October 1, 2012

Meta-Metaphors

The analysis by Lakoff and Johnson of language as a metaphor had a few wheels turning in my head. As usual, I'm going to apply this concept to the universal language: the arts.

Often times that's what the arts do right? It can be something basic: Red is for anger, blue is for sorrow, etc. Or what about something more intricate? The Screamer is a wonderful collision of colors that evokes a sense of dread; a more specific dread can be seen if you look even deeper into it.

So does RED = ANGER? How about BLUE = SORROW? It sure seems to evoke that feeling doesn't it? Why does argument create a sense of war? Why does TIME = MONEY? It's a way to make a representation hit closer to home. We're all familiar with war, we're all familiar with money, we're all familiar with anger, and we're all familiar with sorrow. In order to grasp a concept such as time, we probably had to associate it with something people generally relate to so that they don't mishandle the value of time.

This is exactly why we hold the "Meta"-arts to a higher value in the realm of high culture. A lot of the times, the best movies aren't just a straight up narrative; they're a movie about movies. Same for other arts: photography about photography, writing about writing, art about art. Not only is art relatable, but it gives the auteur a sense of awareness for the subject they're tackling. It's the ultimate meta-metaphor.

2 comments:

Joel Bergholtz said...

I agree with you, "What is Rhetagaming?", the association between a color and a feeling is an interesting and powerful concept. You say it is "a way to make a representation hit closer to home. We're all familiar with money, anger, sorrow...". It seems like a Lockian concept (is that a word?). In the way Locke seems to separate ideas from words and then explains how words represent the idea, Lakoff and Johnson take it a step further and make colors represent ideas. Although not necessarily a mistake on "art"s part or whoever started associating colors with fragile ideas, when studying language it is clear how this sort of thinking confuses language and gives less of a defining characteristic. Overall I am really enjoying the new shifted concept of thinking about how we choose words, representations, and the overall study of the brain, and it seems you are too!
Joel

Rdexheimer said...

It seems that metaphors come on a sliding scale of "intuitiveness," or the extent to which they can be understood outside of a particular cultural context. Colors seem to be metaphors with a very high level of abstraction. In addition, colors are extremely multifaceted metaphors. In a very general sense red seems to depict intensity. From an empirical perspective, the color red can signify high levels of energy. Metal becomes red when subject to a high degree of heat and people can become red when subjected to a high degree of stress. But even these connotations vary significantly by the context in which the color is presented. One could (correctly) state that red has connotations with war by making references to blood, gunfire, or even more abstract notions such as valor or honor. But at the same time you could be presented with the very same shade of red in a representation of a a heart (like a Valentine's heart, not like a human heart in realistic detail) and chances are you would interpret the color red according to a meaning that is very much the opposite of war. Yet similarities can be drawn between even such opposing concepts as love and war. Both describe certain kinds of relationships between two (or more) parties and the relationship may be characterized in extreme terms like passion (to fight or to not fight). I'm having trouble phrasing this idea but I hope the general point I'm trying to make can be understood.

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