Friday, 25 November 2011

Lecture 5 - In the gaze of 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) From Ways of Seeing Chapter 3

Often misquoted or used inaccurately

Investigation of the gaze through the nude in European oil painting.  This does not mean that women are vain. Women watch themselves being looked at because of the many representations of women that surround us. Women survey their own femininity

Hans Memling

Mirror as device of justification, moral condemnation.  The mirror is used as a device to distract from the women's body and indicates that she Enjoys being looked at. Makes us make a moral judgement.

Slight challenge to the gaze as she looks back from the mirror.  A contemporary advertising image .  Almost The thinker (Rodin). revery absorbed in thought so our gaze is not returned.  Viewer/camera is positioned at low viewpoint - we do see her eyes reflected.

Berger also looks at Alexandre Cabanel ‘Birth Of Venus’ 1863
Most admired painting of the Salon that year Eyes covered Implies asleep or just waking but allows us to look at her body without her looking back.
Kitschy / mythological / unchallenging / sentimental /unaggressive sexuality (looks away from viewer.)

Sophie Dahl for Opium, Similar effect ,Deemed too overtly sexual
When made vertical was passes by Censorship board - Emphasis changed from body to face

Titian's Venus of Urbino,1538
Berger makes the comparison :Traditional nude- regarding us coquettishly 'happy for us to view' Wealthy with servants contracts with:

Manet - ‘Olympia’ (1863)
Olympia transforms a dignified goddess into the simple nakedness of humanity. Olympia does not belong to the world of mythology - Olympia stood “as the first nude to represent modern reality” because she is a prostitute rather than a goddess figure
Shocked Modern society - Olympia is adorned with the trappings of success - jewels / bracelets etc, not the degraded prostitute of popular myth - Courtesan
Cat is symbol of individual femininity and independence. Olympia ignores the flowers presented to her, probably as a gift to her from an admirer

Ingres ‘Le Grand Odalisque’ (1814) - Reinterpreted
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."

Asked to design a billboard for the Public Art Fund in New York, we welcomed the chance to do something that would appeal to a general audience. One Sunday morning we conducted a "weenie count" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, comparing the number of nude males to nude females in the artworks on display. The results were very "revealing."

The PAF said our design wasn't clear enough (????) and rejected it. We then rented advertising space on NYC buses and ran it ourselves, until the bus company cancelled our lease, saying that the image, based on Ingres' famous Odalisque, was too suggestive and that the figure appeared to have more than a fan in her hand.
Phallic implication

MANET - Bar at the Folies Bergeres 1882
Again, self-portrait… Skewed perspective.
Disaffected from society, unhappy at work and not involved with the revelry - Marginalised members of this great new Modernist society
Role of women - disaffected, no longer the passively available, sexualised Nymphs Locket around the hints at another life - escapism - a love token from another world She is the only figure not reflected - Paris as a hall of mirrors - Superficiality

Detail Manet is reflected in the mirror even if an illusion not a realistic reflection.You are no longer the spectator - you are involved with the scene. Reference to the viewer

Picture for Women was inspired by Edouard Manet's masterpiece A Bar at the Folies-Bergères (1881–82). In Manet's painting, a barmaid gazes out of frame, observed by a shadowy male figure. The whole scene appears to be reflected in the mirror behind the bar, creating a complex web of viewpoints. Wall borrows the internal structure of the painting, and motifs such as the light bulbs that give it spatial depth. The figures are similarly reflected in a mirror, and the woman has the absorbed gaze and posture of Manet's barmaid, while the man is the artist himself. Though issues of the male gaze, particularly the power relationship between male artist and female model, and the viewer's role as onlooker, are implicit in Manet's painting, Wall updates the theme by 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.

Coward, R. (1984)

The camera in contemporary media has been put to use as an extension of the male gaze at women on the streets
From her essay “the look”
Nudity, device of Sunglasses - viewer not challenged by a look, Normalises the display of bodies in a street context

Eva Herzigova, 1994 Normalises nudity in the street. OK to look Looking at her own body or down at us from a billboard.

Coward, R. (1984)
The profusion of images which characterises contemporary society could be seen as an obsessive distancing of women… a form of voyeurism
Peeping Tom, 1960 Voyeurism: the compulsion to seek sexual gratification by secretively looking at sexual objects or acts; the actions of a Peeping Tom.

