Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.

2006-06-07

Visual Hegemony

said, Wikipedia:

Hegemony, is the dominance of one group over other groups, with or without the threat of force, to the extent that, for instance, the dominant party can dictate the terms of trade to its advantage; more broadly, cultural perspectives become skewed to favor the dominant group. Hegemony controls the ways that ideas become “naturalized” in a process that informs notions of common sense.

Throughout history, cultural and political power in any arena has rarely achieved a perfect balance, but hegemony results in the empowerment of certain cultural beliefs, values, and practices to the submersion and partial exclusion of others. Hegemony affects the perspective of mainstream history, as history is written by the victors for a sympathetic readership. The official history of Christianity, marginalizing its defined “heresies”, provides a richly-exampled arena of cultural hegemony.

Jás Elsner, in Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (1998), has written:
“Power is very rarely limited to the pure exercise of brute force.... The Roman state bolstered its authority and legitimacy with the trappings of ceremonial – cloaking the actualities of power beneath a display of wealth, the sanction of tradition, and the spectacle of insuperable resources.... Power is a far more complex and mysterious quality than any apparently simple manifestation of it would appear. It is as much a matter of impression, of theatre, of persuading those over whom authority is wielded to collude in their subjugation. Insofar as power is a matter of presentation, its cultural currency in antiquity (and still today) was the creation, manipulation, and display of images. In the propagation of the imperial office, at any rate, art was power.”


Having said that, who then controls the images? Are large corporations dictating the evolution of visual language? This isn’t a stroke of genius on my part, but the point here is who do they employ to carry out this visual hegemony? Are designers really the dancing monkeys in this downward spiral, or can they be held accountable? One can’t argue that we are now accustomed to increasingly ‘stimulating’ imagery, leading me to question what the long-tem effects are of this over stimulation and awareness. It seems that with technology amplifying the efficacy of imagery over the last 50 years, we are only beginning to see the ‘groupthink’ neurosis of western society. The industrialization of most of our natural functions, including even leisure time – the factory setup of most gyms – smells like one grand scheme.

Unfortunately, our obsessive nature is not only restricted to body image, we have a certain affection for shiny objects and any type of commodity that will get us closer to the gospel according to Guess, that we see on the bus everyday. I suppose the moral of the story here is to be happy! Stop and think, relax, enjoy, and question everything you do. Make sure you are doing things because you truly want to, not because you should. Focusing too closely on details and objects is just a distraction, and in some ways repression. I feel the need to counteract the system I have abettednd abedded. And so I filter this on to you, being satisfied only when we get there, where ever and whatever that entails, is just an image. Since designers and advertisers have created this visual codex, I will do everyone a favour and let the secret out.
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