Semiotics x Leunig

“Semiotics is an investigation into how meaning is created and how meaning is communicated. Its origins lie in the academic study of how signs and symbols (visual and linguistic) create meaning.”

“It is a way of seeing the world, and of understanding how the landscape and culture in which we live has a massive impact on all of us unconsciously.” (semiotics explained,Ā signsalad, 2013)

In order to understand the world around us, we must try to look deeper by using our own knowledge and beliefs as a way of uncovering meaning whilst decoding any form of media. By familiarising ourselves to the theory of semiotics, established byĀ Ferdinand de Saussure andĀ Charles Peirce, we are able to break down an image into:

The image below is called “TV sunrise” by Leunig. Michael Leunig is very well-known for his political, emotional and cultural commentary through the use of cartoons and you may have seen them before in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Initially viewing the image, and decoding the denotations, a father and sonĀ are seen in the centre of the image, watching television. The TV has an image of a sunrise yet interesting to the left of them through a window the exact same sunrise image is shown. The room in which they are placed in appears very dull and minimal, as well as quite dark especially the TV set, prominently the darkest feature in this image and its shadow dragged behind it. The room has shades of grey contrasted by the coloured images of the sunrise and the nude tone of the father and sons skin. The father has one arm placed on his son and the other directed at the TV and they both appear to be very engaged in the image presented to them on TV.

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By taking into considerations all the literal observations of the image it is now possible to further reveal why the artist has incorporated them and what ideas they may represent. However, it is important to note that it is stillĀ possible to read this image in more than one way and the way each individual choses to decode the image is purely influenced by their own personal background, beliefs and knowledge.

It is possible that this image is commenting on how as a society we have become so detached from the real world, that we instead chose to view an image right outside our window through technology instead. The dullness of the room may present ideas around the isolation our technology obsessed race is heading towards. Watching the sunrise appears to be a quite easy thing to experience and the fact that the father and son choose to “shortcut” and “simplify” it further by just watching it on television makes us ponder on our own daily life and on a simple task we may lack appreciation for due to the access to technology we pick to use instead.

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This image could also very much relate to when they began televising the sunrise on giant TV screens in China because the smog in the air was so terrible. In a report in 2014 (around the same time the image was created by Leunig) by the Daily Mail this incident is explained and by having the knowledge of this event, when observing Leunig’s image this concept is actually very relevant and could also explain as to why the father and son in the image chose to watch the sunrise through their television.

Conclusively, although the above ideologies could all be very valid interpretations of the image, there are still many other ways to view this image all dependent on the individual and their own connotations. Each person will interpret it with a different approach based on their ideological position.



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