Tag: Visual Culture

What a distracted state of surveillance

PIX: Thomas Ogilvie
This was taken in a store in London, but the Singapore stores had similar ones. PIX: Thomas Ogilvie

The state of surveillance as we have been constantly reassured is set up to protect citizens from rogue elements like terrorists and ordinary folks like us have nothing to fear. Yet the state of these security cameras in a similar Louis Vuitton shop display a few weeks ago in Singapore seems to suggests otherwise.

Instead of deflecting attention, the security cameras were shiny, calling attention to its presence and even hinting to its desirability with a sleek form. More importantly, all of them were distracted, fixated on the direction of the LV product, as if it was the only thing worth looking out for. Could it be that the surveillance state was only looking out for those who could afford it?

Just outside these displays, throngs of consumers were deep in the trance of the consumption ritual, and one saw a reflection of the state of things in this shopping space. The consumers, like mono-eyed cameras, were fixated on this high-end product, unable to see anything more than that. It seems if you were without an LV item, you were condemned to looking but never to be looked at.

The hegemony of words

Words — we use them all the time to communicate to one another, thus it is the default tool for many of us to understand the world. From a young age, we are taught a language that is based on words, so much so, that we forget there are other languages to understand our world. I do not mean a foreign language — Japanese or German — but visual, musical or even film language.

The hegemony of the written word has meant that these other languages are usually fully appreciated or understood through the mediation of words. Thus, we have write-ups in photo exhibitions, reviews and studies of films and music scores, even dialogue in films is an instance of such a mediation. All this points to a lack of common understanding and education in these other languages. More often than not, these are learned only by critics of those in the specific industries.

Yet, as we increasingly become a visual culture, I’m wondering if the visual language should be taught more extensively, but the question is how? Can there be a dictionary of visuals just as there is a dictionary for words?