Thursday, 31 October 2013

Lecture 4: The Gaze and the Media

'According to usage and conventions which are at last being questioned but have by no means been overcome - men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at’ (Berger 1972)

Hans Memling 
‘Vanity’ (1485)

Because she holds the mirror to view herself, it is supposedly okay for us to look at her. 
The fact that she is posing naked in the middle of a field/public area, also implies that she wants to be seen.

There was a harsh judgement for Women classed as 'outside the norm' at the time.
For example; Witches. 

Here, the woman in the portrait is also admiring herself in the mirror. Her gaze is focusing on herself which insinuates to the viewer that they are welcome to admire her too. There is however a posibility that the Woman is 'unaware' of the viewer in both of these images. It could be that these Women are being looked at through a keyhole, oblivious to the viewer. 

Alexandre Cabanel
'Birth of Venus' 1863
Here the Woman laying down, in some ways invites the viewer to look at her. She is surrounded by guardian angels, imposing the connotations of a form of Goddess. 
This was the most admired painting of the Salon that year. 
Kitschy / mythological / unchallenging / sentimental /unaggressive sexuality (looks away from viewer).

Sophie Dahl for Opium
Here the original use of the reclining pose displayed in the first image was redeemed too sexual for ad standards. To solve this the image was rotated 90degrees clockwise.  

Titans Venus of Urbino, 1538
This portrait also shows a Goddess-like image of a nude Woman. This is a more traditional style of painting. The small dog on the end of her bed suggests a connotation of loyalty and companionship. Her expression is flirtatious, although there is a sense of her being unaware of the viewer. It seems like the Woman is being spied on in this scene.

Manet - Olympia 1863
This portrait shows a large contrast in comparison to Titan's Venus of Urbino. Her gaze is also directly towards the viewer, however, here the Woman looks challenging and defensive. 
The cat is a symbol of individual femininity and independence. 
Olympia ignores the flowers presented to her, probably as a gift to her from an admirer.
Olympia stood “as the first nude to represent modern reality” because she is a prostitute rather than a godess figure. The fact she is a prostitute also implies that she is in more control of her body, as Men would have to pay her money to properly observe her body.

Image 1: Ingres ‘Le Grand Odalisque’ (1814) 
Image 2: Guerrilla Girls
Guerrilla Girls formed in 1985 in response to the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition "An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture" which showcased 169 artists; out of those 169, only 17 were women. The curator's press release for the exhibition stated: "Any artist who is not in my show should rethink his career." 

Jeff Wall ‘Picture For Women’(1979)
positioning the camera at the centre of the work, so that it captures the act of making the image (the scene reflected in the mirror) and, at the same time, looks straight out at us.

The camera in contemporary media has been put to use as an extension of the 
male gaze at women on the streets - Coward R. 1984

Eva Herzignova - Wonderbra 1994
This image was used on billboards. This normalises nudity in the street.

Quote: 'The profusion of images which characterises contemporary society could be seen as an obsessive distancing of women… a form of voyeurism' - Coward R. 1984
•Peeping Tom, 1960
Example where Male bodies are objectified in similar way. 
'The issue of male objectification is often raised in gender classes that I have taught. I have heard many men and women suggest that men are now equally objectified in popular culture. Many a people have focused on the Lucky Vanos ads of years past as a sign of advertisers recognizing the desire of women to objectify men in our society. But what is really happening in advertising? Can men be objectified as women? If so, in what frequency is objectification present in ads? The Ads: Consider the number of ads presented in this male trope as compared to other examples of female objectification. It is interesting that when I first began the Web site many years ago, the number of ads in this exhibit were small. Today, there are nearly 60 such ads. '- Dr Scott A Lucas (

Dolce & Gabanna - 2007
Males challenging the Gaze
Ideals of the male image

Marylyn: William Travillas: Dress from The Seven Year

Women artists whose work challenges the Male gaze

Sarah Lucas - Eating a Banana (1990)

Sarah Lucas - Self portait with Fried Eggs (1996)

Tracey Emin - Money Photo (2001)

Caroline Lucas: No More Page Three
wore the white T-shirt at the start of a debate on media sexism. 
Chairman of the session, Labour's Jimmy Hood, interrupted her and told her to "put her jacket back on" and comply with Westminster's dress code. 
Ms Lucas picked up a copy of The Sun and waved Page Three, 
but said she would comply with the ruling. 
She added: "It does strike me as a certain irony that this T-shirt is regarded as an inappropriate thing to be wearing in this House, whereas apparently it is appropriate for this kind of newspaper to be available to buy in eight different outlets on the Palace of Westminster estate."

