Hello and welcome back to Advertising and Society. I've been doing something which I like to do every now and then, and that is to read from a book of poems. I, I really like poetry, although I don't know a great deal about it in an academic sense, it's something that I enjoy. But I'll never forget and, and this is something I hope you'll be able to say after you took, take this course, that in a course I had as an undergraduate, a professor said something that has really stayed with me throughout my entire adult life. And I think about from time to time and especially when I read poems. It's the question that she posed for us in class and it was, when you're reading a poem and you're interpreting it, what matters most? What the poem itself says to you, or do you want to know about the author and the circumstances of who he was, or she was and what the when, and where, and why, the poem was written? Is all that stuff important to you in terms of understanding and appreciating the ad, or will you just let the words speak for themselves and the poem and its genius come through from the, from the work itself? This is a really interesting question and it applies equally well to advertising. I'm going to take the position that the author of an advertisement is not the person who puts all the materials together, but the person who takes it out. After all, we as consumers when we see an ad, what ends up happening is that ad means to us what we think it means. And that meaning is to some degree shared with other people very often and some degree, to some degree very highly individualized and privatized. It's that kind of question that we're going to examine in this lecture. Today we're going to look at interpretive strategies used to understand works of art, and from them attempt to draw some lessons that can be helpful to us in understanding ads. What I propose to do is to show a number of images of what we would call famous art that hang in museums or are bought and sold in galleries and so forth. And I want to talk about what these, these pictures represent, and what they mean as we understand that. So let's begin this little foray into the world of art history and see what we might learn from it. Okay to begin with, I want to show you this image from the Lascaux Cave paintings in Southwestern France. These paintings, Neolithic paintings, were done between 1,500 and 30,000 years ago, and they are some of the most famous examples of early human art in existence. But they're also some of the most mysterious, because we don't really know what they mean. This is because two of the most common interpretative strategies are unavailable to us. First we might ask the artist what he or she meant, but that person is long dead, or those persons are long dead. And the second thing that we might do is see how art like this is used in society. If for example, these animals painted on the wall were there and before each hunt, people went in, built a little fire, performed a ritual of hunting magic, then we might see it as a part of a ritual act in the culture and see it in that context. But neither the society is living nor the artist is around, and therefore we can't do either of these things. That has not, by the way, stopped people from trying to interpret what these things might mean. And recently I looked at Wikipedia to see what kinds of suggestions people have, have put forward there. And it's really interesting because they're quite varied. Some people have suggested that it's hunting magic intended to increase the number of animals. Another person has suggested that it's hoaxes that are thought up by creationists to ridicule Darwin. And the third one is that it's a shaman's vision of what's happening during a trance that he or she has. Now the Metropolitan Museum of New York has been more cautious in what it's had to say about them. It talks about them as simply portrayals of animals and how the artistic composition is put together. And then goes on to state that we really don't know what their purpose was in the culture, which is exactly where we stand on this. Now similarly when we look at advertising, we often have a similar problem in that we see an ad and we don't have any access to the person who created it or the group that created it. And we can't ask them or get any information about what they intended. Rather what we have to do is take ads at face value without knowing the intentions and the reasons they were generated they were, in the way that they were. So it's actually kind of similar to what goes on here. And that is theoretically possible, but not really a practical matter to have access to that kind of information. On very rare occasions we might read in some news story about what went into making an ad, but that is simply not the case for most advertising. Now this image is a really, really famous European painting. It's Las Meninas painted in 1656 by the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. And it has been perplexing and interesting and is much, much loved in Spain. Now what's particularly famous about this painting is that it departs from conventional ways of representing things in art, especially art up to that time. Because normally what would happen is that we see a painting and it's represented by the artist as though he's painting on glass and mimicking exactly what he sees through the glass. But in this case, we see the artist inside the painting, painting on a canvas. We don't actually see what he's painting on the canvas. We see the central figure of the princess, and there are two maids in waiting. It's from them, by the way, that the painting takes its name, Las Meninas. We see some other members of the royal court, and we actually see at the back door the painter going through it. And then what we actually also see is that in the mirror there is reflected outside the painting and where we stand, the King and Queen of Spain, who were looking in on this situation. And perhaps it's eye contact with him that some of the people in the painting are making, or with the Queen, or both of them. And thus their image appears only in reflection in the mirror. So what's happening here is that this painter has departed from conventions of representing. And that's also something that happens in advertising. We often see that modern advertising departs creatively, away from the usual conventions. Imagine just in a hypothetical moment that what happens here is that the, the dog speaks and tells us something important. It talks about something and the message comes through the dog. Well today we're accustomed to seeing things like that happen in ads, but it would be a real break with convention to do that kind of thing. But it's quite commonly a technique used in advertising. So this, this painting has a lot of lessons, for us. It really