COMP CAMERAS: Spatial Literacy

This weekend I was in Kansas City visiting my girlfriend’s hometown.  We went to a dinner party to meet her friends, hosted in an insanely cool house with a lot of neat mid century modern furniture, old comic books and art—including a Warhol soup can.  I was given a tour of the house, which included the “porn bathroom,” a bathroom in the basement with pornographic paintings, magazine clippings and film stills.  Above the sink was a florescent light, a long narrow rectangle, that had about twenty strips of film wrapped around it in columns.  Each strip had like ten frames from different porno movies, each was a brief section of the film, a small passage of narrative (maybe not the most original, but narrative nonetheless) broken down into its smallest parts, the individual frames.  I thought about the discussion in class, the difference in technology between pre digital media, film and print, and digital media—information that only exists in a sequence vs information that exists in no particular order, which is easy to parse and rearrange.

The film strips of pornography, as a group, no longer represented a linear narrative, instead it was a sort of aesthetic piece about porno, the narratives of a bunch of films broken down and redistributed to create a new meaning—I won’t dwell on whatever that meaning might be.

It seems that a big difference between parsing space and text, besides the obvious technological differences, is the difference in meaning.  Words have meanings that are usually pretty simple.  Cat means cat, death means dead, etc.  Obviously there is some more complexity involved, but nothing compared to the complexity of the meaning in an image or a space.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Even when you are parsing out characters, the characters have a particular meaning given the larger set of characters.  3D objects and 2D images do not.  Even if you can parse out all of the elements of an image—cat, person, dog, chair, wall, window, etc—these objects have such a multitude of meanings, where do you go from there?


Author: owen ribbit


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