sábado, outubro 24, 2009

The construction of meaning


The construction of meaning is a terminology widely used in developmental linguistics to refer to the process that children within a certain culture undertake to establish connections between words and their different levels of significance. As words relatively to any idea, abstraction or object, the portrayal acts as a tool of engaging proximity between the observer and both the sitter and the artist. The skills of the artist, his objectives in creating the portrayal and the level of his interaction with the sitter are the main factors in establishing that proximity. Once facing the portrayal and its objective components, the viewer is engaged towards that proximity, but the interpretation is subjective, which may result in readings different from the conceptual realm of the artist and his time. The construction of the viewer’s subjectivity can be simplified into two components: i) self-originated and ii) socially-originated. The interaction of individuals with the surrounding environment plays such a strong role in cognitive development that it is really hard to separate the definition of the self from the influences of the surrounding social influences, moralities and concepts. Consequently, the interpretation of a portrait and its symbols from a different time, space and culture may easily be misinterpreted considering the artist’s subjective objectives and circumstances. An Anglo-Saxon US citizen is culturally inhibited of engaging the same interaction with Korean likeness as native Koreans. However, the portrayal is the portrayal, a physical object with color, shape and tonalities, what is there is there. But that is not enough; it is nothing, as technically hard as it may be to create. The physical part of the portrait has no function without the artist, sitter and viewer subjective trichotomy and has no function if the proximity between these components is lost.
The current interpretations of the known portrayals of Napoleon and Pocahontas reveal how biased can contemporary interpretation of History be. Napoleon’s height was among the average of his time. However, the eccentricities, exaggerations and sublime components of the empyreal character of his portrayals are erroneously interpreted as a way of compensating the loss of his ego for being a short man compared to today’s standards. Contrarily to Napoleon, the short French President Sarkozy is always making sure to minimize the number of people taller than him in public appearances. The way information flows through the innumerous highways of information in the actual globalized world requires more from Sarkozy than just a portrayal of him represented as a semi-god. Sketches inspired the known portrayals of Pocahontas, not the observation of the artists. Today Pocahontas is portrayed in several types of movies and comic books; her image is part of the US imaginary. How much of her true self is present in that fiction? No one will ever know. From the outside, foreigners that visit the US rarely identify themselves with the exotic ideas that surround the image of their cultures among the US culture. I am not one of those foreigners. Rarely people know about the existence of Portugal and nothing of its culture and likeness phenomena, probably fortunately for me.

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