40th birthday gift to myself with birthday monies) thats pretty much where the similarity ends.

The camera angle helps to supply some of the energy pre-eating which is removed in the static poses in front of the American residence.

However maybe the sign is the photo of the family, marking a unit at a point in time. I want to be the me in the photos surrounded by the bonhomie of the situation. These photos shouldn’t really speak to anyone else though, they don’t represent anyone else’s family.


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