Information Withheld

1983, 28:27 min, color, sound

The second part of The Thinking Eye series, Information Withheld is a complex investigation of signs and symbols in Western culture. Applying linguistic, semiotic and iconographic analysis as systems of interpretation, Downey decodes signs from everyday traffic signals to Michelangelo's paintings, drawing on Leo Steinberg's statement that the sign — "simple, unambiguous and universally understood" — contrasts with art's essential premise of "information withheld." Using electronic imaging techniques to create metaphorical meaning, he draws parallels between ancient icons and hieroglyphs and contemporary signs and symbols. Downey interweaves subjective associations with intellectual analysis: A trip to the barbershop recalls a personal childhood trauma, which in turn alludes to the semiotic origin (blood and bandages) of the red-and-white barber pole. In another, typically ironic chain of cultural associations, he juxtaposes images of Egyptian nomads with a fashion show inspired by "nomadic" motifs.

With: David Bryce, Pavel Libovicky, Charlie Morrow, Jimmy Turner. Camera: Kirk Von Heflin. Audio: Bob Schott. Video Engineer: Rick Feist.


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