Post 629 –by Gautam Shah
Context consists of parts that are often remote in time and space, yet emerge to form a whole. Context emerges as a connection, reference, realization, placement, ground, environment, framework, setting, or situation for manifestation of a concept, object or event. The context is seen through some commonality, styling, location identity or pace of occurrence.
Context manifests as an explicit and implicit placement. In literature it is placed in preceding or following word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, through a reference or hyper link. In spoken delivery, like a speech or recitation, it is immediacy of timing is used to make the context evident. Literary context is enforced through repetition of a word, line, stanza, or use of proverbs, anecdotes, rhyme, synonyms and antonyms. Emphasis by loudness of speech, measured delivery, rhyming, etc. provide a clue to the listener to recollect, or look-out for the contextual setting.
For performing arts the context becomes an extension for the time and space. Here the context is implicit in temporal (beats) and explicit in spatial (static and dynamic posturing) definitions. These are enriched by delays, distancing, proximity, framing and merging. The settings, lighting, costumes, sound effects, story or narrations provide explicit context.
For Graphical presentations, the simultaneity of explicit-implicit contextual reference becomes extraordinarily potent. The contextual information, in Art and Craft works are often unintentional or too casual. The observer places the work into not only a new realm, but through different process of sensorial perception. The complexity of the context is through allegorical representations, where the real meaning is deeply buried under several layers of conversion. In this sense, the context is neither personal nor public, but rather mystical. The titles of works are irrelevant, yet are very potent.
The styles of work or the manner of expression provide a historical connection to the attitudes, choices and conditions of an era. The style of work is contextual as a wider affirmation to colour pallette, theme, manners of representation, inclusion or exclusion of contents, composition, etc. Style of work is a realization and its conscious application. The connection between the original work (prime) and application is strong enough to cause confusion as to which one is reference, and what is the context.
Within the works of Art like murals, the story line is repeated in several microcosm images or continued over or several frames. Here the context is provided by elements like the relevance of the theme, background, characters, colours, embellishments, time sequencing of the narration, etc. The decipherable contextual references help devotees to re-live the events and sometimes reinterpret it differently.
Murals and extensive works of art are conceived for the architectural setting, so are inconsideration of natural light and artificial illumination, angle of view, distance of viewing, intervening architectonic elements, and thematic arrangements. The theme and parts have relationships of mutual referencing, and so make sense as a holistic composition. Architectural murals on ceilings, walls and floors have context of scale for the characters, visual perspective of the scene and the white (unoccupied) spaces.
Architecture is perceived as surfaces, spaces and as composition of architectonic elements. All three individually and collectively are contextual for the functions, style, form, site, cultural, social, political and financial setting. When one or few of these context conditions reestablish their relevance, a revival occurs. The renaissance (literally meaning ‘Rebirth’ in French) was a period of nostalgia for classical antiquity. Renaissance was the context to describe and adopt something from the history. It was largely an explicit context, compared to more subtle and implicit context of the Gothic period. Renaissance saw development of realistic linear perspective by Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) as a context of a window into space.
Ground and gravity are the most important context for a built form. The context of gravity is implicit in the horizontal and explicit in the vertical. The deconstructionist building must conform to the gravity as much as pyramids will do. A catenary structure bows to the gravity. Buildings have the context of the site. The site connects the building to not just the physical elements like the neighbourhood and the services, but also non physical matters like micro climate, local cultural and political conditions and nature of administration.
The changes in site conditions make a building irrelevant, but a well-designed building can rejuvenate a dying or stagnant neighbourhood. Old buildings have very fragmented or diffused context, and such sites look more out of context with ‘manicured lawns’.
Architecture operates in simultaneity of context where a positive assertion of affirmation, justification, comparison, is juxtaposed with a negative reference by contrast, differentiation, distinction. These occur as contexts of foreground-background, framed-unframed depiction, large-small, light-heavy, visible-diffused image, interior-exterior, dark-light etc.
Contemporary architectural creations defy the context of ‘unexplainable’ traditions. These are replaced by being ethically responsible to the surroundings, or designing a form-functionless impressionistic entity.
This is the 12 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN