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Art History
ARTH 2220
Susan Douglas

ARTH 1220 STUDY NOTES – EXAM 1 PRACTICES OF LOOKING CHAPTER 3: MODERNITY: SPECTATORSHIP, POWER, AND KNOWLEDGE I. Content Summary Viewers do not always look at an image alone, in a darkened room. The interplay of human senses, the context of the image, the relationship to other viewers, and more contribute to how we practice looking. The term spectatorship provides a more textured understanding of looking, where the practice is enacted in an interactive, multimodal, and relational field. Understanding spectatorship also contains the concept of the gaze, which has been used in specific ways by visual theorists to emphasize the embeddedness of the gaze of the individual viewer in a social and contextual field of looks, objects, and other sensory information. To gaze is to enter into a relational activity of looking. The concept of the gaze plays a central role in theories of spectatorship in modernity. The Subject in Modernity René Descartes helped to usher in modernity with his philosophy that stated that the world becomes known when we accurately represent it in thought, not when we “know” it through the senses and not when we imagine it in our mind’s eye. Representation held an important place in the Cartesian understanding of the human subject. The Cartesian human subject thus is constituted in part through an activity of thinking that involves spectatorship. This understanding of human subjectivity grounds our worldview in modernity, which is a term that scholars use to refer to the historical, cultural, political, and economic conditions related to the Enlightenment and the rise of industrial society and scientific rationalism and the control of nature through technology, science, and rationalism. Modernity is associated with the belief that industrialization, human technological intervention in nature, mass democracy, and the introduction of a market economy are the hallmarks of social progress. One of the hallmarks of human progress is the rise of modern cities such as New York, Chicago, and London. A metaphor that helps us understand the role of the spectator in modernity is that of a flâneur, a kind of urban dandy who strolls through a modern city (like Paris), a space that is newly organized in modernity to encourage a mobile and specular (looking) relationship to urban space and the new consumer goods of mass manufacture displayed there. The challenges of modernity (such as the move to postcolonialism and the problems of industrialization) brought about competing views on human subjectivity. Michel Foucault argued that the human subject is constituted in modernity not through liberal human ideals but through the discourses of institutional life of the period. Foucault saw the subject as an entity produced within and through the discourses and institutional practices of the enlightenment. Foucault’s subject is never autonomous but is always constituted in relationships of power that are enacted through discourse. Discourse is a term that refers to the bodies of knowledge that make up social spheres such as law, economics, and sexuality. Views like Foucault’s contribute to the destabilization of the concept of the human subject as a self-determining, free, autonomous and unitary being. For Foucault, subjects are always made, or constituted, through discourse. Another understanding of the subject comes from Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst. Lacan theorized that the infant’s relationship as a unitary ego to the world, understood as outside and other, is produced through a process in which the ego is split from its very inception. Apprehension of oneself apart from others is always achieved in a rupture that divides the self. This theory contributes significantly to psychoanalytic film studies. The Gaze The concepts of gaze and spectatorship remain important cornerstones of visual studies because they provide a set of terms and methods through which to consider some aspects of looking practices that the concept of the viewer does not really allow us to consider in depth. These are (a) the roles of the unconscious and desire in viewing practices; (b) the role of looking in the formation of the human subject as such; and (c) the ways that looking is always a relational activity and not simply a mental activity engaged in by someone who forms internal mental representations that stand for a passive image object “out there.” Theories of the gaze and spectatorship are theories of address, rather than theories of reception, in which methods are used to understand how actual viewers respond to a cultural text. The gaze is not an individual’s act of looking; rather, it situates the viewer in a field of meaning production (organized around looking practices) that involves recognition of oneself as a member of that world of meaning. Discourse and Power Foucault’s understanding of discourse, by which he meant a group of statements that provides a means for talking about (and a way of representing knowledge about) a particular topic at a particular historical moment, grounds a modern understanding of a bureaucratic institution. Foucault’s expansion on Jeremy Bentham’s concept of the panopticon is about how we participate in practices of self-regulation in response to systems of surveillance, whether they are in place or simply part of a larger inspecting social gaze. Foucault also wrote influentially about how modern societies are structured on a basic relationship of power/knowledge: He saw modern power not as a conspiracy or as authoritarian but rather as capable of normalizing bodies in order to maintain relations of dominance and subordination. The Gaze and the Other The gaze, whether institutional or individual, helps to establish relationships of power. The object of the gaze is less powerful than the gazer (which can be an institution or an individual). Photography is a manifestation of the gaze, where the object being photographed is made into the “other” at the hands of the