Sunday, 31 October 2010

Communication & Semiotics

This week's lecture focused on the subject of Semiotics which is defined as 'The study of signs and symbols, what they mean and how they are used.' This is a topic which I have never studied before, but one which I find very interesting, particularly when related to media. 

Whether you like it or not, we as humans are ALL semioticians. It's not something which requires a certificate or a three year stretch at university, it is something that we are all born with the ability to do. Many body language experts agree that between 60 and 70 percent of communication is non-verbal, which means that reading and interpreting posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements is something which we all have inherently within us. The media is able to use this idea to its advantage, as not everything has to be spelt out entirely for the viewer; a lot of what is seen on screen has to be interpreted by the audience in order for the plot to be fully understood. A good example of this is Tom Hank's performance in 'Forrest Gump' one of my all-time favourite films. Hanks doesn't actually have that many lines to deliver in the film, yet the audience is able to completely understand how he is feeling through interpreting his body language and facial expressions.

In this scene, Jenny tells Forrest that he has a son and Hanks' reaction is perfect. Without saying anything, he takes a few steps backwards and places his hand on his hip, the whole time avoiding making eye contact with Jenny. Small movements such as the way that he clenches his teeth tell us that he is anxious and unsure of how to react whilst still being totally shocked. These are all concious decisions that Hanks has made in order to portray the character's feelings. If we were to watch the film without the sound we would still be able to work out that Jenny has just delivered some shocking news because of Forrest's reaction, something which is made possible by our ability to read and interpret signals. It's not what is said, it is what ISN'T said that is important.

When explaining this idea of 'connotation' of a character,  Ivan showed pictures of Remy, the Rat from the 2007 Pixar animation 'Ratatouille' which got me thinking about the way in which Pixar are so good at looking into a character in order for the audience to really become involved with the storyline. I did a bit of research on how they develop these characters and found some interesting videos. I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent but I found it interesting so it's going on the blog. 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

My Bloggy Wog

It will become immediately apparent to anybody reading this that I have never in my life owned, written or subscribed to a blog in my entire life, so first and foremost: APOLOGIES to those of you who think that this is a load of rubbish but I really am trying my hardest...bear with me whilst I try to figure out what on earth is going on.
SO this week's Lecture was entitled 'Can You Tell What It Is Yet? An Introduction to Realism' and not surprisingly it focussed on Realism in art and design. Having studied Fine Art for a very brief period during my foundation at Chelsea, I know that realism in modern art is something which the tutors could absolutely not stand. Anything that vaguely represented anything else was a big no-no and so not surprisingly, I found myself specialising in 3D modelling. In my opinion, the ability to be able to accurately represent reality through models, drawing, painting, flower arranging or anything else is incredibly impressive. We were shown an oil painting by the artist Ralph Goings which was so realistic that it fooled everybody into thinking that it was a photograph. This Photorealistic style of work reminded me very much of an artist that I studied at A Level called Sarah Graham whose work is absolutely incredible. 

More of Sarah's work can be seen here:

I'm not trying to say that the ONLY type of work that I can appreciate is that which represents reality. I'm all for futurism, expressionism, modernism, dadaism etc etc but there is something about REALISM which has always intrigued me. 
In terms of models and realism, we briefly spoke about the 'hyperrealist' sculptor Ron Mueck who I seemed to have developed a slight obsession with. The most striking thing about his work is not only the absolutely perfect representation of the human form, but also the way in which he plays with the scale in order to make the viewer see the work differently. 

'Dead Dad' - 1997
'A Girl' - 2006

Mueck's work totally captivates me, something which I strongly believe artwork should do. If I am ever lucky enough to visit one of Mueck's exhibitions I honestly believe that I could spend a whole day looking at one piece of sculpture alone. This type of work makes the viewer focus on the skill which is involved in making and the incredible attention to detail. However, when it comes to special effects and media, the idea is to fool the viewer into thinking that it is in fact REAL so that they feel like they are a part of the game or film. This is known as Immediacy. The explainations that follow are more for my benefit than anybody else so try not to get too bored.

Immediacy - The medium vanishes and the viewer or reader is totally immersed in what is happening e.g The visual effects in films such as Inception 
Hypermediacy - The medium draws attention to itself, and makes people recognise how much effort has gone into the work itself. This definition applies to the wonderful work of Mueck, as well as films where it becomes ever so slightly embarrassing to watch because you can completely imagine how smug the visual effects people must be with themselves (sorry, Avatar). 

Can you tell that I'm a model effects student?