Sj7g09's Blog

Archive for April 2010

Posted on: April 30, 2010

I hate getting technical with my work, so I won’t. There’s not much technicality to it anyway… I printed it from the library printer, on A4 paper, and hoped for the best. Turns out that the printer is of bad quality in exactly the right way for my work – the black-green colour of the writing on my skin mixed with the skintone, giving even more of a dead grey tint to my skin than in the original photos.

The first thing I really did after printing them was try to piece them together, being very much reminded of the line from The Lovely Bones, where the protagonist says that she’d had to fit her limbs back together. I love the lingering sort of disgust in such a simple phrase where the imagination fills in the blanks, and doing this was slightly in that same vein. The experience was slightly uncanny, but not overly – I had wanted the piece to be life-sized, but couldn’t quite get the scaling sorted out in the time constraint. I think overall I prefer it like this anyway, as it’s not really a full body portrait, but a fragmentation. The first thing I found when setting it up was that because of levels and the relative blankness of the genitals to the rest of the body, that was where the eye was drawn, and so started the considerations over to censor or not. Very much aware of the hypocrisy, thank you. I’ll get back to it later.

I’ve included both sets of images, showing the piece set up at my home, and in the exhibition space, because I liked the contrast, and how the space it was placed in altered the feeling of the piece.

I guess I should briefly try to explain what the piece is, why I did it, etc. While I find this bit the most interesting, I could talk about it forever, finding different interpretations and meanings for it. I’m not sure what to say it is about, overall – it depends totally on what the viewer decides to emphasise.

It’s intended as a representation of degradation through the denial of opinion, as my experience of university has been overwhelmingly that I can’t have my views, because they are dictated by patriarchy, so I need to read feminism and that’ll solve it. What I do doesn’t fall neatly under the ’empowering’ umbrella, so it must be degrading – and why would someone willingly degrade themself? Of course they aren’t capable of making their own choices, and need to be educated out of their wrong views. It is an expression against ‘feminism’ – it’s hard to find the right label for the sort of feminism this is, but seeing as the only sort of feminism I could ever subscribe to has to be prefixed with ‘pro sex’, ‘pro porn’, or ‘anti censorship’, then I guess that the general feminism term is used to describe the opposite view. I think on a personal level, it expresses a lot of anger that I still harbour towards the university staff, which is slowly being filtered out through snide comments written on my thighs… An odd way of dealing with it, I know, but I’ve never been great at conflict resolution.

As seen in the pictures, I made the last-minute decision to cover some more… disreputable.. areas in masking tape. When I say ‘last-minute’, I want it to be clear that I gave it a lot of thought. In hindsight though, I think that it was a means of protecting myself from vulnerability. I tried to justify it, and I think that it was justifiable through the meanings that I sought for it, but I’m not sure that I’d choose that option again in the future. I decided to censor because I felt trapped – it wasn’t fearing ramifications from the work, but more that I wanted to get across the sort of feelings I’ve had with previous projects. Once I was even told to change things after the hand-in time, which obviously isn’t possible. Often it comes down to making slap-dash changes and alterations, some times totally cutting pieces of work from the working process, just because it’s safer and the university doesn’t want to get in trouble. Or as they put it, they don’t want me to get in trouble. I obviously knew that this wasn’t an issue here – it’s just a body. It has no violence or sexual violence or paedophilia, so it’s not going to be a problem, despite how often my lecturers have linked shaved porn models with paedophilic desire. The censorship was partly a reaction to that, really, because it showed how wholly unacceptable it is, while also drawing attention to it, which is how censorship generally works. Throughout discussions with university staff, the shaved issue has been brought up a ridiculous amount – is it really that important? Of course there was the fiasco in my first semester with that very particular picture that caused eversomuch hassle because the university branded the model as ‘very young’ because she was shaved, so it was partly in reference to that also. Just generally it seems as though the body is taken as such a political object, that the body must look a certain way to reflect that your motives are empowerment, and that you haven’t been brainwashed by patriarchy. My body doesn’t reflect that at all, and so I wanted to show how unacceptable it is deemed to be, as obviously I have no control over my own attitudes or actions, and must be protected from things like issues of public hair or lack thereof, which, to the average person, might seem mundane, but of course it’s symbolic and therefore an act of degradation and infantilisation towards both myself and my gender, whom I represent.

I’m absolutely exhausted from my exhibition critique – it’s definitely that, not that I stayed up until 4 in the morning.

I haven’t updated my blog with any of my work really in a while. I started typing out a post explaining some of what I intended to do a few nights ago, but somehow it disappeared, and now it seems like a less good idea. A lot like most of this blog, really. Whenever I re-read anything, it’s generally with an air of disdain.

