Lines, Horses and Helicopters

Begins 6:20pm

Extending the example of the line drawing of a horse, Eco proposes that to change the perception of the line from horse to zebra requires simple additions of a few stripes for it to be recognised as a zebra.  Recognition is a key component of similarity in iconism.  Recognition of a zebra through a line drawing is different across cultures.  In a western context a line that traced the broad outline of a horse with stripes, would be recognisable as a zebra precisely because recognition codes exist associating zebras with horses.  But, Eco explains suppose there was an African community where zebras were associated with hyenas because of shared stripes.  Then it would be important to highlight the shape of the muzzle and length of legs for a zebra to be distinguished from a hyena in that culture.  Pertinent features of the content being represented must be expressed.  From this Eco concludes there “must exist an iconic code which establishes the equivalence between a certain graphic device and a pertinent feature of the recognition code.” (p 206)

[SS I am hungry and recognise the smell of the yellow dahl stewing away.  Going to make a ‘bee line’ to it shortly..]

It is easy to imitate the movement of a helicopters blades using the human body.  It is more difficult and complex to draw the movement of a helicopter’s blades because movement has to be suggested.   This difference between objects seen and objects known became evident to Eco when he witnessed his four year old son imitating a helicopter. (p206-207)

The general public, Eco claims only recognises on canvas those features which it sees and not which it knows.   Thus iconic signs may possess optic, ontological and conventionalised properties of the object.  A Renaissance artist  reproduces properties they see, a cubist painter reproduces that which they know. (p 207)

[OS But couldn’t a cubist painter claim that what they are reproducing is what they see?  I don’t get the absoluteness of this statement.]

Conventionalised properties are those “catachresized the previous creative rendering of an actual perceptual exprience.” (p 207)  A typical example is how we represent the sun as a circle with lines radiating outward.  It is likely this representation occurred because we viewed the sun through partially closed eyes, which produced an image of ball of radiant light with rays.   It so happens that this corresponds to our scientific experience of the sun as “an incandescent sphere from which emanate ‘rays’ of light”. (p 207)  In this instance there is a relationship between the iconography and the scientific idea.  But the relationship, Eco explains, is not one between the image of the sun and the sun as object.  It is rather a relationship between the image of the sun and the abstract model of the sun as a scientific entity.  “Thus a schematic representation reproduces some of the properties of another schematic representation.” (p208)

Ends 7:23pm




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