Image source: Pawel Kuczynski
What do you see?
First look of this image can leave you questioning the artists motives, what could pigs possibly have to do with such luxuries as limousines or red carpets? Kuczynski’s satirical imagery has a way of portraying more then meets the eye. His lack of caption within the image, encourages the audience to look back on their own knowledge and personal experiences to help create meaning of the image, leaving it open to many different interpretations.
What could possibly be the meaning behind this image?
Pigs have become the symbol for a variety of extremes of human characteristics. In some cultures, the pig is seen as a representation of joy and happiness, whereas others see it as a sign of greed, fear, gluttony, disgust, and dirtiness.
The interpretations of a pig are so broad, emphasizing the string of interpretations available.
The pigs are juxtaposed by the red carpet and limousine,which represent wealth and luxury, not forgetting the man (presumably driver) “waiting” at the door. The image creates multiple contexts…
The pigs could be drawing attention to the greed and ‘dirty’ or fraudulent acts of the rich, possibly even concentrating on that of politicians and the ‘mess they make’.
The image could be reflecting the difference, that the privilege produce, in that we only are able to see due to the comparisons made; we would not feel poor, if there were no richer, and vice versa.
The driver significantly stands back, out of the way for anything that wants to pass, revealing how those of wealth and/or power have unobstructed access to those of lower status’ resources.
The background is very bland, making the other elements stand out, emphasising the importance of these ‘symbols’.
We seem as a species to be driven by a desire to make meanings: above all, we are surely Homo significans – meaning-makers.
Daniel Chandler, Visual Semiotican
I decided to test Chandler’s statement, and asked some peers what they saw within the image. This was definitely an eye opener into the many different connotations an image can convey.
“It glorifies farmers…and how important they are for our society” –Sara, 18
“The greediness and consumerism of society” –Sara, 21
“It is ironic” –Tim, 19
“High flyers with their snouts in the trough.” –Dad
“Celebrity greed” –James, 23
“It looks like the path Miley Cyrus took” –Zac, 19
“People who have the product and therefore money are the ones in control” –Vicky, 19
“The people that we deem as important or celebrities etc, are selfish and greedy and pig like” –Rachel, 17
Let’s talk about semiotics…
What is it?
Semiotics origins from linguistics and the study of meanings, but can be described as the study or science of signs. A sign, being something they conveys meaning (for example, a piece of artwork), has both a signifier, what gives its meaning (the red carpet, dirty pigs, limousine) and the signified, what is evoked or perceived by these (greed, difference or even Miley Cyrus).
Signs have a literal meaning (the denotation) and socio- cultural or personal interpretations (connotations) associated with them. The denotation of an image is generally what most people would see before further analysis, take Kuczynski’s image above, it is a picture of limousine and red carpet rolled out to a trough of pigs. Whereas the connotations will vary upon every audience to the ‘sign’.
It is such a complex notion, maybe the artist wanted us to see one particular thing or maybe he wanted us to see tens of thousands of things.
What do you see?
What do you think he meant?
There are no facts, only interpretations.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosopher
- Brainy Quote, 2001, Interpretations, Brainy Quote, viewed March 2015 <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/interpretations.html >
- Elder A, 2013, Pawel Kuczynski,The Visual Culture of Politics, viewed March 2015, <http://acelder11.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/pawel-kuczynski.html >
- Chandler D, 2015, Introduction, Semiotics for Beginners, viewed March 2015, <http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/ >
- Horwitz R. 2002. Hog Ties: Pigs, Manure, and Mortality in American Culture. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. (pg 23)
- Pawel Kuczynski, 2013, Timeline Photos, Image, Facebook, viewed March 2015, <https://www.facebook.com/222849284410325/photos/a.315950128433573.91004.222849284410325/628817480480168/?type=1&theater >