What is Visual Culture?

A video essay

CLST 355 – VISUAL RESEARCH METHODS

~ Claremont Graduate University, Spring 2010 ~

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Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 08:37  Comments (6)  

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  1. Good question – what is visual culture? It’s an evocative term, but can mean different things to different people in different contexts. The topic of your “visual life” is much more specific, I think. Is this your visual emic? Most striking is the prevalence of vehicles and freeway driving, sometimes shown as washed out visions in white glare and muted grays, with slightly dystopic music. A visual commentary on how SoCal car culture dominates our time and visual field if not our consciousness?

    • This was my first attempt at anything in video since my trip to Viet Nam in 2007. And then I only shot approx. 1 to 2 hours worth of video that I did nothing with (it was not very good anyway). Nonetheless, this is technically my first. It is for a visual research methods class for which our first assignment was either a three to five minute video essay, or a 10 page written essay, both on the topic of/or as visual culture. I chose the video option—obviously. Curiously enough, out of the 14 students in the class, several chose the written essay option—go figure?

      Maybe I should start work on a sequel…!

  2. I really enjoyed your video. Really impressive for your first attempt at digital filmmaking. The combination of Pink Floyd and the images of the highway invoke a haunting vision of industrialization. I think the music helps to amplify these daily images – images and signs that we something don’t realize are constantly surrounded us. That is, the music makes the invisible visible. I think this is kind of what your unpacking about visual culture in the questions posed at the end of the video. Nice job!

  3. Eric: I really appreciate that you chose to make a video, and then such an “abstract” one at that, making your argument through fragments, feelings, rythyms, associations. For this reason, as I said in class, the insertiion of the literal question plays against the power of your own “argumentative” or perhaps “subjective” style. I am not sure that “visual cutlure” means merely the things we see each day, but it certainly includes this. How could you make the jump to the more global or theoreitcal or even political understanding of this term AS it is related to our personal cultures?

  4. Visual culture may just be the everyday grays, muted, blurs that are the hunks of metal hurtling through space. I found your video essay gritty and questioning.

  5. Eric, sorry for my delay in responding. As a viewer I enjoyed ‘riding along’ with you for your first video essay, “What Is Visual Culture?” This is an inventive and experimental piece. I think that switching from color to black and white images, along with various dissolves and other transitions provide an interesting sense of something breaking down and apart. The repeated shot near the side of a parked truck is great. Is that a parking ticket? 😉 … There are so many interesting shots, that do contain a subtle narrative, it seems to me, prefacing the question that you pose at the end, i.e. what visual culture is not? The last few frames holding on the ‘End’ of road sign works well conceptually and practically.


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