mad in pursuit journal


Pictures vs. Words

I returned to the International Museum of Women site and went exploring in their Imagining Ourselves project. There are contributors from women all over the world. I wanted to look at their writing, but suffered some momentary frustration that so many entries were graphic.

But this morning I'm thinking, duh, it's an international site... and I'm expecting all these essays in English? And me, the cosmopol!

It's logical that as we go global, we should depend less on written language for communication. A picture conveys a thousand words, right?

But then why do I hate those little icon labels on electronic equipment? A circle and a line — one is "off" and one is "on." Which the hell is which?? Are they supposed to represent a circuit opened and closed? Or a 1 and 0? I can never remember. I see that Sony is advertising a camera with English-labeled icons. Is that because more older people are buying digital cameras and they can't make heads or tails of icons either?

Can it be that young people are more graphically fluent than we cranky Boomers?

There's the rub. We like to think that a picture is more universal than a word. We kid ourselves. The line-and-circle icon has to be memorized just like the "auf" and "zu" on a German camera.

Paintings and photographs have their own language. We are only lulled into thinking we share the experience.

by Frida KahloLast night we watched "The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo," the famous Mexican painter. It is rare to find a painter who is so surreal, yet so specific and precise in her communication. Maybe she gives us the answer. Just because your communication is "visual" doesn't mean anyone will understand it any better than they understand your writing. Drawings and photographs can be as muddy and confused as words. It takes a master like Kahlo to communicate so powerfully with a picture.



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