We watched the first four minutes of Pixar Animation Studio’s non verbal 3D animation Up on the first day of our “Carnival of Learning” last December.
Since there was no spoken dialogue, we had to interpret the story by reading the body language and listening to the background music, drawing on our individual values, personal experiences, and cultural backgrounds.
This animation led me to think about non-verbal storytelling through numbers/accounting and visual art.
I work part-time in bookkeeping and practice visual art (mainly in printmaking) in my spare time. My two practices may seem to be very different but somehow they both serve the purpose of telling stories.
As the saying goes, “a picture tells a thousand words”, even though a picture may not have the narrative structure of a verbal story.
A successful picture can convey a complex idea with a single image.
Throughout history, visual artists have been telling stories through their art in many different ways, from Japanese Ukiyo-e wood-block prints depicting scenes of geisha dances to grand abstract paintings by the great American artist Mark Rothko using only colour and light to invoke strong human emotional responses without any specific pictorial representation.
As for my own art practice, it sometimes feels as if I hide behind my pictures like a shadow puppeteer. And at other times, it feels like I use my art as a mirror reflecting my state of mind and personal experiences.
Storytelling occurs even when we don’t think of it as telling story. Similar to conventional narrative structures used in story-telling, there is always an opening and a closing balance in accounting. Using numbers, we record events in accounting and create a collective memory.
Accounting reports are used to convey information and share knowledge with their audience. Data and information can be its own language, telling the story of what happened to an organization in the past and perhaps foreshadowing what’s to come.
Whether verbal or non verbal story telling, I think that we are motivated to tell stories not just because we can share information with others but also as a way of understanding ourselves in our context or environment through the act of telling stories. In this case, I have shared my reflections through this blog. Thank you for reading my story!
P.S. For those of you who are fans of TV cartoon “The Simpsons”, check out Australian Broadcasting Corporations Radio National’s story about many mathematicians writing for “The Simpsons”. Nerdy and great fun!