It might be useful to look at E.H. Gombrich's ART AND ILLUSION, which (to
summarize badly and baldly) makes the case that we "know" what we see
partly on the basis on what we think we already know, but that some art
"teaches" us to see in new ways, setting new patterns for "knowing."
To put this another way, cultural artifacts of all kinds are always "teaching"
us something, most often those things that we think we already know (and thus
we ignore the "message"). The charge that's leveled against visual represen-
tation from the time of Plato on is that painting/film/photography/comic books/
television cannot achieve the depth of the word, that the surface impression
distracts us from Deeper Things. But (aside from the fact the the Word itself
may distract from Deeper Things--or that the Deeper Things are themselves often
simply a distraction from Simple Things) such charges ignore the extent to
which the visual image is conditioned by a set of meanings that are already
given or in which the image sometimes seeks after the creation of new givens.
What aspect of television is being considered here? The narrative tv series
presents one set of questions. What about new programs, documentaries, and
series that are overtly committed to the examination of "ideas"? (Here in
the U.S., programs ranging from NIGHTLINE to Bill Moyers' various series on
PBS, not to mention the Arts and Entertainment Channel's BIOGRAPHY series
all have such pretensions to one degree or another.) What ideas or concepts
are examined in the context of rock videos--or even AEON FLUX and BEAVIS
I only occassionally something like a deconstructionist, and then usually by
accident, but I think the book on deconstruction and film co-authored by
Peter Brunette might be useful here too.
There is also a book called (I think) HOW TO READ A COMIC BOOK by (I think)
Scott McLeod published by Kitchen Sink Press that makes some interesting
comments on the "reading" of visual images. That isn't about television as
such, of course, and I would qualify some of his observations, but it could
be an interesting point of reference.
I've been wandering here--forgive me if I've strayed too far off course.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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