There are examples where the male body is objectified in a similar way
Vanos ads of years past as a sign of advertisers recognising 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 (
Do occur just not as frequently

2007 Male nude as challenging the gaze Gym- sports-power
Cult of fitness – male ideals of body image.

Marilyn: William Travillas dress from The Seven Year Itch (1955)  The framing in fifties movies chops the female body framing and allowing us to view - Women objectified.

Laura Mulvey did not undertake empirical studies of actual filmgoers, but declared her intention to make ‘political use’ of Freudian psychoanalytic theory (in a version influenced by Jacques Lacan) in a study of cinematic spectatorship in narrative Hollywood cinema.

Mulvey notes that Freud had referred to (infantile) scopophilia - the pleasure involved in looking at other people’s bodies as (particularly, erotic) objects. In the darkness of the cinema auditorium it is notable that one may look without being seen either by those on screen by other members of the audience. Mulvey argues that various features of cinema viewing conditions facilitate for the viewer both the voyeuristic process of objectification of female characters and also the narcissistic process of identification with an ‘ideal ego’ seen on the screen. She declares that in patriarchal society ‘pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female’ (Mulvey 1992, 27). 

Artemisia Gentileschi ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’

Two women are trying to cut off a man's head on a bed. Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith Beheading Holofernes shows a famous Biblical assassination. The sword-woman is Judith, a Jewish lady. The other woman is her maid, Abra. Their victim is Holofernes, the Assyrian general.
Judith has got into his tent and got him deeply drunk. To judge from his naked body in the sheets and from her slipped dress, she's got him into bed too, before he passed out and they could get to work. Gentileschi pays attention to her story.
And now the drunk man has woken in the middle of their attack. Candlelight reveals the tight, desperate wrestling of limbs. Judith, she with the blade, is keeping herself at arm's length, partly, as her pursed, slightly averted face suggests, out of a revulsion from the disgusting though necessary job (how many heads has she cut off before?); partly to stay out of the fight, so far as this is possible, because both her hands are needed for leverage, grasping his head by the hair, pushing the blade through his neck.
Abra meanwhile tries to hold him down. Her calm and beautiful face is directly above him, looking straight down on to him. Her efficient hospital gestures restrain his thrashing body. They indicate her perfect managing indifference to this creature's battle for life. But both women are ruthless. Judith is disposing of a rat. Abra is drowning kittens.
There is plenty of sensation to enjoy, the blood-stained sheets, the flesh. But Gentileschi's emphasis is on how hard it is, how long it can take, to kill someone. She stresses the hows and difficulties. The strain and strength in Judith's parallel arms, driving the sword through spine and gristle, is evident. The visual confusion of plunging arms and gripping hands – whose is whose? – mimics Abra's trouble keeping control of the man, holding one arm down while another breaks free.
This violence, in other words, is violent. This outcome is clear, probably imminent, the cut is almost through, the head will come free. But that's not how the picture makes you feel. There is no sense of a clean gesture, a chop. They're in the thick of it, the carving blade still in the neck, their bodies tangled with his like lovers. The killers are intimately implicated in their murder.
This killing isn't pictured as a heroic deed, a sword raised to strike, a head raised as a trophy. It's an ongoing business, which never seems to end. Muori, dannato! Muori!, as Tosca cries in the opera: Die, damned one! And in this painting, the struggle continues.

Pollock, G (1981) Lecturer at Leeds University.  Women's exclusion from Art history.
Women ‘marginalised within the masculine discourses of art history’. This marginalisation supports the ‘hegemony of men in cultural practice, in art’. Women not only marginalised but supposed to be marginalised
From Old Mistresses
TrAIN Open Lecture: Laura Mulvey in conversation with Griselda Pollock. Chair: Sutapa Biswas
Open Lecture
Date: Wednesday 26 January 2011, 17:15 to 19:00 Location: Lecture Theatre - Chelsea College of Art and Design, SW1P 4JU (Atterbury Street entrance)
Cindy Sherman,

“Untitled Film Still # 6”,


Sherman claims she her work is not about 'The Gaze' however she is using Photography. She is using photographic traditions and motifs which then reflect 'The Gaze'  
Turned the reclining body in a vertical sitting position which creates a subversion.  Also holding a mirror faced away, not a device which denies our ability to look at her through the mirror. She remind us this is a constructed image wit the timer chord.  The woman's gaze looks away

