The Language of Images

April 29, 2007

Michael Reichmann has a new article up on his site The Luminous Landscape named Learning the Language of our Art which begins by describing a documentary about a remote tribe found on the Amazon.

They had no experience of seeing flat two dimensional representations of realty. Their culture had no experience with painting, and not even drawing existed in their society. So, when shown the film they simply could not figure out what it was they were looking at. It was light and colour and shapes and patterns, but that’s all.

And concludes the following.

What this addresses is that the comprehension of visual images is a form of language, and just like all human language it needs to be learned.

I think the interpretation of the remote tribe’s reaction to the movie projector was wrong. What they had issue with was this strange technology and trying to determine if it posed any kind of new danger. The idea that they had to learn to recognize two-dimensional images is wrong.

I think what we have learned most about our study of remote hunter-gatherer tribes is that the conclusions drawn by the observers is just as whacked as the native’s interpretation of the unknown technology (probably more so).

So is the comprehension of visual images something that has to be learned? No way (in my opinion).

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One Response to “The Language of Images”

  1. das L Says:

    i think it totaLLy depends on the visuaL representation invoLved. for exampLe imagery used on signs do not make a Lot of sense if you have not grown up with the things invoLved.
    if you’re Looking at a fiLm of some sort, it wouLd definiteLy have to be about something you are famiLiar with to have a chance of recognizing it (i did not read the articLe, so i have no cLue what they showed).
    aLso, the human brain needs to be trained to view 3d shapes in 2d, best exampLe is the use of pictures of 3d shapes in inteLLigence testing.


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