Monday, 12 January 2009

Here there be dragons...

After reading many status updates on facebook about last year graphic designers (some of them friends of mine) panicking about giving in their thesis, I decided to look back on mine. It had been two years since I'd read it, and it was weird reading that voice of me, writing academic essay voice. My thesis was about mythological creatures, composite ones in specific (made of parts of different creatures) and the idea of Collective Visual Imagination, a term I coined after reading Carl Jung's writings on the Collective Unconscious.
So after reading it, correcting a couple of typos (oops.) I thought I'd paste a couple of paragraphs from it... Maybe it'd interest some of you.

"Many of us today do not really know where they [mythological creatures] come from, do not know their purpose or if they have any, and yet we do know what they are, and how they look like, probably from our exposure to them in the contexts such as the ones I have mentioned. Personally, I have always been fascinated with creatures such as these since I can remember. I would hear about them in stories my mother would tell me, see pictures of them in books, see them in cartoons and movies, and I did not bother to question their existence; they stirred oceans in me, they rang true, and let me soar in my mind with wings made of imagination. But the older I got, the more I knew, and it was no longer a matter of whether they existed or not, but it was their aesthetic nature that appealed to me, and especially the creatures that were mixed, composite. How did they come to be, or who created them? How were so many stories written about them if they did not exist, and how could it be that there were many instances of striking resemblance of a specific creature between different cultures and mythologies?"
* * *
"Perhaps we are all like the doomed artist or creative, who is forever envisioning and imagining the perfect artwork, and never able to hit the nail on the head when executing it; that these magnificent creatures are embedded in our unconsciousness, dormant, awaiting to be portrayed and expressed, while we fumble and never get to describe and apply visually what we see in our heads. Perhaps we are endowed with the essence of a Collective Visual Imagination that unites us in our struggle for the ideal illustration of certain creatures, and yet in the process of application, we drift apart slightly due to factors of culture and context, making this world of creatures one that is destined to keep us gaping in awe and wonder. To quote the German director Werner Herzog, 'What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.'”
* * *
" The Collective Visual Imagination is a theory that leans on the geographical widespread of a particular creature that has physical similarities between the same creature of different localities. The reason for these findings is very unclear and so the theory alleges that the reason for these similarities is due to our already formed visualisation of it that is inevitably within us. I would have called it the Unconscious Visual Imagination, but I am wary of the fact that we can never actually ‘see’ or envision that which is unconscious, as I have come to understand from my readings by Jung. The result of the existence of these ‘moulds’ or templates in our minds drives us to manifest them, simply an attempt to solidify this otherwise conceptualised idea that wants to break free of us. And yet somehow we are incompetent in completely comprehending and controlling this hidden part of our imaginative mind.

An Analogy
An analogy that could clarify my explanation, is if you consider someone who is trying to express him or herself verbally, and is stuck on a word, he knows what it is, and yet is unable to convey what it is, and sometimes he or she end up spilling out words that are either close in pronunciation or meaning in attempts to bridge this gap. If I were to apply this to the Collective Visual Imagination, the word we are thinking of would be the actual representation of the creature, while the different words that we end up saying in attempt to get the right one are the different representations and portrayals of the creature. But it is important to keep in mind that the main difference between the analogy I am giving and the Collective Visual Imagination is that this search for the ‘model’ depiction of the creature is not something I consider to be conscious, we are not aware of its existence within us, or of the fact that we are expressing an urge to find the ‘one’, while when searching for the ‘word’, we know we have it in us somewhere, in the many folds of our brain, we are aware that to complete our message, this ‘word’ needs to be found. This is the relation I find between Jung’s concept of unconscious archetypes and my hypothesis. Also, although the idea of the ‘collective’ seems to steal away the possibility of diversity, it is in fact this feature that allows diversity in my view, since in our attempts of expression, we have harnessed diversity, allowing the many factors and influences of our existence to play a role in shaping images and forms."

If only you could see the tables and maps I filled up with research... 60 dragons, 22 mermaids, and 16 unicorns.. Anyway, there's obviously more to it than the excerpts I put, and it would make more sense once read from start to finish.. but its a 30 page paper! Wouldn't know what to do with it all.

And with that, I'll leave you with the last paragraph of my thesis as food for thought...

* * *
"I once read somewhere that when dealing with uncharted waters, cartographers in the days of yore would draw a dragon like creature on that particular area of the map, and jot down the words “Here there be Dragons”, referring to something that we are not sure of, somewhere dangerous, undiscovered, with undiscovered monsters and creatures lurking. Perhaps our minds can be compared to these old maps; and perhaps in the areas that we cannot reach, that we cannot understand, ‘there be dragons’."

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