Communication; Visual Vs Verbal

I fear that the following words are not the most coherent of words. What follows are a lot of thoughts which have been flying around my mind for a while, gradually making more sense, and this is the first time I’ve tried to pin them down as letters. Have a conversation with me about it in the real world; I’ll probably make more sense.

“It is easier to write something than it is to say it.”

This has had me intrigued for a while. If you have something difficult to say, it is easier to write words for someone than it is to say those words to the persons face; whether its a hand-written letter, an email or a text message. This creates a distance between the person with the words and the ‘listener’, whoever they may be.

And so some people find it easier to make art about things, things which they may find difficult expressing verbally. Maybe it’s easier to create something visual than it is to write things down. But ‘art’ tends to be something for the public, for a viewer. But these viewers are usually anonymous. And because they are anonymous, it is easier to say, without censorship, what is on one’s mind. And visual art (perhaps more so than words?) can be ambiguous to the viewer, even if the person who has created it feels that they have expressed something satisfactorily. People expect to be shocked by art, and so if something is expressed as ‘art’, is it easier to deal with, easier to discuss? Does it make difficult issues and themes more acceptable’? 

Art can be solid, visual proof, or representation of how one is feeling. It can feel satisfying to see things that were once only in your head in the real world, in front of your eyes; they become something tangible. (And something to ponder another day; where does self-harm fit into this idea of ‘visual communication’? Or is it even relevant at all….)

Everything comes down to communication. Visual, written, verbal. Communication to a large, anonymous audience, or a single, close-friend. (Or both at exactly the same time, within the same piece of work. Yes, I like that idea a lot.) And distance. The distance between the original, initial emotion, the way that it is expressed, and the person who receives this emotion or information.

And so I have put off getting started on new work for long enough today. The start is always the tricky bit. I have grand plans, but they shall stay secret for the time being.


1 thought on “Communication; Visual Vs Verbal”

  1. Very thought-provoking. I agree that expressing things through art (visual or written) adds a distance. It also adds a layer of disguise. I’m always far less nervous when strangers read/hear my work – I don’t worry about how it will change how they perceive me. With friends though, I get nervous that they’ll see a new side to me that was never before shown (and then they’ll think what they normally get is false/limited/restricted). It is false/limited/restricted.

    Equally, I’ve performed poems that are – in my head – obviously about a particular person and a vivid event, but they’ve been absolutely clueless about it. Either that, or the honesty was too much, and they chose to ignore it.

    Communication though, that is everything. Culture – at its most basic – is communication between two humans. If you communicate alone, you are outside of culture/mad/exiled. The attempt to communicate – whether with images or words – is an attempt to be read/understood. It is an attempt to be, in part, known. It doesn’t seem like much to ask, but imagine going a whole lifetime without another person being able to truly know you. I think it happens too much, and art is a way out of it.

    Even if the most we can do to be be known is to have a stranger stare at what we have made and feel it reflect a small part of who they are/once were/or would like to be – this is surely reason enough to create.


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