The Visual Word: CTS Class Five


In the fifth class of CTS, a guest lecturer came to speak to us about Portaterms, portable terminologies which may be complex, but will help you understand and appreciate the subject you are studying. Throughout this four-hour workshop, we completed a variety of tasks and engages in interesting discussions about different words and their meanings, both politically and from an artist’s point of view.


Exercise One: Terminologies

In the first exercise we did, we were given cards as groups and told to order the word to the definition. We then went into more depth on some of the words which were more complex or which were new to us.

For me personally, it was very interesting to see how much we could deduce from just the word or just the definition, and it was also very interesting to see how much my previous education had taught me, whether consciously or not. I enjoyed having some of the terms redefined as well, either not having known them before or having a very loose definition of them.


Exercise Two: Visual Language

Next, we were given one word per group which related to a specific chapter of the book we have been reading, Nicholas Mirzoeff’s How to See the World. Our task was to visualize the word and its meaning in 50 minutes, and then to present to the class.

My group’s word was Anthropocene, or the New Human Era, which is a unit of geological time in which the world changed from controlling humans to having humans be the controlling force; essentially, the era after the industrial revolution when people began to change the environment more than it changed them.

Our project consisted of a human figure collaged through with different parts of magazines, ranging from the feet and legs, which were made of trees and foliage, to the middle, made of ice, and finally to the top, which was consumer-focused and urban-looking, ending with what we felt to be the mindset of many in the modern age: fuck you.

We felt that this gradient would convey the idea of the Anthropocene by showing us our roots in nature, and how the continual globalization and urbanization of the world has led to destruction, chaos, and that overarching ‘I couldn’t care less’ attitude towards the environment, one facet and common side affect of humans completely altering the way our plant works. As Mirzoeff says in his book, it is a lot about humans conquering nature, and us now having to deal with its consequences, even though we might not like to admit that we are the ones to have caused them.

The beginning stages of the person and collaging.


The final piece

Detail shots of the final


Another group, representing the word ‘gender’. Interesting to note was that they found it difficult to find male body parts in magazines, because there is an overwhelming majority of female body parts shown.

Another group, representing ‘globalization’. Andrew is a boat and follows/ rides on Dene as the two make their way to the different continents to collect money.


Another group, representing ‘hactivism’. The group also created a video which recreated the tactics of hactivist group Anonymous and created the above poster.

Another group, representing ‘Fordism’. Fordism deals a lot with the standardized machine component and the practice of the assembly line. This group took a very standard graphic image of a chair and duplicated it so many times that it became a pattern and lost it’s meaning, like the assembly line structure in a Ford factory, which churns our millions of cars, but which also all look the same because of that structure. This also led to an interesting conversation about the freedom from the factory and the rigid structure of the assembly line.


Another group, representing ‘surveillance’. This group took their idea into the sculptural realm and created a 3D eye with a camera eye, indicative of the complexity of modern surveillance. Personally, this also draws a parallel between the obsession of watching and surveillance, drawing a connection between the natural anatomy and the modern digital anatomy. This led to an interesting question about surveillance, what it means in modern society, privacy, and what should and should not be allowed.

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