The two hermeneutics. What are they?
Let’s look at the term hermeneutics first. It refers to the interpretation of texts. Traditionally, biblical texts, literature and philosophy. It is a technical discipline that instructs you how to interpret older texts. This is what we call hermeneutics as methodology.
But there is also hermeneutics in a more fundamental way. It suggests that hermeneutics is a not only a method for the scholarly interpretation of texts. It is also, and even more important, the way human beings approach their world quite generally. Every meeting with the world is a hermeneutical meeting. That is what we call hermeneutics as ontology.
Does hermeneutics only work with texts or does it also cover visual messages?
Indeed it works with visual messages. How else would you understand Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (1495-1498); Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (1485); Jackson Pollock’s One (1950); Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Aguila degli Abruzzi (1952). Or all the other visuals that meets you on a daily or a non-daily basis.
For that matter the two photographs flanking this text: Reflections and Street Art. Hermeneutics are at work every time you open your eyes to the world. That includes looking at photographs of it.
Visual objects have not flown in from afar, nor are they god given. You, as the spectator, are always there to give the artist a helping hand in unfolding his message. Interpretation is always the first phase of such a meeting. The first phase of any meeting.
The two hermeneutics don’t exclude each other. They work in complement.
The ontological approach is there since it belongs to the basics of being. On top of that you have the methodological approach, which brings with it technical ways of understanding: Looking for how gestalt factors operate, how connotations are established and unfold, what impressions are embedded in each different colour.
Und so weiter.
© Knut Skjærven.
The reference to the two photographs in the texts above is the to its placement in its original version. Click this link: On The Go: Workbook for New Street Agenda. Or click the picture above.