I was interested in how context can dramatically alter the interpretation and meaning of an image. Although this analysis does not directly relate to the meaning of a photograph, I felt that it illustrated very well how meaning depends on where art is displayed – the external context. Just as the meaning of Doisneau’s Paris Café image (Please see my post Part 5 research point – context) could be interpreted as a comment on alcohol or prostitution, or simply on café culture, according to where it was viewed, so the artist’s intention in the exhibition of his Charging Bull statue was compromised by the ‘addition’ of Fearless Girl. The changed environment in which the statue was presented altered its meaning.
Charging Bull was intended as a symbol of the strength of America following the stock market crash in 1987. It depicted resilience and determination. The artist, Arturo Di Modica felt that Fearless Girl, a symbol of Women’s equality in the workplace, undermined his artistic intention because it encouraged a new interpretation of the Bull as signifying dominance and fear, something to be ‘stood up to’ and challenged by women.
Di Modica felt that the addition of Fearless Girl to the site ‘fundamentally corrupted (his) artistic integrity’ (Ruth 2017)
Image 1 (Ruth 2017)
My difficulty with this issue is in seeing the Bull (without the girl) as symbolising simply American resilience. To me, this is a symbol of dominance and perhaps aggression and it suggests an uncontrollable power or unstoppable force rather than resilience and determination. Consequently, the meaning of the Bull, for me is little changed by the addition of Fearless Girl. Fearless Girl perhaps emphasises the bull as dangerous, but she does not re-define it as dangerous. What she does is focus attention on the danger as ‘male’ and consequently on the strength of women. I think that the Girl symbolises resilience and determination far more than the Bull does.
However, in terms of context, I agree that something has changed for the Bull with the addition of this second sculpture and it is interesting to see just how the setting can significantly alter the way in which a piece of art or a photograph can be interpreted.
Ruth, A. (2017). ‘Charging Bull’ Artist Says ‘Fearless Girl’ Should Be Removed and He’s Right. [online] RedState. Available at: http://www.redstate.com/prevaila/2017/04/12/charging-bull-artist-says-fearless-girl-removed-he%e2%80%99s-right/[Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].