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The mirror comes in many shapes and forms. It reflects the self - not your exact portrayal - the existence of the visual image in relationship to another. This site’s title is primarily based on Lacan’s “mirror stage” - the developmental moment when you see your reflection - the identification with an image and alienation from the image of your reflection.  To personally recognize this encounter represents, as Lacan describes, a pivotal development the construction of one’s identity. To recognize this encounter in others is the foundation of visual culture, as Mirzoeff states, “it follows that the encounter with the other and its transformative effect on the self is the visual moment that matters to visual culture, not the optical and geometric effects of sight and perspective.”[1] This site is not about vision or point of view but semiotics and visual culture.

Vision is subject to the law of the gaze
— Nicholas Mirzoeff

Visual culture is everywhere in a world filled with screens and images, and a society that celebrates the power of the visual. I explore the ways in which cultures visualize and represent themselves, as well as, the exchanges between peoples and the visual. Semiotics, the study of communication through visual and linguistic symbols is essential to my investigation into how meaning is created and explored in visual culture. My purpose is to identify processes of semiosis, analyze the multitude of signifiers, codify out of the human need for categorization and organization, and reflect on these decisions, my gaze into visual culture.

Visual culture is everywhere - from memes to visual albums - from computer icons to emojis - from art to Instagram. As a self-proclaimed student of visual culture and semiotics, I seek to dissect and analyze visual representations and how they are presented to us. These images are often presented with accompanying sound or text and my goal is to attempt to understand how this mixture of media inform our lives beyond sight and image alone. The dialogue between content, message, and visuality produces a variety of signs, relating to Uberto Eco’s discussion of sign production and coding,

“[t]his dialectic between codes and messages, whereby the codes control the emission of messages, but new messages can restructure the codes, constitutes the basis for a discussion on the creativity of language…”[2]

Eco’s argument though focused on logic and linguistics can easily be applied to semiotics in visual culture as one can re-define recognizable symbols through creativity by combining pre-established elements of the expression-form in order to introduce something new in the content-form. It is through this reflection, with our culture’s pre-established elements, and our learned content that we encounter this mixture of media. Our gaze is not just the act of looking, it is a way of identifying the viewer by distinguishing them from the image at which they gaze. These two distinguished features, the gazer and the subject of representation combine to form the full visual/image.

Mirror gaze is an endeavor to use these complex concepts and theories to discuss modern visual culture.

References

[1] Mirzoeff, Nicholas. An Introduction to Visual Culture. Routlege, 2009.

[2] Eco, Uberto. A Theory of Semiotics. Indiana University Press, 1978.