We’re back after Easter break! Woohoo. Straight into a lecture on semiotics and semantics by Martin Hoskin, super enjoyable and interesting.
I scribbled down a lot of notes while listening to the lecture, here are a few that stuck in my mind and that I would like to explore a bit further.
The message received NOT the message sent
I enjoyed pondering this notion. Did the receiver, receive the intention of the sender? I suppose when we digest most information we do so through the knowledge and context of our own lives. George Orwell stated that ‘The meaning of language is dependent on intention’. I think we could add that it is also dependent on context.
Social usage and codes in culture. Breaking down the inner workings of a sign was super interesting. Even the notion that a sign is anything that conveys meaning. I learnt about the the signified and the signifier within every sign. So in the case of a traffic light the signified is the concept of stopping when a light turns red. Yet the actual traffic light is the signifier, this carry’s the meaning.
Martin went on to describe codes as systems of signs that we use to navigate our shared environment. They are messages that underpin our communities.
I took a virtual walk down the road using google maps to make a record of all of the codes I encounter along this two mile stretch. It was a surprising amount, a lot are traffic related and many are nationally if not globally recognised. I think the main notable regional / culturally specific to this place was the additional stickers all over the black and white bend in the road sign. You see this happen at any surf spot in the UK. I think it happens initially because if there is a surf shop in the area they usually give away stickers of the brands they sell and people walk out of the shop and stick it to something. However a weird little culture has evolved from this where people then stop and stick extra stickers and you start to build a map of where people have travelled from or too and the feel of that particular surf break.
Case Studies from Regular Practice
Next up was Regular Practice, they showed us a case study of how an easily identifiable thing, the olympics, changes because of its global context. Finding examples of things that change drastically when reproduced globally is actually quite difficult. The Olympics is a great example because their quarterly representation is informed by the hosting nation within the same parameters of the five rings.
Across the world people know what the olympics is. The visual language that is created each new olympics is not so much about the olympics anymore but more about the host country
I enjoyed comparing the 1908 and 2020 London Olympics identities. In 1908 the visual language of the Olympics still needed to communicate what the Olympics actually was. This is an interesting notion that as our collective knowledge of any given topic progresses so too will our visual languages surrounding those topics, potentially further abstracting the visual identities of everything we know.
The London 2020 identity by Wolff Ollins is a very abstract identity in comparison to some of the other creations. It doesn’t represent anything that is stereotypically British or London yet it’s aesthetic is that is stands out from the normal identities countries usually provide, and perhaps that is what is British about it or the message that Wolff Ollins wanted to convey.
I love the work of Otil Aicher for the Munich 1972 games. Everything is built on this detailed grid system. The linear approach provides the identity. Again a bit like the London 2012 one this identity isn’t emblematically showing German things but perhaps its approach is quite German?
Semiotics of the Kitchen – Martha Rosler
In Semiotics of the Kitchen, Martha Rosler performs for the camera as a culinary hostess introducing various kitchen utensils. She progresses through the alphabet, demonstrating a different cooking utensil for each letter. Her physical interaction with the objects is unapologetically sudden and violent. Each display is a thinly veiled gesture of frustration with the language of domesticity as the kitchen becomes grounds for resistance and change. Rosler describes the performance by saying that “as she speaks, she names her own oppression,” identifying a loaded, ordered language as an object to be interrogated. Created in 1975, Semiotics of the Kitchen remains one of the most influential works of both feminist and conceptual art.
From the above https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/semiotics-kitchen-77211
Workshop Challenge – Three headlines, one story.
This week the Brecon Beacons National Park announced it was changing its name to Bannae Brychaeniog.
The change is much bigger than just a name change, April 17th marked the 66th year of the national park . As such they released a 186 page management plan which has been set out as a response to the climate and biodiversity crisis we currently face. This plan is a set of ambitious guidelines for the next five years. The Bannau are committed to making the Park a vibrant example of sustainability. A Park that is environmentally resilient, and economically prosperous; which embraces change, that is open and welcoming to all who seek out connection to nature, beauty and adventure.
As part of the rebrand they released a video written by poet Owen Sheers and voiced by Welsh actor and activist Michael Sheen. It was all very Welsh, steeped in language, passion, a cold wet day and carrying that undertone of pride and ambition that Wales has. I think it’s really clever how they mix the English and Welsh seamlessly in this video, it’s a really accurate representation of how the language is used in modern Wales and also refuses to make an English video with Welsh subtitles or vice versa.