So, to try to explain a bit of what’s gone on (so I can hate it later), I had a week to create and install an exhibition piece. I’m not sure if other more well-organised people had more time, but I’m very good at ignoring things that aren’t spellt out for me. Despite having it on my timetable for the whole year, as far as I was concerned, there was no exhibition until I was told about it the Monday before. So I had to decide on a piece to use – I was very thankful that we were only required to put in one piece, as anything else would have been slightly excessive.

I started off with the idea of using text, and taping it to the floor to have people hopefully stand on it, but then I decided to go a bit more visual, which I haven’t regretted. Instead of a dull text-on-paper approach, I wrote out all the text in felt-tip all over my body, and took photographs. Well, my beautiful assistant took photographs anyway. I feel that he should have more credit for it than I, or anyone else, has given him, because obviously I didn’t take the photographs, I’m the model. I’d already decided the technique I wanted to use in the photographs, to create a full picture of myself, but using lots of different smaller photographs. Not in the pixelly way that it sounds, more the David Hockney way of photographing something all over, then fitting the pieces back together.

These are some of the images used to create the composite piece – none are at all edited, and were taken in colour, despite how some of them look.

Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” focuses on issues of scopophilia, voyeurism and the gaze, particularly in regard to gender, referencing Freud in defining scopohilia as “taking other people as objects, subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze” (Erens, 1990, p.30), which she suggests is one of the pleasures associated with cinema, and that cinema is created in such a way that allows or encourages this sort of voyeuristic pleasure. For example, in viewing a film in a dark auditorium the viewers are separated from each other, which arguably gives a sense of  anonymity, perhaps as a way of enhancing one’s empathy with the characters onscreen by allowing oneself to temporarily forget one’s own identity. This links to Jacque’s Lacan’s ideas on the ego and misrecognition of the self, used by Mulvey to describe how an individual may identify with a character in cinema, as “he imagines his mirror image to be more complete, more perfect than he experiences his own body” (Erens, 1990, p.31), meaning that, to some extent, the image onscreen acts as a vessel for vicarious experience and wish fulfilment.

Mulvey’s theories centre around gender inequality, with men as active bearer of the look, and women as passive receiver of the look, as “traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen.” (Erens, 1990, p.33)  One way of resolving this tension is to align the gaze of the spectators within the film, and the spectators of the film, with Mulvey giving the example of films that use female characters in a ‘showgirl’ role, where they can perform to the audience within the auditorium and the film simultaneously. When there is not this sort of obvious alignment, it is usually created through encouraging the audience to identify with the male protagonist, in order to be able to experience events from his perspective – for example, if the female character is no longer on display to the audience within the film, often through her monogamy to the male protagonist, she is still on display to the audience in the auditorium through their identification with, and vicarious experience through, the male protagonist.


(‘Der Anatom’ or ‘The Anatomist’ by Gabriel Von Max, 1869, Oil on Canvas, 136.5 x 189.5cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich.)

One demonstration of this identification with the male gaze can be found within fine art piece “Der Anatom” by Gabriel Von Max, 1869. Clearly the painting is an embodiment of the active male/passive female dynamic, as the female in this piece is not only passive but inanimate. Any action or narrative is driven by the only animate figure in the piece, the man, who directs the viewer in their perception of the scene. Eugene Gorny notes that “The palette is very dark and the corpse of the girl (covered as it is by the white shroud) is the only light spot on the canvas” (Gorny, accessed 2010), which suggests that the eye will be drawn back to the face and breasts of the woman, as they are so radically different to the shades of the rest of the painting. By the painting causing such a fixation on the face and upper body of the woman, this can be seen as the male gaze, particularly as it is as though the light upon the female identifies what the male figure is looking at, with the rest of the image fading into darker shades of the peripheral. Mulvey suggests that many of the eroticised meanings within cinema are only unconsciously known to the viewer, and there is a similar effect within this image, as the painting clearly has elements of eroticism, but it is not clear to the undiscerning eye as to how the image connotes such sexuality. One theory of how the painting creates this sexualisation of the inanimate female body is provided by Elisabeth Bronfen, who states that “…our attention is immediately drawn to the one exposed breast, artificially raised and figuring as the one moment where natural perspective is not maintained” (1992, p.5), suggesting a deliberate action from the artist to use distorted perspective to highlight the breast of the woman. Similarly, her shrouded genitals are “emphasised by virtue of the fact that their position lies midway between the hand and the moth” (1992, p.6), suggesting that the painting intends to create a sexual response in the viewer, even if this is only able to manifest in a feeling of discomfort, as, due to social constraints and taboo, it needs to be repressed in the unconscious so as to not cause trauma to the ego.

