Published in 2001, Multimodal Discourse by Kress and Leuwen surfaces around the same time as LeVine and Scollon’s Discourse and Technology and O’Hallaran’s multimodal Discourse Analysis, perhaps pioneers in the field of multimodality. Back in the olden days, I should say. Of note is how no one is in agreement of what mode actually is, given it’s the building block of discourse and design. Kress and Leeuwen take the middle road: modes are semiotic resources which allow the simultaneous realisation of discourses and types of (inter)action. I say middle road because previously (in 1999 publications) they took a stance that modes are constantly changing ‘units’. I wonder if they linked it to discourse, which of course is a moving feast as well.
In any event. The usual high falutin’ fare ensues: complicated linguistic constructs and deconstructs ad infinitum, until we get to the most important issue for me: the one which makes this book worthwhile. Colour. K&L specifically point out that colour is a signifier and not a sign.
Its been 12 years since publication, and a cursory look at development of semiotics theories since then has not dispelled this notion: and I am frankly puzzled as to how this can be. A sound and a smell are indisputably signs, yet colour is not. If we accept colour as a signifier, in fact, a floating signifier, perhaps traditionally from a cultural perspective it might be deemed to have the potential for disparate meanings. My question is: so what? In as much as there is no such thing as a meaningless signifier, everything by default becomes a sign anyway.
Further, there is debate going on as to whether universality of understanding is a prerequisite for defining a sign: e.g. do we all have to agree on the meaning of a sign in order for it to be one? This then makes me think that perhaps an overhaul of semiotics terminology, particularly in view of multimodality, may in fact be due. Going back to colour, I’m not sure the G&L example of pink representing different signs necessarily stacks up. They attribute it once to the cultural norm that ‘pink is for girls’ (and maybe a pink baby chair?) and subsequently quote an example of pink furniture in a minimalist house where it represents the sign of minimalism. This then is their explanation of why colour can’t be a sign but rather a signifier. Well, but first, while the signifier is different, I’m not so sure the ‘signified’ is. (an opposing example, well documented, is say the word as a sign ‘open’, which has the same signifier but the signified is different if it is applied to the open jaws of an alligator vs. A store open for business). True, the latter has the distinction of having an identical signifier, but why should that make it more acceptable as a sign than the previous example, where the signifier differs but the signified is the same. I am pretty sure (although don’t have time to research this now), that the so called ‘grammar of colour’ (love that expression) is well categorised in our minds in terms of classes of objects or emotions or experiences, providing a similar signified for each colour. For example, no one would deem flaming orange either as a minimalist expression nor as a ‘baby colour’. This is not even so much predicated on cultural preconceptions but rather on what I think are ingrained interpretations of spacio-physical constraints. We all know dark colours make a room appear smaller and light colours make it appear larger, and that sort of thing.
Reblogged from Business Insider
This paragraph is really making the rounds.
“I need to make clear what the ESM can do: the ESM is able–if one were to decide ever on such an instrument–to take an equity share in abank. But only against full guarantee by the sovereign concerned... What you have is that it cuts out the effect of that loan on the debt-to-GDP ratio of the sovereign. Does it still remain the risk of the sovereign or [does it go to] the ESM? It remains the risk of the sovereign.”
My Bresson baptism, with Mouchette: and it underwhelms. I’m sure I picked up Mouchette on strong recommendations: but it backfired.
Shot in black and white (1967), perhaps to accentuate the despair and and hopelessness of the theme, is a tactical mistake. I’m sure there are things you can do with black and white to accentuate particular objects, emotions, situations: as in Hitchcock’s movies. Here, we are treated to a washed out monotone of colour which does nothing for the many scenes shot in apparently verdant woods. Contrast was poor throughout, sharpness non existent: colour was a mismanagement.
Nadine Nortier is miscast as Mouchette. She has presence, but no qualia. Utterly emotionless throughout, even when she is crying, less of an enigma and more of a non person. What is she thinking, what is she about, what makes her tick? The blank canvass of her acting output throws up no answers. Marie Cardinal as her mother, in only a few short scenes with few words does a much better job of fleshing out a character: we, as the audience, get what she is about: a disillusioned, weary woman: physically and spiritually ill. Mistreated by life and men, she is ready to depart this life. Her agony , in fact her life story is played out beautifully in an understated way by Cardinal. Nortier does not come even close with her performance.
Mouchette is supposed to be a suffering martyr of some kind, but ‘m not sure why. Yes, the family is poor, mum is sick and dad goes out at night to deal in contraband, but is that enough to warp your mind and deaden your soul? Why does she refuse to sing in school and throw mud at her schoolmates? Bresson is just sloppy here: a few more psychological angle shots wouldn’t have been amis, just to really set the background on Mouchette’s despair.
A plot development sees Mouchette out in the woods late at night, huddled under a tree. She is found by Arsene, the village daredevil, who first ‘rescues’ her from the rain, then walks her back to the village, and to his house, where a little incongruously because there was no build up to this, rapes her. And Mouchette likes it. In fact the next day she alludes to him as ‘her lover’. Yes, she is sadly misused here.
Then, one hour into the film, a host of secondary characters start popping up for the first time. Mouchette’s mother dies on the morning after her rape, and as Mouchette walks about town to get milk, various personages make an appearance. All of them presume to help her with hand me downs and end up calling her a slut and wicked. For no particular reason at all. This grated on my nerves a bit: first, the glut of personalities piled up all at once: what about pacing, Bresson? Then, their allegations towards Mouchette. If she is indeed a slut, why weren’t we shown it, why wasn’t it alluded before: why spring it up out of the blue. Of course, this may be a subtle reference to the fact Mouchette enjoyed her rape, but of course the townfolk can’t know this.
The only thing this film had going for it is the ending. As Mouchette tumbles down a river bank and literally plops into the river, the camera stays put for about thirty seconds on the water, before fading out. Does Mouchette resurface, or is she dead?
Absolutely brilliant: anyone else feel like this? The bane of getting older, eh?
Ode to Suffering Homemaker
The real christams carol
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the kitchen;
Suffering Homemaker was cooking and baking and moanin and bitchin.
She’s been here for hours, she can't stop to rest.
This room's a disaster, just look at this mess!
Tomorrow she has got thirty people to feed.
They expect all the trimmings. Who cares what she need!
Her feet are both blistered, and cramps in her legs.
The cat just knocked over a bowl full of eggs.
There's a knock at the door and the telephone's ringing;
Frosting drips on the counter as the microwave's dinging.
Two pies in the oven, desserts almost done,
Her cookbook is soiled with butter and crumbs.
She has had all she can stand, she can't take anymore;
Then in walks her partner, spilling rum on the floor.