The Language of Things takes its theoretical scaffolding from several sources including the fields of semiotics and visual theory where thoughts on visual perception, though not directed toward material theater per se, are remarkably apt to helping practitioners understand the potential depth of very simple iterations. This theoretical scaffolding can be integral to the workshop, or distilled into the background, depending on the needs of the institution or class. Some examples of observations we use as starting points are below:
Any line drawn on a sheet of paper, the simplest form modeled from a piece of clay, is like a rock thrown into a pond. It upsets repose, it mobilizes space. Seeing is the perception of action.
R. Arnheim - Art and Visual Perception: The New Version, p. 16
In point of fact, moreover, we cannot avoid the question whether objects can indeed ever come to constitute any other language than this: can man ever use objects to set up a language that is more than a discourse addressed to himself?
J. Baudrillard - The System of Objects
There have been times when the question, "What is an image?", has produced explosive situations. It hasn't been answered yet, and it is still pursued in countless articles and books, seminars, and symposia. As late as the Enlightenment, images, as well as language, were understood as transparent media that represent reality and give access to reason. In the modern age, images turned into riddles, into phenomena which require explanation, since they separate reason from reality. Many works today assume that images must be understood as a kind of language, as signs behind which is hidden an arbitrary mechanism of representation and ideological mystification. What do you consider to be the essence of pictures? How do we master images?
The essence of an image is its ability to convey meaning through sensory experience. Signs and language are established conceptual modifiers; they are the outer shells of actual meaning. We have to realize that perception organizes the forms that it receives as optical projections in the eye. Without form an image cannot carry a visual message into consciousness. Thus it is the organized forms that deliver the visual concept that makes an image legible, not conventionally established signs.
R. Arnheim. “The Intelligence of Vision: An Interview with Rudolf Arnheim,” Uta Grundman, Cabinet, Issue 2 Spring 2001.