Lucy-Ann Holmes, who founded a campaign to end the publication of topless "Page 3 Girls" in The Sun newspaper last year, told the BBC that while she had also received death threats, she had not been subject to the level of "sustained attack" experienced by Ms Criado-Perez. 

"I'd say it's a constant undercurrent, when women write about feminist issues or are exposed in a lot of media for speaking out about sexism they tend to get a barrage of abuse and threats," she said. ( 

Campaign to represent Women on British currency

Elizabeth (Betsy) Fry (21 May 1780 – 12 October 1845)

The Truman Show (1988) dir Peter Weir

Quote: Looking is not indifferent.
 There can never be any question of 'just looking'. Victor Burgin (1982)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Seminar: Identitiy

  • Physiognamy - people are born a certain way. This is defined by peoples characteristics. It is described as an Essentialist way of thinking. 
  • Most theory nowadays is 'anti-essentialist' and instead society shapes our identity.
Martin Parr -- Identifying Class

Identity: Who we are, and how others perceive who we are.
  • Creation of identity
  • Concepts of 'otherness'
  • Analysis of visual example

Identity Generation: What makes up a person's identity?
  • Self-presentation -- how other people perceive you
  • How you speak -- mannerisms & language
  • Where you are from -- accent
  • Who you surround yourself with / influences
  • Interests/hobbies
  • Upbringing
  • Genetics
  • Fears
  • Sense of humour
  • Skills & abilities -- social skills -- appropriateness
  • Religion & beliefs
  • Background
  • Gender -- stereotypes -- language functions
  • Sexuality
How do we express our identity to others?
  • variety of medias depending on dialects
  • First impressions
  • Expression of gender 
  • How you choose to dress
  • Expression of wealth 
  • Lifestyle choice
  • Conspicuous Consumption
  • Physical Appearance/ body modification
  • Job
  • Profession/Vocation
  • Emotional availability
  • Social Networking
  • Reality vs projected identity E.g Facebook.

The Circuit of Culture -- Stuart Hall
Culture is the framework within which our identities are formed, expressed and regulated.

Identity Formulation
  • Process from psychoanalysis
  • Jaques LACAN
  • The Hommelette
The 'Mirror Stage' -- a key point of identity formation -- a baby suddenly seeing itself in the mirror and realising they are human/ something wholesome and solid.
-Noticing things chosen to do at own free will generate a reaction/response.
-For example crying seeks a source of comfort. This gives ego affirmation and a great feeling. This creates conflict in the unconscious because the baby begins to form a sense of control, yet the response does not necessarily match. This is described as uncontrollable solidarity.. people return to the 'mirror stage throughout their lives in various forms.

Mirror stage gives a sense of of self (subjectivity) built on:
1. An illusion of wholeness.
2. Receiving views from others - it could be argued the response is the 'mirror image'. The confirmation is in the reflection - affirmation.

Constructing the 'Other'
Problems: this relies on the assumption of opposition and radical otherness. We secure our identity through defining what we are not.

-Stores up unstable identities through illusion of unity.
-Shared fashion, beliefs, systems and values.
-Subterranean Values (Matza, 1961).

Study Task 2: Consumerism


Using the text Berger, J. (1972) 'Ways of Seeing', write one critical analysis of an advert which, in your opinion, reflects the logic of consumerism, or the social conditions of consumerism, discussed in the lecture 'Consumerism' (17/10/13). Use at least five quotes, referenced according to the Harvard system, in support of your argument.

Diesel: Only The Brave

   The image above is a Men's Diesel advertisement. The core purpose of this advert is to persuade men (and women) into buying this new fragrance. There is use of both text and image. The image of a proud, strong and tough-looking man is placed as the main focus of the advertisement. As the man is attractive, it can be argued that this is to initially grab both men and women's attention. Men may see this man as someone to admire - someone they would like to be more like. John Berger quotes: 'The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be. Yet what makes this self-which-he-might-be-be enviable? The envy of others. Publicity is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied is glamour.' This suggests that by becoming the enviable object in which you have intended to be, the buyer experiences a feeling of glamour. Whether it is the case, or if it is merely a psychological thought process, in their opinion they are now the admirable icon.

