July 2008 Archives

When a stylus hits the surface that it writes or draws upon, the mark that it makes represents the hand of the draftsman in that moment. Looking at the mark later, what we see behind that hand is the constellation of decisions that guided the hand's direction.

What are the decisions about?

Taking the mark as a message, the decisions are about communicating: about indicating that the place the viewer is visiting (be it physical, conceptual, or emotional) is a place that the viewer should "relate to"... it is either a confirmation, an invitation, or a warning.

Taking the mark as an object, the decisions are about design: design in the same sense as the way a space or tool should be formed in order to fit the intended user.

In effect, the use of the mark employs the effect of design to achieve the effect of communication. The mark provides a vehicle that conveys the viewer to the message.

This imediately highlights a conventional error that occurs in discussing the mark. The conventional error is the idea that the mark "conveys the message to the viewer."  How do we know that idea is erroneous? Easy: imagine hearing a very well formed sentence about a brilliant idea, spoken in a language that you don't know...

Naturally, the cure for that problem is to fit the form of expression to the audience, and this "fitting" need not be to apply only something already mastered by the audience.

Instead, it is the function of style to provide an experience that "dynamically teaches" and/or "confirms for" the audience how to reach the message.

In that way, the style of a mark is the most important decision initially made by the mark-maker.

The mark itself, whether it has the simplicity of a single gestural stroke, or the complexity of a color photograph of flowerbeds, is evidence left by the maker; and it can be, sometimes, that simply leaving the evidence is what the maker was up to, or perhaps that the maker's interest was primarily to demonstrate something about making a mark. But for any given mark, the final question is whether the mark will be found someplace where it can catch and gather an audience for its associated message.

Imagining Images


 Images and pictures are different from each other; but of course they are related.

It sounds simple: the job of a picture is to "present" an image. But what's also true is that one picture may result from any of many different ideas, and many different images may result from one picture.

The idea of an image is a step towards the experience of the actual image. A "picture" intermediates the idea and the actual. We can make a picture from an idea of an image, and through experiencing the picture we can "receive" the image.



 To begin sorting out the full implications of this, take the assumption that a picture is the product of an activity -- an activity we'll call "imaging".

Next, we'll separate imaging into two aspects:

- Conceiving: forming the idea and model of the image; and...

- Rendering: forming the interpretation and conveyance of the idea of the image

The important thing to stress is that both aspects -- conceiving and rendering -- are modes of "realizing" an eventual image.

Given a distinction of concept and rendition, it is easy to notice that a concept may occur, and yet go on to be rendered or not. One might say that a concept not yet rendered as a presentation is a concept that lives in the "imagination"...

Here, it's important to note that we may take "imagination" as being a place, a capability, or an activity. This pushes beyond verbal language habits that often try to dictate the range of our thinking. By calling out these three diferent takes and detailing their respective influences, we can clarify what should be meant when we refer to "imagination"... Then we can navigate through "imaging" versus "imagining" to see where pictures are actually generated from the idea of an image.










The matrix formed by imaging versus imagination generates a set of terms that identify the underlying constituent factors bringing controls, interests and values to the generation of the image. Each factor in the matrix -- such as perception, selection or visualization -- brings a type and level of control, of interest, and of value to influence the image production.

- Control: refers to processes (applied work)

- Interest: refers to goals (in effect, "objectives")

- Value: refers to differentiation (the importance of differences)

For those who care -- say, who like math or DNA analogies -- imagine that there were only three possible levels (high, medium or low) of control, three levels of interest, and three levels of value. This already gives each factor in the matrix (e.g., "description") 27 possible unique combinations of control, interest and value.

Let's call each unique combination a "profile"; for example, one profile would be "high control; medium interest; low value". And a different profile would be "medium control, low interest, high value". With 12 different factors in the matrix, and each of them having 27 different potential profiles, the image production effort can feature 12x27 or 324 different variations. The difference between any two of these variations could be extremely subtle, quite glaring, or anywhere in between. Accordingly, the difference between the resulting images are not necessarily going to amount to something that much matters, but they might.

In the end, however, it is usually going to be the picture-maker who decides which factors to care about, how to care about them, and how much -- both before the fact of production and after. While all the factors may have influence on any given picture, some factors may simply be insignificant to the picture-maker's satisfaction with the picture, or insignificant to the purpose of the picture.

To put this in perspective, imagine 324 photography students working on the same assignment. Amongst their efforts, there could be dozens of different controls, interests and values exercised -- different not just by levels but also by types that we have not mentioned. Far more than 324 different outcomes would be possible. We wouldn't know in advance whether some students very dissimilar in psyche would come up with very similar work or not, but we know that they might...

On the other hand, there is the logic of viewers' choice. Critics, collectors, teachers, historians, sponsors, marketers or sellers get involved in deciding how or why they want to relate to a picture or a picture-maker, and they bring both advertised and unspoken sensitivities to some factors, with some profiles, depending on the ideas they want to handle. These sensitivities may be referred to as matters of style, sensibility, genre, or other. In particular, critics, teachers, marketers and reviewers focus heavily on factors that explain why they think a picture should or should not enjoy attention, and why the picture-maker should care.

But in the perspective described in this discussion, all of those references wind up pointing at the same thing: the matrix of imaging versus imagination.