The controlling and curious gaze described by Mulvey is exhibited in the man uncovering the woman’s face and upper body, studying her intently, and by the fact that the male is the entity that drives the narrative and action of the painting, as theorised by Elisabeth Bronfen;

In the posture of one meditating or musing upon an enigmatic and desirable object, he seems to be gazing at the upper part of a young woman’s corpse. Owing to its excessive whiteness, as well as the stark contrast between body and background produced through the direction of the lighting, the corpse seems to be the centre of the painting. However, while the corpse is positioned as the thematic subject, the anatomist is the subject of the action, because he functions as the internal focalisor of the picture, who guides the spectator’s view of the depicted object. (1992, p.5)

The idea that the man’s gaze may be controlling is present in that he has physical control over her inanimate body – he has the ability to uncover her, move her, view her in any way that his curiosity might dictate, without any assertion of control or self from the female. The male figure does seem to be curious about the female subject, but the root of this curiosity is ambiguous. As an anatomist, presumably he would have had enough contact with the dead to sate his curiosity about the human body, so perhaps the curiosity is a projection of the feelings from the viewer, either real or perceived, as a representation of human fascination with death. Budd Boetticher discusses the female role in cinema by saying “What counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest importance.” (Erens, 1990, p.33) The female body in this instance is a vessel onto which the viewer projects their meaning of her – to one, her beauty in death might make her an object of fear, symbolising death’s mystery and unpredictability, whereas to another she may be an object of guilty lust. The male in the painting is ambiguous enough in his cues on how to interpret the image to accommodate both, as some may see his hand gestures as scholarly concentration, while equally they may be nervous uncertainty or guilt in finding the female body sexually arousing in spite of death.

‘Der Anatom’ presents a version of the male gaze that relies on the viewer empathising with the figure and therefore interpreting the scene from that perspective, whereas there are other manifestations of the male gaze that are used in other media, particularly cinema, that are more literal representations. For example, a common means of instructing the viewer as to which character to identify with is the ‘point of view’ shot, which displays the action from a first-person perspective, leading to the character being a vessel through which the viewer experiences. This sort of filming gives an anonymity to the character, as the point of view shots obviously rarely or never show the protagonist’s face, filming only what could be seen from the eye-level of the character, meaning that generally the protagonist’s body is seen through its interaction with the space around it. A poignant example of this sort of cinematography in regard to the male gaze and the apparent ‘controlling gaze’ over an ‘objectified’ other is the genre of Point of View pornography, which utilises this style of filming to allow the (presumably) male viewer to identify with the dominant male character, whose role is to display the female character. This bears a striking resemblance to Bronfen‘s commentary on ‘Der Anatom‘, describing the male as the figure “who guides the spectator’s view of the depicted object” (1992, p.5) , as the male in pornographic images takes on this responsibility in directing the viewer’s gaze. Arguably, the male performer is objectified in the sense that they are reduced to the parts of their bodies used to display the body of the female performer, and are otherwise a blank figure with no identity or personality, allowing the viewer to project their own identity onto the male role, meaning that they can better imagine that it is them acting on the female performer. Through this style of filming, the viewer can experience the sex acts from the eye-level of the male performer, meaning that instead of seeing another separate male performing sex acts with a woman, they can see themselves in the form of an on-screen representation performing sex acts with the female performer, making it seem more like a personal experience between the viewer and the woman, rather than a mass-produced non-interactive media that is not influenced by its viewers, perhaps undermining the idea of voyeurism, through feeling one has an embodiment within the media. It is difficult to ascertain whether this sort of film-making is rooted in the voyeurism that Mulvey suggests is a pleasure in cinema – instead of simply watching, part of this pleasure is imagining being actually involved, although perhaps to some, this is a pleasure in mainstream cinema, but point of view pornography is a more obvious expression.

Laura Kipnis argues that pornography has many similarities to fine art works, expressing the same themes found in the work of well-respected artists, but presented in a way that does not conform to the expectations of ‘art’, unable to possess and utilise the cultural capital necessary to be viewed academically, writing “What impedes us from considering pornography as a mode of expressive culture? What disastrous thing would happen if we were to – just experimentally, provisionally – approach pornography as we would any other cultural form, applying to it the same modes of respectful analysis, the kind of critical attention received not infrequently by even the dumbest forms of mass culture?” (1999, p.64) Kipnis suggests that pornography contains the raw influences present in art, but in their unprocessed low-culture form, whereas fine art codifies these base urges and emotions into forms palatable for high art, concluding that “…art and perversion are similar in origin, dissimilar in that art rechannels the same impulses and energies into a more socially acceptable or elevated idiom: aesthetic language. This rechanneling means that, on the surface, art tends to look different than perversion, or its commodity form, hard-core pornography.” (1999, p.83) Kipnis goes on to identify the ’problem’ with pornography, impeding its ability to be given the critical analysis afforded to art, or even other low-culture media, as “…that it produces a body of images that are too blatantly out of the unconscious, too anaesthetically written in the language of obsession, compulsion, perversion, infantile desires, rage, fear, pain, and misogyny. Too literally about sex and power rather than their aesthetically coded forms, as in the works of any number of well-respected artists and writers whose work dwells on similar themes. Too potent for art.” (1999, p.85) This seems to view pornography as a relevant part of culture and media to be studied and analysed as a means of better understanding sexuality, gender roles, and a reflector of wider society, rather than as an instigator of misogynist social attitudes, or as a form of media that is shapes how women are seen by society and that must be changed in order to gain any sort of gender equality, as is argued in regard to cinema by Mulvey.