   This advertisement supports John Berger's Quote. 'Being envied is a solidarity form of reassurance.' There is a clear sense of strength and solidarity in the stance of the man being exemplified. The positioning of the man in front of both the text and background imagery of a City landscape creates a connotation of power and independence. It can be argued that most men like to feel strong, independent and in control of their lives. Particularly egotistical Men. The Man's fist is clenched. This is to resemble the shape of the perfume bottle itself, but also adds emphasis to a sense of solidarity and strength. A clenched fist could also be symbolising a punch. The text accompanying this symbolisation reads 'Only the brave' followed by 'Do you have what it takes?' It could be argued this is still speaking to all men; men who do not yet feel brave, but could do if they step up to the challenge. And also, men who do already feel brave enough and what to step up to the challenge to prove this. The question is rhetorical, the only way in which a man can prove themselves in this context is to buy the fragrance and wear it with pride. This returns back to the original point about how people currently perceive themselves, and how they would prefer to be perceived. The reassurance in this case comes from smelling good.

   This is best concluded by John Berger. 'The gap between what publicity actually offers and the future  it promises, corresponds with the gap between what the spectator-buyer feels himself to be and what he would like to be.' The consumer will only feel inclined to buy a product if he/she believes it will improve their lives or happiness in some way. If there is no desire to improve or gain anything, the consumer will not buy the fragrance. Therefore it can be argued that in literal term, the advertisement generates feelings of envy which the consumer may not have been conscious of. These feelings of envy may then evolve or adapt into a feeling of need or desire to bridge the gap between feeling inadequate. The solution, in this case is to therefore buy this Diesel product to feel a form of complete solidarity.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Seminar: Consumerism

Following on from Richard's Lecture on Consumerism last Wednesday:

Bernays Freud
Instictual Desire
Pleasure Principle
Incompatible with society
Consumption to satisfy desire
Social Control
Commodities / societies / people

False Needs
Mass production - Fordist 
-Disposable/increased consumption / Brand culture emerges (1920s)

In small groups we were given a short extract of text written by John Berger. We were asked to read this and identify the most interesting points made suggesting glamour and envy within advertising. This was a slightly difficult task as we found the entire extract interesting and informative. Once we had depicted the points we found most interesting and relevant, we were asked to apply this to a specific example of advertising. This was to then be presented to the rest of the class. 

We agreed that a perfume advert would be the most appropriate source to support John Berger's observations. We found a vast amount of good examples, but chose to go with a very recent Dolce and Gabbana advertisement featuring Scarlett Johansson. 

Our main quotes supported and displayed in this video were:

Publicity does not manufacture the dream. All that it does is to teach one of us that we are not yet enviable - yet could be.
This is evident in the advert shown above. The manner in which Scarlett Johansson is dressed is instantly definable as glamourous. She is behaving in a sophisticated and elegant manor. This could be to seem desirable to both men and women. Men would desire to be with a woman like this. Women would desire to be this woman. This therefore begins to form a connotation that if other women (the target audience) dress and behave in this way, they could transform into an enviable figure, in the same way Scarlett Johansson is enviable in this perfume advert. The reference at the end 'Oh I'm not looking for a million things, just that one, perfect thing, love,' is juxtaposed with her holding up her Dolce & Gabbana perfume as she sprays it on herself. This then insinuates that the perfume symbolises 'love' and that love is the key to becoming glamourous and enviable.. in this case 'love' is a metaphorical term for the perfume itself.

The gap between what publicity actually offers and the future it promises, corresponds with the gap between what the spectator-buyer feels himself to be and what he would like to be.
Following on from the point made above about setting out with an intention to achieve a particular feeling, the quote above describes the transition period between wanting something and achieving it. This quote supports the first quote in suggesting that the actions the buyer takes depends strongly on how they currently view themselves, in comparison to how they would like to view themselves. In the Dolce and Gabbana advert, there is an implication that the buyer may be feeling incomplete without 'love' and therefore to feel loved they need to acquire a more glamourous lifestyle. In this case, buying the perfume would only be appealing to the buyer if they perceive it to 'bridge the gap' between who they are now and who they would rather be more like.

The whole world becomes a setting for the fulfilment of of publicity's promise of the good life. The world smiles at us. It offers itself to us. And because everywhere is imagined as offering itself to us, everywhere is more or less the same.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Lecture 3: Identity

  • To introduce historical conceptions of identity • To introduce Foucault’s ‘discourse’ methodology 
  • To place and critique contemporary practice within these frameworks, and to consider their validity 
  • To consider ‘postmodern’ theories of identity as ‘fluid’ and ‘constructed’ (in particular Zygmunt Bauman) 
  • To consider identity today, especially in the digital domain

Theories of Identity 
Essentialism (traditional approach) - our biological makeup makes us who we are.
-We all have an inner essence that makes us who we are.
Post-Modern Theorists disagree - Post-Modern theorists are anti-essentialist

a. The art of judging human character from facial features.
b. Divination based on facial features.