I started by looking at the new and old logo…
It’s undeniable that the new logo is more modern, pays tribute to the past identity of the Brecon Beacons while also symbolising the hopes the future park wishes to achieve, with it’s representation of a stary sky and river flowing through the logo.
The park authority CEO, Catherine Mealing-Jones, said: “The more we looked into it the more we realised the name Brecon Beacons doesn’t make any sense. It’s a very English description of something that probably never happened. A massive carbon-burning brazier is not a good look for an environmental organisation.”
Snowdonia national park authority voted last year to use Yr Wyddfa and Eryri rather than Snowdon and Snowdonia after 5,000 people signed a petition calling for the change.
It was really interesting to see how the news reported this story on Monday. The headlines speak for themselves and it was super hard to pick just three headlines that I wanted to analyse and talk about… So here are my top three and I may add a few more into the mix.
Woke has become a highly political slur in recent years… I don’t read the sun but I can imagine this word is used a lot by them.
What I find interesting about this headline is they pinpoint in on a negative, finding something to attack and belittle the actually decision behind the name change.
During the article they mention nothing about the new plan the park have set out to protect and enhance biodiversity of the park.
“The people making these decisions are out of touch.”
Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union said: “Less than 20 per cent of the population speaks Welsh, so most won’t have a clue what the new name means and tourists won’t be able to find it.””
In Wales it is law to present everything in Welsh and English, in schools it is compulsory to study Welsh up to the age of 16. According to the Welsh Government 30% of the population currently speak Welsh. I myself am not a fluent speaker, yet I studied the language unto the age of 18 and can understand a lot of spoken and written Welsh.
In this piece I think some of the hidden narratives are highly political, damming and condescending of those working to tackle climate change.
It creates a the illusion that these changes are all that the national park is doing to tackle climate change and feeds that narrative of ‘I can’t say anything without offending someone these days’.
The next article I looked at was this one from the Guardian. They took the angle that the reason for the name change was a ‘Welsh language move’.
I feel this headline is to draw readers in, again it is a little bit dramatic not explaining the full story but less negative and accusing than the Sun headline. In the article the Guardian do acknowledge the wide
r work that was being launched:
“from Monday the Brecon Beacons national park is dropping its English language name and scrapping its logo of a fiery greenhouse gas-emitting beacon as it launches a plan designed to tackle issues in the park created by the climate and biodiversity emergencies.”
The article shows a range of views on the issue, positive and negative. All are highly political and that is the main narrative being conveyed. Although this piece shows more sides of an argument it again is highly political, it is obvious that the Guardian don’t align with the Tory party however they also communicate in a way that very much separates them from Wales, showing that this is a very English centric newspaper and not one that represents the UK as a whole.
Next up is the pretty bizarre angle the Independent decided to take.
“I suppose that if you’re going to rename a much-loved national park in Wales, you may as well go the whole hog and celebrate the life and times of possibly the most sex-mad Welshman in history. The good folk who run the Brecon Beacons National Park have decided that that familiar name, one that evokes the fondest of memories in the hearts of those fortunate enough from around the world to have found themselves enchanted by its natural beauty, is to be replaced with something that, outside Wales at least, is difficult to pronounce, let alone fall immediately in love with.”
Again this is a headline made to draw in readers. It may be so that this king has an interesting history however the misinformation in this article is quite astonishing. The CEO of the park has explained that “Brycheiniog” refers to the old kingdom of King Brychan while also explaining that there is no known history of beacons of fire ever being burnt on the top of any of the mountains in the park.
In this challenge we have been asked to unpack meaning and distorted meaning. With this article in particular I can’t help noticing that this article is very condescending to the Welsh. The idea that the original Welsh name of a place is ‘hard to get your tongue around’ is pretty racist and dismissive.
The focus of this article is from the viewpoint of a person who would visit the park on a holiday, drawing readers in by belittling the name change decision with claims that it has been named after a sex mad Welshman. The suggestion of naming the park after a Welsh contemporary such as Tom Jones or Catherine Zeta Jones is actually hilarious and again completely misses the point or deliberately ignores the point that Brycheiniog is actually the name of the ancient kingdom. It’s uncomfortable for anyone, but especially someone who visits this place as a tourist, to confront the fact that the park have set out plans to better manage the second home problem and the problematic amount of people that visit some of its more popular peaks. That is the narrative that none of these articles have picked up on, possibly because it is too close to home?