Gesture (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jun 24, 2017.

  1. … affect “intellectualizes” states of mind by formalizing them into symbolic gestures. In this sense, it is to be understood that as affect, states of mind have become constructs. — Vilém Flusser

    Think of the Migrant Mother's hand. Almost every picture of people by Dorothea Lange uses gesture in beautifully symbolic ways.

    The “artificiality” of represented states of mind is first of all an aesthetic problem. The world and life in it get an aesthetic meaning from the emotion-rich play of gesticulation. — Vilém Flusser

    Compare Lange's subtle use of gesture to the heavy-handed use in the portraits of Yousef Karsh.

    When I see a gesture emphasizing feeling, for example, that of a bad actor in the bad play who wants to convey the emotion of fatherly love, I would call it “false.” But it would not be right to call it an “error” or a “lie.” ... It would remain inauthentic even if the actor really were a loving father. ... On the scale of affect, Michelangelo must be located near the “truth,” and an actor in a Hollywood potboiler at a point close to the border of “kitsch,” quite apart from any consideration of whether the affect they express is real or whether they believe in it. — Vilém Flusser

    Which is not to say that over-the-top Hollywood gestures can't work. For example, these, that I like very much:

    Hurrell, Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone, 1936
    Les Krims, Homage to the Crosstar Filter Photograph, 1971

    At the other end of the subtlety spectrum, compare these:

    Roman Vishniac, Grandfather and Granddaughter, 1938
    William Shew, Mother and Daughter, ~ 1845

    Being unable to gesture can be a gesture:

    William van der Weyde, Man in the Electric Chair, 1900

    What information theory suggests (and the step it actually takes toward a theory of interpretation) is that a symbol expressing a state of mind can be more or less empty and that the gauge of affect runs between fullness and emptiness, from inexhaustible meaning to empty gesture. At one end of the scale are majestic and rare gestures, whose meaning is still not exhausted after millennia. — Vilém Flusser


    Please note:

    A representation is symbolic precisely to the extent that it is not entirely explicable, that is to say, expressible by semantic means. Semiological views are therefore not merely inadequate; they hide, from the outset, the defining features of symbolism. — Dan Sperber
  2. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    great photos there Julie. one question, when does a gesture become a pose (and vice versa) or are they the same?

    (i'm thinking of the v-for victory sign in a lot of social media photos)
  3. All of what can be derived by a symbolic gesture or state of mind always must consider the context of the entire image or else anyone can apply their own meaning.

    The only exception I can think of is a candid shot of a woman or man (not realizing they're being photographed) striking a pose in front of the mirror. But what would that symbolize? Narcissism? Or just looking to see they buttoned everything causing them to contort to form a pose that is perceived as a gesture.

    I think I've overthought this enough. Don't you think?
  4. Is the image below of my hand a gesture or symbol of a gesture? Does it come across as just a fake gesture?

    Note there is no context within the rest of the image. It's just an empty background so there is some ambiguity as to what the photographer is saying.

  6. Nearly all of my portraits have been done in a natural, casual setting with no formal set up, but just snapshots so to speak. I find that the spontaneous posing and gesture is a very important aspect of the resulting image. The spontaneous, natural "pose" seems to be an unconscious act of the subject which conveys something about them, which is for us, the viewers to guess. I have hundreds of examples in my portfolios. Here's one of my favorites. girl in santa barbara retouch 3.jpg
    Norman 202 likes this.
  7. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Do remember, the meanings of gestures are often culturally specific. A benign gesture in one culture can get you beaten or worse in another.
  8. I had to read that quote several times and concentrate on how each word was leading to some kind answer about symbolism and I just couldn't figure out what the hell Dan Sperber is saying in that quote, Julie.

    Julie, could you explain in your own words what Dan is saying in regard to your topic title "Gesture (symbols)"?

    This is about as far as I could gather from what he said...

    "A representation"= of what? An image or subject in an image?... "is symbolic precisely to the extent that is not entirely explicable" ( meaning the representation functioning as a symbol is not entirely understood. Had to look that word up to get its PRECISE MEANING for the previous words to make sense)..."Semiological views"...(meaning the study of sign processes and meaningful communication- OH! Is that what we're doing?! Why do I get the feeling this is the last thing Dan Sperber is concerned about in the way he writes). "...are therefore not merely inadequate; they hide, from the outset, the defining features of symbolism."

    So if one sees a subject in an image or the entire image as a symbol it's not a symbol because the nature of a symbol is to conceal that it's saying something in the form of a symbol to the viewer.

    Good lord that was a long walk just to say that!
  9. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    one thing i really like about these threads is you can read something that takes your fancy and grapple with that thought and no one minds.

    so, if S is a measure of how symbolic something is, how do you measure S?

    (simple questions rool)
  10. Did you intentionally misspell rule, Norman. Or am I going to have to look up 'rool' on google?
    Norman 202 likes this.
  11. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    anyway, back on topic and looking at migrant mum(which seems to symbolise everything depending on whom you ask), we have two gestures from mum and child. a open hand from mum (open to what? anything to help her kids ?) and a defiant, closed fist from the child. both are pregnant with symbolism.
  12. Norman, where are you seeing the image of migrant mum and child?
  13. Dorothea Lange's photo.
  14. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    the one with the two kids
  15. Norman 202 likes this.
  16. Three kids.
  17. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    two kids and a baby :)

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