'Grades of Intelligence'
This suggested that intelligence could be measured by the angle of a persons face. It was supposed that the straighter the angle, the more intelligent a person was.

The detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities.

Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909) – Founder of Positivist Criminology – the notion that criminal tendencies are inherited

Physiognomy Legitimising Racism


Historical phases of Identity 
Douglas Kellner – Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity and Politics between the Modern and the Postmodern, 1992
  • Pre modern identity – personal identity is stable & defined by long standing roles 
  • Modern identity – modern societies begin to offer a wider range of social roles. Possibility to start ‘choosing’ your identity, rather than simply being born into it. People start to ‘worry’ about who they are.
  • Post-modern identity – accepts a ‘fragmented ‘self’. Identity is constructed.
'Secure' identities
related institutional agency with vested interest

Farmworker -- landed gentry
The Soldier -- The state
The Factory Worker -- Industrial Capitalism
The Housewife -- patriarchy
The Gentleman -- patriarchy
Huband-Wife -- Mariage/church

Modern identity 19th & early 20th centuries
  • Baudelair introduces the concept of the 'flaneur' (gentleman-stroller)
  • Veblen - 'Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure'
Gustave Caillebotte le pont de l'Europe 1876

gustave caillebotte - Paris Street, Rainy Day - 1877

-Trickle-Down Theory - "Veblen theorized that new technologies and consumer goods initially come into the market at a price point that only the elite can afford. Over time, other companies manufacture their own, more affordable versions of such products, and the lower classes begin to purchase them. Over the last century, the trickle-down theory has been picked up by a number of disciplines (among them, political science, sociology, psychology and economics), and one of the first applications of the theory was to fashion." Source:
-The 'Mask' of Fasion

Georg Simmel
Simmel suggests that:
Because of the speed and mutability of modernity, individuals withdraw into themselves to find peace
He describes this as: ‘the separation of the subjective from the objective life

"Discourse Analysis"

Identity is constructed out of the discourses culturally available to us.

What is a discourse ?
--‘... a set of recurring statements that define a particular cultural ‘object’ (e.g., madness, criminality, sexuality) and provide concepts and terms through which such an object can be studied and discussed.’ Cavallaro, (2001)

Possible Discourses include:
  • age
  • class
  • gender
  • nationality
  • race/ethnicity
  • sexual orientation
  • education
  • income
  • etc, etc…
Discourses to be considered 'Otherness':
  • class
  • nationality
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender and sexuality

Humphrey Spender/Mass Observation, Worktown project, 1937
Observing Britain living in Bolton

Martin Parr, New Brighton, Merseyside, from The Last Resort, 1983 - 86   
Mocking, yet almost self-celebratory

Martin Parr - Ascot, 2003
This is slightly mocking towards British culture. Showing a less glamourous image of women at Ascot. 
This image creates a suggestion of class and possibly attempted class.

Cultural stereotyping. Mocking.

Alexander McQueen, Highland Rape collection, Autumn/Winter 1995-6

‘Much of the press coverage centred around accusations of misogyny because of the imagery of semi-naked, staggering and brutalized women, in conjunction with the word “rape” in the title. But McQueen claimed that the rape was of Scotland, not the individual models, as the theme of the show was the Jacobite rebellion’. -Evans, C. ‘Desire and Dread: Alexander McQueen and the Contemporary Femme Fatale’ in Entwistle, J. and Wilson, M., (2001), Body Dressing, Oxford, Berg, page 202 

These images show a celebration of Scotland


Gillian Wearing, from Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, 1992 - 3
-Asking people to write down what they were thinking or feeling/something about themselves - some images take a humorous nature
‘Hair has been a big issue throughout my life... It often felt that I was 
nothing more than my hair in other peoples’ eyes’ 
Emily Bates, Textile Designer/Artis

Gender & Sexuality

Masquerade and the mask of femininity

The Postmodern condition: Liquid Modernity and Liquid Love
‘Yes, indeed, “identity” is revealed to us only as something to be invented rather than discovered; as a target of an effort, “an objective”’ - Zygmunt Bauman

The Post-Modern Condition:
• Identity is constructed through our social experience.
• Erving Goffman The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)
• Goffman saw life as ‘theatre’, made up of ‘encounters’ and ‘performances’
• For Goffman the self is a series of facades

Gillian Wearing, from Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, 1992 - 3

‘We use art, architecture, literature, and the rest, and advertising as well, to shield ourselves, in advance of experience, from the stark and plain reality in which we are fated to live’.  Theodore Levitt, The Morality (?) of Advertising,1970