photographer. Advertising relies on the gaze to perpetuate binary oppositions of power, such as Orientalism/Occidentalism, which portrays the “Orient” as a mysterious, exotic Other. The Gaze in Psychoanalysis Lacan’s concept of the gaze differs from Foucault’s in that Lacan’s gaze does not make the subject knowable to itself or to others. Rather, the gaze is part and parcel of a desire for completion of oneself through the other (the image in the mirror, the other person through whom the subject misrecognizes himself or herself). Lacan emphasized that the gaze is a property of the object and not the subject who looks; it’s a process in which the object functions to make the subject look, making the subject appear to himself or herself as lacking. Gender and the Gaze Women are also objectified by the gaze (in art and in advertising). John Berger wrote that in this history of images, “men act, women appear.” Women are the objects of the male gaze, and their returning looks are more often downcast, indirect, or otherwise coded as passive. Laura Mulvey takes this argument further, claiming that Hollywood cinema offers women as objects of the male gaze, geared toward male viewing pleasure, which she read within certain psychoanalytic paradigms including scopophilia and voyeurism. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is an example of the male/female power relationship in the gaze. Changing Concepts of the Gaze Scholarship on spectatorship and the gaze in the 1980s and 1990s began to radically modify many of the early concepts of power and the gaze in ways that are similar to these kinds of representations. Film scholars have rethought questions of spectatorship in relationship to history and mass culture, to reception studies and studies of the audience, to issues of race and spectatorship that question the emphasis on the gender binary of the original model and the resistance of black viewers, to new formulations about how different kinds of viewers can occupy the male gaze, and to the concepts of transgressive female looking and lesbian spectatorship. These changing views of scholarship, and the idea of what kinds of images were important objects of intellectual inquiry, have been paralleled by trends in image-making across the fields of art, media, and advertising that reflect new concepts of gender and aesthetic conventions. Images are central to the experience of modernity and provide a complex field in which power relations are exercised and looks are exchanged. II. Key Figures and Terms Theorist/Scholars Key Terms Artist/Creator/Producers Vladimir Tatlin Jacques Lacan Spectatorship Charles Baudelaire Michel Foucault Gaze Charlie Chaplin René Descartes Modernity Diego Velázquez Jürgen Habermas Flâneur Jean Léon Gérôme Karl Marx Discourse Jean-August-Dominique Bruno Latour Panopticon Ingres Guerrilla Girls Sigmund Freud Colonialism Lorenzo Lotto Michel Foucault Postcolonialism Titian Christian Metz Orientalism/Occidentalism Alfred Hitchcock Ferdinand de Saussure Scopophilia Sylvia Sleigh Jeremy Bentham Voyeurism Robert Mapplethorpe Jacques Derrida Identification Ana Mendieta Edward Said Psychoanalysis Coco Fusco and Brian Wallis Malek Alloula Catherine Opie Deborah Cherry Jean-Louis Baudry Jane Gallop Griselda Pollock John Berger Laura Mulvey Tania Modleski Mary Ann Doane Linda Williams Patricia White Robert Goldman Lynn Spigel ARTIST/CREATOR/PRODUCER Vladimir Tatlin: Sculpture and painter “Monument to the Third International” is an example of a famous modern structure. It was intended to be 1,312 foot-high and to be consisting a metal spiral frame tilted at an angle, enclosing three glass structures (in the shape of a cylinder, a cone and a cube) housing conference spaces. - He wanted to capture the vitality and dynamism of the latest engineering and architectural forms and technologies that the Soviet Union was eager to embrace in this time of transition - Saw the potential for representing structure and technology as the embodiment of the new Soviet process of restructuring society according to the theories of Marx and Lenin - Tower was meant to embody the meanings of the word “revolution” - It is emblematic of modernism due to its embrace of technology as an expression of the Soviet ethos and in its focus on form as an expression of cultural meaning Charles Baudelaire: Poet - Thematized the urban experience of being lost in a crowd of strangers - “The Painter of Modern Life” - E.g. the Flaneur - Social malaise of the alienated individual who felt lost in the crowds and dehumanized by the industrialized life of the modern city characterized the era not only for the capitalist but also for the social worker Charlie Chaplin: Actor - “Modern Times” 1936 - Critique of the impact of modernity and industrialization on the body of the everyday man - Attempts to retain his integrity as a human subject while working on a brutally fast assembly line as his body is entrapped by machines in a hilarious series of physical comedy gags Diego Velazquez: Painter - “Las Meninas” 1656 - Composed in a manner that positions the spectator ambiguously - Depiction of a room within the king’s palace in which several figures interact (kings daughter, her maid, a chaperone, other children and figures, a dog) - The gaze is being something enacted through a spatialized field - Mirror in which the upper bodies of the king and queen are reflected, their faces looking out, like that of Velazquez at us - Position of mirror suggests that they in fact stand somewhere in front of this scene - Placement of king and queen and the organization of their viewpoint in relation to that of the spectator has been of great interest to writers, including Foucault Jean-Leon Gerome: Painter - “The Bath” c.1880-1885 - Orientalist works in the style of neoclassicism - The women on display for the viewer - Distinct racial difference between the demure white woman turned away from the camera and the black woman servant who bathes her and is on full display for the viewer - Black servant is fully available to the viewer (codes of the