The hegemony of words

24Oct08

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?

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