talks about the the, the dangers of assuming a literal representation from the eyes of the person looking in on it. But that artists can play around with and do interesting kind of things with our perception of reality and choose to shift who is the main character or whose perspective we see something from. And all of those things become possible in the world of advertising. Now the next painting is a very famous American painting. It shows Washington crossing the Delaware at the time of the American Revolution. What's interesting about the painting is we take it to be a kind of literal representation of the moment in time, when he crossed the Delaware leading the American forces and people in the war effort against Great Britain. The only problem is that the artist wasn't present when this was done, but rather he painted this scene 75 years later. There are also some historical inaccuracies in this, for one thing. That kind of ice never appears this far south in the, in the river. And secondly they're going the wrong direction across the river. But aside from those technicalities about it, we take this to be a fairly straightforwards representation of an historical event. But there is a very important aspect to this that we need to keep in mind, and it is that this is like a single snapshot of a longer story. A single frame taken out of what is in fact, a like a longer video or movie of this situation. And this one particular moment has been chosen and selected to represent the whole thing. And thus we as the viewer are invited to fill in the rest of the narrative on either side of it, what has led up to this, what happens afterwards. And this becomes the single image that represents that story. Now a lot of ads are also like this in that a single image out of a longer narrative is what we see represented. And we're called on as the consumer viewer to complete the narrative. These are usually called slice of life situations where we see that one moment in a story that we know has a beginning and an end perhaps, and we just see some point in the story. And it's a lot like this situation where we realized that there is a longer story that goes along with it. But we have to complete that story. We have to fill in that information. And so in a fundamental sense, when we're doing it either with this painting or doing with an advertisement, what we are doing is collaborating in the meaning of the advertisement or the picture by supplying the rest of the narrative. Now here's an interesting one. This a 19th century painting by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme who painted a number of images of the Middle East not unlike this. It's a represent, a representational painting also but what it represents is a bit puzzling. That may be because its imagery is somewhat strange to us as Westerners. Here is a naked boy standing before a group of men in a very ornate tiled room somewhere in the Middle East. There's a snake charmer, the boy's holding the snake. What this is all about, why he's there naked, why he's standing in front of the men with the snake, what they are all doing, it's all a great mystery. So the question is, when we look at this is, did Gérôme have a particular event or something that actually happened in mind that he's painting here? Or is this rather a romanticized, highly romanticized view of the Middle East, and he's just constructed this out of various things that he knows? And it's the kind of thing that when Western eyes looked in on it in the 19th century, without much direct experience in the Middle East, they would see this as interesting and exotic. Now, this is a famous painting because the influential Columbia University professor Edward Said, who wrote a book called Orientalism, chose to use this image on the cover, paperback cover of his book Orientalism, which revolutionized the way we think about imagery and stories and tales from the Middle East. Because in it he talks about how the West has created its own image of other people and otherness. And so that's what's actually going on here, that this is about another culture and Gérôme has imagined it for us. And there we are, left on our own to, to just see it and have confirmed for us really the ideas that we already have and build them up even stronger of what other cultures are like. This next one is one that honestly I have to say I have a very close relationship with. I've had a house in Italy for nearly 15 years, and in that house hangs a, an enormous copy of this painting, this Renaissance painting of the virgin surrounded by the child, but also angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, and their jewels and veils and things like this. And I have to say I've stopped a number of times and just stood and looked at it and marveled at all of the intricate details that are in it. But two things in particular always continue to catch my attention, and that is the exposed breast of the Madonna and the exposed genitals of the baby. There they are and, on display in a way that we feel very uncomfortable with in 20th century, 21st century American culture. We just simply wouldn't do something like that in this particular way, and especially of those people. But we don't know without delving into it, exactly what it meant at the time. And it's quite interesting when you do delve into it, as I did trying to figure the thing out, since it was there for me to see so often. I learned that one of the big issues that people discussed and thought about at this point in time was the question of the humanity and divinity simultaneously of Mary, the baby, and Jesus later in his life. Now the way that that was talked about in this painting in code was to show some of their most human parts. What could be more feminine than the mother's breast? What could be more masculine than the penis? And in doing these things and exposing that by showing that these divine creatures had these human aspects what's happening is their humanity is also being talked about. At the same time, they're treated like divine creatures. So this is an instance when some additional information that we have about a painting about what appears in it, about conventions in it can really help us change our understanding of things. A good example of this in advertising would be that if a model appears in an ad, and this turns out to be a famous person and you know who that famous person is, then you can bring all of that extra knowledge that you have about that person into the interpretation of the painting. The biography of the person, the things he or she is famous for. But if you're not someone who knows that about that individual, then the model is simply left as a model and has whatever characteristics you see there. So this additional information can be very important in interpreting ads and paintings. And