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What do you see?

Representation and Interpretation

(Slabbink 2015)

I stumbled upon this image by an artist named Sammy Slabbinck. In this image is a faceless woman in a black and white filter. Her face is covered by a warning sign that we usually see on our computers that alerts us of an error. This warning sign stands out most compared to the rest of the elements in the image because it is contrasted with bold colours.

From what we can see in the image, we can start to unpack the meaning or message that the artist is trying to communicate.

At first glance, we see the error sign on the figure, and we understand that something is wrong and can create a sense of either danger or worry. Then, by stripping the face off the figure removes their expressions. Putting these factors together we can begin to understand that there might be a problem with identity. Not only is she unknown to the audience, but with the use of the mirror that she stares into we can recognise that she might not know herself.

This analysis explains a deep and psychological story, but there could be more to see. There could even be a completely different story to be told.

Through deeper reflection I was able to think of more ways that this message can be read;

·      With the symbol being placed on her head this could refer to mental illness. Depression and suicidal thoughts are at mind when you read the title ‘Fatal Error’.

·      This could be a reference to the prolific infiltration of technology in everybody’s lives. It’s all we see.

·     With the theme of identity being played in the image, this may also symbolise how people can portray different personas through technology. For example, it could refer to a fake identity represented in social media.

·      This could also be a reference to body issues or pressures from society to look a certain way. This figure may not be seen as the ‘social norm’ and therefore is branded as an ‘error’. With the use of the retro image, this could be referring to the social pressures that were distinct in the ’60s, where females were still expected to be clean cut and perfect.

Overall, although all of these definitions of the image may be incorrect, it is what I recognise due to signs that I have seen before. I have seen the symbol upon the face before on computers, and I feel a sense of urgency or worry because this usually symbolises an urgent alert of failure in a computer system. The distinct colours of red and blue are usually used in emergency cases to grab a person’s attention, which is definitely achieved in this image. The other messages I collected were in my knowledge from past works of art that I have studied, that resemble forms of identity crisis. It is with this that we can recognise that a piece of art or design can communicate something specific, but us individuals who all have different experiences could perceive or be reminded of something different.


Slabbinck, S 2015, Fatal Error, image, flickr, 23 March 2019, <;.


Published by Kirstywordpress

University student - Graphic design

3 thoughts on “What do you see?

  1. Overall, I loved your analysis and it encouraged me to think about this image a little further as well. I looked more at your 2nd and 3rd points. Could this image be depicting social media today? This woman is the physical representation individuals and the error code is a warning sign, saying ‘looks can be deceiving’. I think what is pictured here can definitely be taken as a mirror image reflection of a person trying to portray a version of themselves that simply isn’t who they are. However, art is very much up for interpretation so I could be wrong. Love the choice of image and I think you did a fantastic job with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the image you found is really cool! I looked further into Slabbinck’s work and found another image which could relate to your 2nd point about technology being ‘all we see’. (check it out here My interpretation of the image I found is that it’s a visual metaphor highlighting the argument that as a society we sleep, eat and breathe technology and social media, from such a young age it’s ‘fed’ to us. What do you think?
    I really found it interesting reading all the different interpretations you found within this one image, you could link this to Pierce’s theory of semiotics, denotation and connotation, and how our own ideology affects how we interpret an image like this one. Check out this website for more on that
    I look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

    Liked by 1 person

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