Language of Vision

By Gyorgy Kepes; S. Giedion et al. | Go to book overview

The Revision of Vision

Whatever may be the language one happens to inherit, it is at once a tool and a trap. It is a tool because with it we order our experience, matching the data abstracted from the flux about us with linguistic units: words, phrases, sentences. What is true of verbal languages is also true of visual "languages": we match the data from the flux of visual experience with image-clichés, with stereotypes of one kind or another, according to the way we have been taught to see.

And having matched the data of experience with our abstractions, visual or verbal, we manipulate those abstractions, with or without further reference to the data, and make systems with them. Those systems of abstractions, artefacts of the mind, when verbal, we call "explanations," or "philosophies"; when visual, we call them our "picture of the world."

With these little systems in our heads we look upon the dynamism of the events around us, and we find, or persuade ourselves that we find, correspondences between the pictures inside our heads and the world without. Believing those correspondences to be real, we feel at home in what we regard as a "known" world.

In saying why our abstractions, verbal or visual, are a tool, I have already intimated why they are also a trap. If the abstractions, the words; the phrases, the sentences, the visual clichés, the interpretative stereotypes, that we have inherited from our cultural environment are adequate to their task, no problem is presented. But like other instruments, languages select, and in selecting what they select, they leave out what they do not select. The thermometer, which speaks one kind of limited language, knows nothing of weight. If only temperature matters and weight does not, what the thermometer "says" is adequate. But if weight, or color, or odor, or factors other than temperature matter, then those factors that the thermometer cannot speak about are the teeth of the trap. Every language, like the language of the thermometer, leaves work undone for other languages to do.

It is no accident historically that Mr. Kepesand other artists of similar

-8-

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Language of Vision
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgements 4
  • Contents 5
  • Art Means Reality 6
  • The Revision of Vision 8
  • Ii. Visual Representation 65
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