Evens Foundation
Living together harmoniously in Europe

“Visual literacy: how to think and act with images?”

“Visual literacy: how to think and act with images?”
Images are crucial in our lives and it is time we start thinking with them more than about them, and use them as means of intellectual, artistic, activist expression, consciously and creatively.

Visual literacy, as a part of media literacy, means understanding the meaning of images and approaching them with a critical mind. It also includes a practical component – the ability to create images and share them with others. Almost 30% of our cortex is devoted to visual processing, and around 90% of all the information that we take in from the world around us we take in visually. What’s more, in an increasingly digital world, we’re communicating more with images and less with words. Images are superseding words as our primary form of communication. It’s estimated that we upload and share 1.8 billion photos every single day. Many of us use visual language, often without realizing it. Being fluent in the language of images gives us an advantage at school, at work, and at home. We need to learn how messages are coded and decoded, how they work to build the vision of homogenous or diverse realities, how the human process of seeing is constructed by different cultural and historical narratives and strategies. We need to understand the practice of creating fake or alternative visual representations and images of reality, how images are used for political purposes, how they are used to build or ruin democracies. And we need to learn from artistic strategies how to become more image-aware and visually literate, and, last but not least, how to be image-literate and image-critical – how to avoid being deceived by images.

Our last two publications on media literacy in Europe “12 good practices that will inspire you” and “Inspiring ways to involve parents”, were met with great enthusiasm and distributed widely both offline and online. Evidently, there is a strong demand for fine writing about media literacy that combines a theoretical approach with hands-on examples of inspiring media education activities, and how they can be implemented. We at the Evens Foundation had no doubt that we needed focus on media literacy for the third time and to explore the fascinating world of visual literacy.

In this magazine, leading researchers, educators, museum professionals, filmmakers and artists show that being fluent in visual language can improve one’s creativity, critical thinking, educational achievement, empathy towards others and the ability to decipher technology. We outline a theoretical framework of what visual literacy is and why it is important, and reflect on the role the image plays in the contemporary world in scientific writings by theoreticians, educators and artists. The critical essays are complemented with examples of projects designed and pursued by various people and organizations in a number of European countries: from impressive academic research projects and experimental educational formats to socially aware cultural and artistic initiatives, from big-institution activities to non- or anti-institutional activities, from the micro- to the macro-scale of visuality and image politics. We hope that they will stimulate discussion, offer effective methods and toolsets, encourage or inspire, and trigger new, exciting initiatives.

The Magazine was prepared in cooperation with View. Foundation for Visual Culture (Poland).

The Evens Foundation warmly thanks all members of this group for their generous commitment to this publication: managing editor Dr Katarzyna Bojarska from View. Foundation for Visual Culture (Poland); Dr Torsten Adreasen from Copenhagen University (Denmark); Dr Magda Szcześniak from Institute of Polish Culture, University of Warsaw (Poland); Hendrik Folkerts, curator of Documenta 14 (Germany); Sven Augustijnen (Belgium); Dr Krzysztof Pijarski from Łódź Film School (Poland) and a committed group of researchers: Dr Hab Iwona Kurz, Dr Agata Pietrasik, and Agnieszka Pajączkowska. We would like to also thank our Advisory Board: Christine Vidal from Le Bal (France), Prof Ernst van Alphen (Netherlands), Prof Marquard Smith (United Kingdom), Prof Andrzej Leśniak (Poland), Prof Hilde Van Gelder (Belgium), and Prof Edit Andras (Hungary).

You can read it on ISSUU