My understanding of what visual rhetoric is and is not is limited (at this point, this focus, this frame) to a series of statements that are as much definition as anti-definition. With every is is an is not to better focus what seems blurred by my words.
Visual rhetoric is…
Reading and meaning construction (as a medium of conveying a message) as a text (unto) itself. Exists in complexly situated webs (networks, ecologies) of social, historical, political, economic, religious, educational, technological connections that shift. Seeing, but goes beyond looking at the what is there, to the why it is there and how it came to be there. Variance in intent, from playful, to abstract, to informative, to subversive. Beyond the borders of the visual’s focus in frame to take in (trace, follow, account for) what lies outside of the field of vision – in the background, perimeter, what is just out of sight, and what is covered/obscured. As much objects as people (all actors) in its composition. As much message/meaning in absence or void as material-full. Composition that is linked to its materiality/medium (including technologies). Time/place/space dependent. Communication. Kairos (opportunity) but also metanoia (missed opportunity). Emotional. Knowledge and experience. Personal and social. Through the eyes,
but not limited to the sense of sight. Limited to images, and images are not limited to photographs or paintings or things confined to rectangular fields. An absolute or essential Truth, nor is it limited to a singularity or permanence (static location). Limited to accompaniment with or supplement to alphanumeric text. Limited to triangular fields of interpretation: ethos, pathos, logos, or exigence, audience, and constraints, or rhetor, message, and audience. Superficial or shallow because it lacks “depth” in length or the number of elements that compose it. Formulaic or a set number of elements that compose it (color, size, balance, repetition, contrast, arrangement, alignment, shape, etc.) in order for it to be rhetorical. In the eye of the beholder, nor is it a singular line of sight. Necessarily “aesthetically pleasing” or “beautiful”. Composition that requires much financial materials (technological media/medium). Of the arts and humanities. Only in museums, textbooks, or advertisements. Emotional, but not visceral. An essential delineation between fact and fiction or fantasy and reality. Time/place/space dependent.
Visual rhetoric is not…
Perhaps to blur is to also focus, as one element is highlighted, another is obscured. Each attempt at creating meaning also creates an abstraction. We see not the thing but its connections
(connotations | denotations).