image) - White woman, clearly a consumer of the exoticized locale of the bath, is shielded from our gaze - Example of orientalism Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: French artist - “La Grande Odalisque” 1814 - Orientalist image - Reproduction of sorts - Drew on iconography of the harem during the Ottoman Empire - Orientalist gaze on the nude female body is what defines the image - Ingres is one of the last advocates of neoclassicism - Paintings regarded for their revival of classical beauty ideals, captured in the rendering of the human form in pure, classic lines and smooth textures - He was widely criticized for what was regarded at the time as his gothic distortions of the human form - Appropriation of the odalisque figure as a sexual icon bears significance in relationship to the context of European imperial expansion and colonial conquest - Important icon of classical female beauty Guerrilla Girls: Feminist activist art group - “Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met, Museum?” 2005 - Point about how few women artists had their work in the collection of the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York - Ingres odalisque is invoked to question the equally timeless fact that women, as compared with men, have been disproportionately represented in museums of art not as artists but as subjects of works of art, often in states of undress (doesn’t evoke associations with its “timeless” beauty) - In covering the face of the model, or odalisque, with the gorilla mask, the group are quite pointedly refusing to look back at the spectator Lorenzo Lotto: Painter - “Venus and Cupid” 1500s - Example of how paintings were for the most part geared toward male viewers - Most collectors were men until recently - Woman is typically posed so that her body is on display for the viewer’s easy appreciation - Long tradition in art of understanding the female nude as the project and possession of the male artist - Women are posed as objects of an active or “male” gaze and their returning looks are often downcast, indirect or otherwise coded as passive Titian: Painter - “Venus with a Mirror” c.1555 - Women gazing at themselves in mirrors, with bodies turned toward the presumed spectator of the painting - Mirrors offered another view to the image, to create multiple plans within a painting that could be seen by the stationary spectator - Also to code for femininity - On display for presumed male spectator, the convention of the mirror establishes her gaze as narcissistic Alfred Hitchcock: Film - “Rear Window” 1954 - Explicit about gendered looking - Depicts the male gaze as a practice in which men look at female bodies containing them (through the device of binoculars, for example) and rendering them objects of visual pleasure - Male gaze is not as controlling and powerful of this interpretation suggests - “Rear Window” can also be defined by an ambivalence about femininity, in which women who know too much threaten patriarchal structures Sylvia Sleigh: American Painter - “Philip Golub Reclining” 1971 - Turned the tables on Ingres and the gendered mirror trope by portraying her male model in the classical odalisque nude pose - Figure is male because of the title of painting - He lounges with his back to the spectator-painter in the vulnerable pose made by Ingres’ Odalisque, with curved spine and exposed butt - Absence of body parts makes it ambiguous that it is a man - Amplified by the face that gazes narcissistically at its own image in a mirror - Sleigh appears in the painting as a reflection (she is the spectator) Robert Mapplethorpe: American photographer - Pushed the boundaries of representation in relation to race, sexuality and gender - Works conveyed physical beauty in a manner that emphasizes the fine line between standards of masculine and feminine anatomy and physiognomy, between erotica and art, and between beauty and its exaggeration and distortion - “Arnold Schwarzenegger” 1976 - Array of meanings about male sexuality, particularly in retrospect Ana Mendieta: American artist (performance and earthworks) - Countered dominant traditions of representing the female body as a site of display and of women as narcissistically engaged with their own display for male consumption - “Silueta Works in Mexico” 1973 - Trace of her body, marked like a crime-scene outline, is impressed with sand, then sprinkled and lined with blood-red pigment and photographed - Reminds the looker of the historical absence of the hand of the woman artist - Refuses the spectators gaze on her body by erasing her literal form while leaving its trace Coco Fusco and Brian Wallis: - Questioned the constitution of the subject in terms of race and cultural identity in visual culture - Exhibition “Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self” - First comprehensive works to take on an overarching compilation and analysis of photography, video, and film traditions across the sciences and the arts through which racial identities were imaged, constructed and challenged - Examine works from across news media, science images, art photography, and independent video to raise questions about the place of race and cultural identity in changing patterns and practices of spectatorship and representation Catherine Opie: Photographer - Photographic portraits examine lesbian subjectivity in everyday life - “Self Portrait/Cutting” 1993 - Opie turns away from camera - Back is a tableau on display for the spectator, but is also a surface onto which the codes of heteronormativity have been painfully etched, with the childlike imagery of two stick figures in skirts holding hands before an image of a house with a peaceful sky above - Iconography is about the idyllic childhood dream of normative family life, but the violence in which it has been etched demand that we reread the image as a reworking of the codes of normativity to allow lesbian partnership to be an element of the dream of family THEORISTS/SCHOLARS Jacques Lacan: - Argued that liberal human sub
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