Mulvey argues that an alternative to mainstream cinema can be created as a counterpoint, although “There is no way in which we can produce an alternative out of the blue, but we can begin to make a break by examining patriarchy with the tools it provides” (Erens, 1990, p.29). This seems to suggest that an alternative can be found through subverting the methods and themes used by mainstream cinema, perhaps through using similar techniques, but to highlight an opposing stance. A possible example of this use of subversion of patriarchal methodology and technique can be seen in the film ‘Lilja-4-ever’ by Lukas Moodysson, which uses point of view shots, exclusively during sex scenes, but from the perspective of the female protagonist. Just as the objectification of women is not from a neutral position, this ‘female gaze’ objectifies the men, reducing them to their physical attributes, dehumanising them, but all from a perspective of disgust, focusing on the defects in their bodies, rather than using the gaze to fetishise certain areas of the body as with the ‘male gaze’. Rather than painting the objects of the gaze as desirable or erotic, this time the gaze is used to infer that the objects of the gaze are grotesque, monstrous, animalistic, much in the same way as all of the adult male characters are portrayed within this particular piece, giving the idea that perhaps the alternative to the supposed misogyny of mainstream cinema is a ‘balancing’ presentation of misandry. While cinema and pornography are argued to be agents of misogyny, a largely forgotten aspect of this are the male roles in both of these media – while arguing that portrayals of women are inaccurate and presenting a negative portrayal of the female gender to society, the roles of men in cinema and pornography do not warrant any need to be assessed or altered. Either this is because their portrayal as a dominant force over a passive female is deemed to be accurate, or it is because it is seen that men do not need a protective measure to socialise society in to the ‘right’ attitudes towards them, which is a very real embodiment of the same infantilisation of women that is viewed so negatively within the fantasy of cinema. Mulvey’s ideas conform to a gender binary that does not allow for alternative interpretations, with the possibility of men identifying with female roles and women identifying with male roles not being sufficiently explored, except through suggesting that women only have access to an active role through partaking in a male view, all of which seems overly deterministic, focusing on symbolism rather than individual experience. Even in a piece like ’Der Anatom’ that seems to almost exclusively give the male perspective, seeing as the female character has no consciousness, Bronfen writes that “In the aesthetic enactment, we have a situation impossible in life, namely that we die with another and return to the living” (1992, p.x), which seems to suggest that the viewer is supposed to be able to identify with the female role, and that part of the understanding of the painting comes from empathising with the woman, rather than the viewpoint being exclusively male. Obviously these views are still very different, and gendered, with the active male and passive female, but there is nothing to say that viewers cannot transcend this gender divide, suggesting that perhaps the way of dealing with portrayals of gender is not to seek to destroy visual pleasure, but instead to have a less separatist view of gender, allowing both representations of active male/passive female and vice versa, as these roles do not need to be viewed as symbolic, or as a means of altering public perception by destroying this account of gender roles that is clearly still relevant to current society.

Bibliography

BRONFEN, E., (1992), Over her Dead Body: Death, Femininity, and the Aesthetic, illustrated reprint, Manchester University Press.

GORNY, E. (1993), “The Anatomist” and “Monkeys as Critics” by Gabriel Von Max, a Symbological Analysis [online], Available from: http://www.netslova.ru/gorny/selected/max.htm [accessed 6th April 2010]

KIPNIS, L. (1999), Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, Edition 2, Duke University Press.

Lilja 4-ever (2002) Film. Directed by Lukas Moodysson. Sweden. Memfis Film.

MULVEY, L. (1975), Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, in ERENS, P., (1990), Issues in Feminist Film Criticism, illustrated, Indiana University Press.

VON MAX, G. (1869), Der Anatom, Oil on Canvas, 136.5 x 189.5cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich.



  • fred whitacre jr: they don,t have any sex invaled why are we so againce children being nude in pictures because of alll the sick fucking rapetist out there children
  • fred whitacre jr: she only 12 but it is not porn at all it is nude only only a sick person would want to fuck her not me but i will tell you the true she is a very hot
  • fred whitacre jr: i see noghting wrong just a nude girl no porn that would be wrong with a child but not worng with a grown up only nude pics of children is ok if no se