we don't always have it, we sometimes do. And we don't have it equally across the interpretive community. Now this American painting from 1642 or 43 is an interesting one because it's filled with symbols and codes that contain certain messages. You'll note in the top right corner, there are skulls on a broken pedestal. The mother is pointing to one of the children. The father is looking up in the direction of the skulls and heavenwardly. We see a couple of other children in the painting. Now it's been suggested that what is happening here is that this is a painting that is using certain symbols to talk about a child who has died. The mother is pointing to what that child looked like in real life. The skulls signify that the child has died, and the father, looking heavenwardly, is thinking about the child in the afterlife. So when we see that, we realize that what it is is that this is a family painting memorializing and remembering a family member who has died. Remember, this was a world before photography, when this would perhaps be the only image of the child that would continue to exist. But it would've been very important to the family, and it would've only been accessible to a family with enough means to pay the painter the artist who could produce this for them. Now, let's turn to the issue of modern art. Modern art is really interesting in a lot of ways, but one of the things that is most interesting about it is how it perplexes some viewers while it truly delights others. And the works by Jackson Pollock, of which this is one, are some of those that are considered to be both the most delightful and the most perplexing. Now what is at issue here according to the way that art historians understand the, the context in which Pollock painted and what was happening in this kind of art in the 20th century is that he was trying to capture not a representation of some events in the world, but to capture something that was more abstract. It was the idea of motion. And what is recorded here is the movement of the paint onto the canvas, because he did this with a technique of having swinging cans of paint moving in the air over his painting. And that's what these lines represent are the trail of the painting, of the paint as it fell upon the canvas. And it's very convoluted and very complex and you can study it and the patterns in it and look at which was laid down first and seek how another dimen, a long dimension of time represented in all of this. So this is not a, a literal representation of anything, but it is rather an effort to capture motion on canvas and record it. That being the kind of thing that happens in modern art. So again, much advertising is very experimental in manners like this so that things happen in it that are not strictly representational or not slices of life, but employ all types of techniques that depart from usual ways of representing things. And then finally I'd like to talk about this piece of aboriginal Australian art. This is Tim Leura's painting, Emu Dreaming from 1975. And this kind of thing has a lot of images in it that represent things that we know of in aboriginal art. And a lot of people would be able to say that this art comes from Australia because it's widely available in postcards for sale and used advertising and so forth. And what we see in it, among with other things are a whole lot of arrows. If you look at them, they're pointing in a particular direction and they run the top of the canvas and they run the bottom of the canvas. And sometimes they turn inward and go around one of the little circles, which by the way represents waterholes, and so forth. The problem, when we look at this naively with Western eyes, is that we assume those are arrows because they are in fact very much like what we would draw as an arrow. It's exactly what I'd do on paper all the time when I'm trying to note something that's important. I put a little arrow beside it meaning, pay attention to this. So I think our first tactic in looking at something like this is to go with what's conventional in our culture in trying to interpret this. But remember, this is a different culture. Actually what those are are emu footprints. The emu is a bird that makes a footprint with the three parts of it. But we're thinking of them as arrows going in one direction, whereas the footprints actually go in the opposite direction. So we miss the directionality, and we miss the fact that they are footprints of a bird, not of arrows sort of moving in a direction, pointing us to something. So here this painting has codes that are usually not accessible without a great deal of interpretation. People in the community know them, but people outside the community have absolutely no knowledge of them and are very likely to make mistakes about them. Now this also happens in advertising because there are often specific codes of representation that occur in ads that are known within particular communities. A good example of this would be something that's familiar to a lot of young people, because it's a part of popular culture that attracts the attention of a particular age group. And some people who are older and in a different age group and not exposed to that culture might not understand and know these things because they simply see them in a different way because it's outside their experience. So again, there's a lesson here in what happens in art history that we can draw over into interpreting ads. Now this quick run through some famous pieces of art helps us see how we need to be somewhat cautious in interpreting art, not to always take it literally. And advertising exactly the same way. Because we need to sometimes try to figure out what's going on in these things, to pay more attention to it, to understand the various coded and internal and hidden meanings and deeper levels of meaning. From this I hope you can see the importance of what goes on in interpretative strategies in the world of art history and how helpful they can be to us in trying to understand what's in an ad besides that which is directly on the surface and which we see so quickly. Now in conclusion, I'd like to suggest that you read the chapter on the interpretation of ads in ADText, because it also discusses these same ads and provides more information and more details about them. So I, I want you to study this in particular. I want you to think deeply about the issues that we've covered in these three lectures about what's in an ad beyond that which meets an eye. Because all of these things apply throughout all the other discussions that we're having in the course. And the issues of this week are real essential to understanding the relationship of advertising to society, culture and history. This course is a collaborative venture of Duke University and the Advertising Educational Foundation.