We are surrounded by information: images and text surround us since the day starts and when we went out to the street. I have planned this exercise very easily: I just get up in the morning and I want to check how the images and texts unfolded in front of me during the day. I have not developed the exercise extensively, but as a small approximation to the stated objective.
At the beginning of the day, the familiar and everyday images are the first ones we receive. The alarm clock signals the time and marks the beginning of the day. I sit down for breakfast. I have in front of me a cup of hot coffee, toast, an orange juice and two jars of jam. In the background, the television offers the news report.
My cup is painted in warm colour and ornate with texts that have no other function than the decorative: colourful letters and nice shapes, and a message about the quality of an invented coffee brand. Beyond the decorative function, what is the function of these texts? When I lift the cup to drink from it, it is inevitable that I look at the word “Quality“, which may serve to reaffirm the pleasant sensation of savouring the steaming coffee of the morning. The colours of the cup also appear to be in harmony with the content of the cup, creating a space of comfort. Is breakfast time a small space of truce that we have before facing the daily bustle? Because the text seems to have a positive influence in the user during the breakfast time, we can conclude that it helps to anchor that feeling:
While I am having a breakfast, the news and events of the previous day appear on television. The television is a window to the world, where every day a minuscule number of the events that happen every day in the world are shown. Is this the real world? The news speaks today of a dispute between Spain and the United Kingdom about the Rock of Gibraltar, and the special anchor of TVE in London tells the news live while showing a copy of the tabloid newspaper “The Sun” where we can read a headline that looks like a direct threat to the Spanish people: “HANDS OF OUR ROCK” along with an image of the Rock and title written also in Spanish. In this case, the title fulfils an anchoring function: at a symbolic level, the image of Gibraltar offers three possible readings: for an Spanish viewer could be considered as a kind of national humiliation that goes back from ancient times; Nevertheless, a British viewer should perceive it with some pride, a kind of contemporary evidence of the past power of the British empire; In the case of a Gibraltarian viewer, may perhaps have a symbolic connection more related to feelings of national identity and affiliation. The title in this case anchors the meaning and offers a more belligerent view of the matter, related to the British point of view: The Rock of Gibraltar as a trophy of war and conveying a intimidating message that sounds like a threaten to who dare to questioning the sovereignty of the Rock.
On the other hand, in the lower part of the screen are shown headlines whose purpose is to describe quickly and concisely the content of the news shown in the report, perhaps with the intention that any viewer can quickly identify quickly the news and decide if he chooses to follow it more carefully.
When we went out to the street, we found a lot of signs, commercial adverts and traffic signs. The latter are oriented to order and regulate the traffic of cars that flood the streets of the city. Texts and symbols that are organized in a kind of language whose basic particles of meaning are forms and colours (red: banning, blue: recommendation, triangle: warning, square: information …) is a language regulated by an institution and all drivers have to demonstrate knowledge before they can use a vehicle. In addition, this language is adapted to the characteristics of its target audience – drivers who move with speed – challenging some basic laws of perception: reading from left to right and from top to bottom- as in this case where the text should be read as “ARA-GON” (not GON-ARA). There is an anchor function: It is an indication to the driver to lead him to “ARAGON”.
It is very common that an exaggerated number of advertisements are crowded at the entrances of the cities; these ads try to draw the attention of the drivers to inform them of the different shopping centres, companies and services that they can find in the city. They use bright colours and compete for the most advantageous situations. They are placed in clear areas so that drivers can see them for as long as possible, and are oriented so that they are easy to see while the vehicles go towards the city. Arrows and symbols are used that instruct drivers how to arrive at the establishments that are advertised. The anchoring function is obvious.
The urban art is another element present and recurrent in the landscape of the city. From the clumsy painted scribbles on private property, through more elaborate graffiti in which the repetition of certain symbols allow to identify them as codified messages of certain urban tribes, this type of manifestations are the representation of a feeling of opposition to the established order. The anonymity under which their authors are hidden, and the fact that there are companies specialized in graffiti removal seems to confirm this view. Let us therefore call this type of urban art wild graffiti:
Here the text plays a role of relay, because it is part of a broader narrative that – although not accessible to the majority of citizens – serves to define a lifestyle and values of a social minority or urban tribe.
In many cities, city councils offer spaces and funding for the most outstanding urban artists to develop their activity. Usually they made more complex works, that demonstrate a remarkable degree of mastery and that require additional and very expensive elements for their realization (assembly of scaffolds, greater quantity of painting, etc.). We could call this kind of art as domesticated Grafiti, since the artist puts himself at the service of the institutions. In the example that illustrates this case, the text of the work seems to confirm that submission of the artist to the will of the patron:
en alta mar
nos traerán la tinta
con sabor a sal
para poder dibujar
una nueva ciudad
in high sea
they will bring us the ink
flavored with salt
a new city
The street belongs to everyone, and a multitude of commercials and private individuals constantly try to catch our attention, offering us products, activities, amazing prices and discounts: Handwrite advertisements on a chalkboard of different colours, or improvised places where photocopies are stacked with ads that interact with the passer-by, who can tear off a piece of paper in which the contact telephone number is noted.
These posters and signs are projections of the establishments or activities that are announced, that aim to increase the diffusion of the same, and to increase the potential clients. There is a clear anchoring function, although in this case I would ironically compare it with a hook trying to catch fish.