Structuralism seeks to describe the overall organisation of sign systems as language. Barthes a semiotic theorist defines semiotics as linguistics. Semiotics, the study of signs was proposed by Swiss linguistic Saussure and philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce in the late 1800’s (Lavers, 1982, p 219). Saussure argued that there was no relationship between that which carries the meaning, the signifier, the word or symbol and the signified (the actual meaning). Peirce divides semiotics into three types of sign, the icon, index and symbol (Lavers, 1982, p219). Peirce believed the relationship between the sign itself (the referent) and the meaning was key. The icon was described as an object which resembles it such as photographs, paintings, diagrams. The index is an object, not one that is similar or resembling it but one that refers indirectly to it such as the image of ice meaning something is cold / frozen, in that the object affects the sign, one referring to the other. The symbol is something that has no direct relationship or link is present, this refers to such as texts, words or symbols this means that the sign user can use them in their own interpretive way. We can use these symbol signs in our own way and can manipulate them in our own experience. Human experience and meaning can be expressed in a variety of ways including music, gestures, thought, verbal and non-verbal communication. Interaction between different individuals enables our understanding of culture and each other.
We are bombarded by multiple sensory information on a daily basis however we only take in a limited amount, enough to apply meaning. Interpretation / meaning are dependent upon the amount of information we receive. There are signifiers which require a lot of interpretation such as abstract art and those that require little interpretation because meaning can easily be applied. Visual interpretation is important and this is why advertisers use simple symbols, colour, texture, texts and light to attract our attention so that they can convey their message to the right people in order to be successful. Companies use research to find out what their potential customers want in the same way that politicians use focus groups to discover what their potential voter’s desire, this way they can create their advertisement based on people’s needs. This gives both advertisers and politicians’ power over us.
We are surrounded by social signs in our everyday lives which we are left to interpret and find meaning; structuralism seeks to describe the overall organisation of sign systems as language. Social semiotics seeks to explore the use of signs in social circumstances; each experience has its constraints dependent upon the media used. We could question however that if a particular media is used more frequently and consistently such as those used by companies in advertising the more it is in danger of becoming invisible to us through familiarity. This awareness could damage its potential to fulfil its intended function; perhaps this is why companies use light boxes in an attempt to highlight their product?
Selected texts used within my work are aimed at conveying a message to the viewer to stimulate and create discussion regarding the meaningless slogans used by politicians. In placing the text in the light box the artist, as the sender allows the viewer to apply meaning through human experience. However the artist cannot fail to influence the viewer simply by the selection of the chosen text; the medium used is conveying the bombardment by advertisers as we are also bombarded by slogans from all political parties. The media selected ensures that the work is entirely under the artists influence and control, however the semiotics used are subjective and dependent on human interpretation. For all the control available through language and symbols the one variable we cannot control is the human reaction. The medium has become the message which we extract meaning from through an interaction of signs /codes which we are usually unaware of, but interpret. Structuralists are concerned with the relationship between texts in applying meaning. We need prior knowledge in order to interpret codes and messages, as signs have little meaning in isolation but need to be interpreted in the relationship with each other.
The viewer is in a state of absorption through the use of 3D glasses as when wearing the glasses the content has no physical ground and seeming floats on top of an amount of calculated data. The Gestalt psychology theory makes the text stand out from the background, conveying the message more clearly through perceptual organisation. Although previous knowledge and culture are important in our interpretation of meaning, other signs conveyed within my pieces which make the message more clearly interpreted are the similarity, proximity, continuation and symmetry within the texts based on our perception.