Synthesized Meaning

UB student images, 2016-17

UB student images, 2016-17


Synthsized Meaning is an exploration of the impact on communication when images are recombined, repositioned and reprocessed, when the lines of “reality” are blurred. Students will collect and assemble found or original images into a Photoshop montage. The original “meaning” of each original image will evolve in relation to the others. It will be seen that meaning itself can never be fixed, but that it changes relative to the point of view of the observer, cultural preconceptions, and the context in which it is perceived.

Montage [Fr.: “mounting”]. Assemblage that results from the overlapping or joining of various materials, images or objects to form a new single picture.

Timothy Druckrey wrote (in the article From Dada to Digital): 

“one of the central considerations in the emergence of electronic montage is the redefinition of narrative. Sequential or arrayed, information is created in forms that suggest that the single image is not sufficient to serve as a record of an event but rather, that events are themselves complex configurations of experience, intention, and interpretation. Images suggest transition and not resolution.”

Montage is the acquisition, deconstruction and reassembly of a group of images into a single, unified compositon. For over 150 years montage has been a powerful tool for artistic expression. Artists such as John Heartfield, Man Ray, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney have used montage to comment on war, love, life and death. Today artists such as Martina Lopez and Calum Colvin have advanced the art of montage into the digital age.



Hyperreality (from Wikipedia)— According to Baudrillard, America has constructed itself a world that is more ‘real’ than real, and where those inhabiting it are obsessed with timelessness, perfection, and objectification of the self. Furthermore, authenticity has been replaced by copy (thus reality is replaced by a substitute), and nothing is “real,” though those engaged in the illusion are incapable of seeing it. Instead of having experiences, people observe spectacles, via real or metaphorical control screens. Instead of the real, we have simulation and simulacra.

Simulacrum [Latin from simulare, to simulate)]:

  1. Originally meaning a material object representing something (such as an idol representing a deity, or a painted still-life of a bowl of fruit).

  2. By the 1800s it developed a sense of a “mere” image, an empty form devoid of spirit, and descended to a specious or fallow representation.

  3. Postmodern definition (from wikipedia):
    Baudrillard claims that our society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that in fact all that we know as real is actually a simulation of reality. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are signs of culture and media that create the reality that we perceive.

A specific analogy that Baudrillard uses is a fable derived from the work of Jorge Luis Borges. In it, a great Empire created a map that was so detailed it was as large as the Empire itself. The actual map grew and decayed as the Empire itself conquered or lost territory. When the Empire crumbled, all that was left was the map. In Baudrillard’s rendition, it is the map that we are living in, the simulation of reality, and it is reality that is crumbling away from disuse.


Create a single montage using Photoshop that relates to the theme of hyperreality and simulacrum.

Photoshop CC is preferred, but Photoshop CS6 is acceptable if you own it (see Bernard about obtaining Photoshop on your personal machine).


  1. Submit a project proposal to the blog (date on schedule/blog)

  2. complete thumbnail sketches

    • 6 quick, thumbnail sketches with annotation (sketch three per page, leaving border room for notes and any arrows into content)

    • Two larger, half-page sketches on your top ideas. These larger two should have more detail (variance in markers), painting a more in-depth image of your proposed project. (They both should be on the same page.)

  3. Review selected concept with instructor (dates on schedule)

  4. Montage

    • 300 ppi Photoshop CMYK image).

    • The structure of the composition can be:

    • Note: Always keep a copy of your work in Photoshop format with layers intact. You may need this later for further editing or repurposing.

    • Dimensions:

      • smallest side must be at least 8.25”.

      • Total Image should not be greater than 10.5″ x 16.5" (unless arrangements are made in advance to us the large format printers).

    • Montage must include at least 8 separate images.

  5. Critique Participation: (dates on schedule)

    • be present

    • put up a print of your work-in-progress in the hallway

      • Tabloid-size

      • in color

      • 11x17” (tabloid) paper that is cropped down (excess trim/white paper cut away) in the hallway.

    • printed statement in the hallway

      • include your name, title in italics (write Untitled if you have no title).

      • 3-4 sentence statement (no more, no less)

      • crop it down (cut away excess paper) to act as a title card

    • Facebook Follow-ups!

      1. post your work-in-progress image (export from photoshop as a jpg to upload) with your current statement.

      2. deliver written feedback to TWO others’ posts. (This will serve as part of your crit participation grade.)

      3. You should only reply to people in your class section whom you had crit with. Your first reply should be to someone who does not have any replies yet.

      4. Do not repeat the same comments. Answer all these points:

    1. What is one positive specific element of their work?

    2. What is one negative specific element of their work?

    3. Based on their image structure, what tools might they try taking advantage to enhance their overall meaning?

    4. Try not to deliver any positive unspecific feedback

    5. Do NOT deliver any negative specific feedback

    6. (proofread aloud to ensure your thoughts translate effectively)

Final Submission

  1. Submit a full sized color print to your instructor to be placed in the hall (accompanying your critique print).

  2. Google Drive uploads:

    • PSD file with layers intact (this file should be with the extension “.psd”)

    • FLAT PDF file. (visit this YouTube tutorial on how to save a flat PDF)

  3. Print a final version of your artist’s statement (that replaces your original statement in the hall)


--> project_01: rubric PDF

This project will be graded on (in order of importance):

• creative and effective approach to your subject matter
• demonstration of technical proficiency with advanced Photoshop procedures
• fulfillment of project requirements
• effective visual and oral presentation of solution
• involvement in group critique
• punctuality


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