Monday, November 26, 2007

Art, Symbols, and Culture

How well does art translate across culture? In the images above (taken from , a site detailing works of "street art," an evolution of graffiti), how universal is the "thought bubble" symbol? (Just for clarification, the bubbles have been placed there in the real world, the photo is primarily to document the work.) If you were from a different culture or time period, would the piece still have the same meaning, if it had any meaning at all? Post (or link to, I'm not 100% on how this whole thing works) some more examples of symbols or artwork that do/do not translate cross-culturally, I'd be interested to see what you guys think. Another thing to consider: how are we limited in our experience of this work, seeing as how it is a three dimensional work in the real world, and we only have two pictures? How about the fact that a work like this is unlikely to last longer than a week? (Out of curiosity, what do you think that the man is thinking? What about him/the environment he's in (clothing, appearance, posture, climate, etc.) influences what you would guess?)


Rick_Andrews_Director said...

In one sense, art can be experienced by any culture. Being that emotion is universal, shouldn't everyone, regardless of ethnicity, be able to feel that emotion? In areas of art such as painting and sculpting, where language is not a limitation, I would like to think that an emotion can found by everyone in an art piece, but it doesn't have to be the SAME emotion. People in their own culture may differ on the emotion that the art piece evokes, but there is still an emotion. In thinking of art only as an emotional concept, then I would say that art can be translated across numerous cultures.

With language, however, it is a different story. Although we try our best to make it sound as comprehensible as possible, we do lose meaning in the translation. When I read subtitles for a German movie, I sometimes pick up different translations in what I hear than what I read in the subtitles. Although the difference in translation is pretty minor, they are still different and will cause a different affect on the viewer who is unfamiliar with the language.

With all this in mind, I'm going to say that language is the great limitation in making art universal. If there is no real language in the art piece, then to a great extent art is universal.

Sorry if that was a bit confusing, if you have any questions on clarity, just ask me. ;)

Rick Andrews

katrina337 said...

I agree with Rick on most things, except that art will provoke emotion in all cultures if it does in one. What's dynamic to one person could be completely static to another, just there, without any sort of life or meaning.

I'm going to parallel this with music. We had to read this one really big packet (that's the only way I know how to describe it) on how different cultures perceive music, and an example was how the tuning is different in the western world than in the eastern world. A person from the eastern part of the world went to a symphony, and it was from a famous western musician, and the person from the east thought the tuning at the beginning was the best part of it. Yet to us, tuning is the worst because it starts out so atonal, and it's really just small (well, usually small) differences that drive us crazy.

Wouldn't it work the same way in art? Where one person can have a different idea of what carries emotion and what doesn't? Would that fit into the part of people's different definitions of art?