Untitled film still #7 1977
Judith holofernes 1989/90 from History portraits

Women artists whose work challenges the male gaze.
Barbara Kruger ‘Your Gaze Hits The Side of My Face’(1981)

Barbara Kruger I Shop Therefore I Am 1983

Sarah Lucas ‘Eating a Banana’  1990
Performing to be looked at.  fallic association of eating a banana - can make viewer uncomfortable
Sarah Lucas Self Portrait with Fried Eggs 1996

The body for consumption- challenging this idea
Tracey Emin ‘Money Photo’2001

The idea that women are natural liars has a long pedigree. The key document in this centuries-long tradition is the notorious witch-hunter's manual, the Malleus Maleficarum or The Hammer of Witches, which was commissioned by Pope Innocent VIII. The book was written by two Dominican monks and published in 1486. It unleashed a flood of irrational beliefs about women's "dual" nature. "A woman is beautiful to look upon, contaminating to the touch, and deadly to keep," the authors warned. They also claimed that "all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable".

It's not difficult to see these myths lurking behind Pacelli's description of Knox: "She was a diabolical, satantic, demonic she-devil. She was muddy on the outside and dirty on the inside. She has two souls, the clean one you see before you and the other." The lawyer's claim that she was motivated by "lust" could have come straight from the Malleus, which insists that women are more "carnal" than men.

Knox/Sollecito Case

The Daily Mail has emerged as the major fall guy by mistakenly publishing the wrong online version of the Amanda Knox verdict.
Knox won her appeal, but the paper's website initially carried a story headlined "Guilty: Amanda Knox looks stunned as appeal against murder conviction is rejected.”
The Mail was not the only British news outlet to make the error. The Sun and Sky News did it too and yes - hands up here - so did The Guardian in its live blog.
It would appear that a false translation of the judge's summing up caused the problem, leading to papers jumping the gun.
So why has the Mail suffered the greatest flak? In time-honoured fashion, echoing the hot metal days of Fleet Street, it prepared a story lest the verdict go the other way.
But it over-egged the pudding by inventing "colour" that purported to reveal Knox's reaction along with the responses of people in the court room.
It even included quotes from prosecutors that were, self-evidently, totally fake.
In other words, by publishing its standby story, the Mail exposed itself as guilty of fabrication.

As Knox realised the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.
A few feet away Meredith's mother Arline, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle, who had flown in especially for the verdict remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Knox family.
Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that 'justice has been done' although they said on a 'human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail'".

Susan Sontag (1979) ‘On Photography’
'To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed'
The act of photographing is more than passive observing. Like sexual voyeurism, it is a way of at least tacitly, often explicitly, encouraging what is going on to keep on happening'

Paparazzi shot of Princess Diana
Pap images steal shots for personal financial gain
The publication of these shots creates a market for their passive consumption (mags and newspapers)
We contribute to the perpetuation of this cycle buy buying the mags, we create the market for our own voyeuristic pleasure
Our desire is to see the mask of celebrity lifted, and ordinary life exposed.
This is ultimately what killed Princess Diana

Reality Television
Appears to offer us the position as the all-seeing eye- the power of the gaze
Allows us a voyeuristic passive consumption of a type of reality
Editing means that there is no reality
Contestants are aware of their representation (either as TV professionals or as people who have watched the show)

The Truman Show (1988) dir Peter Weir - Jim Careys character discovers the limits of his world, that his life is a staged event.

Big Brother 2011 - Male females to gaze upon.
Chair is designed for maximum exposure
Voyeurism becomes everyday

Original idea was that all would be exposed but ten years on we accept that the programme is edited.
Fantasy that they cannot see us but they are constantly picturing themselves, in mirrors etc and speculating about how the public Will perceive them (they are professionally aware of this)
They know the premise of the show and the viewing figures.
They effuse to be looked at ness.
Ultimate passive viewing experience.

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

Further reading

John Berger (1972) Ways of Seeing, Chapter3
Victor Burgin (1982) Thinking Photography
Rosalind Coward (1984) The Look
Laura Mulvey (1973) Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema
Griselda Pollock (1982) Old Mistresses

No comments:

Post a Comment