Pt 1 Project 4 Ideology and interpellation

We are asked to read chapter 19 in ‘Visual Culture: a reader’, our course book, published by Sage in association with the open university (2013 edition, edited by Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall) This chapter on ‘Ideology and ideological state apparatuses (notes towards an investigation) by Louis Althusser (1918-1990) (this chapter originally published in 1969, is taken from Mapping ideology, edited by S Zizek (London, Verso, 1994), pp100-140.

How does Althussers structuralism show here?

In the last project I looked at Marxism, base and superstructure, theorising that the economy was at the base of society and influenced the media on the basis that the owners of the media decided the content and as such material content wanted by and available for the consumer.

Structuralism as put forward by Althusser was a continuation of marxist theory but was more critical, it puts a lot of ideologies into one basket to find the commonalities in the theories of how they work. ‘If underlying patterns or structures govern language (structuralists said), doesn’t that mean that underlying patterns or structures shape all human experience?’ -(Shmoop Editorial Team)

Structualism is visible here in the way that ideology is dissected and all ideaologies are grouped together.

What does Althusser mean by ‘ideology’?

Ideologies referred to in Althusser’s text:-


Ethics (does this lean towards culture? in which case we are partially back to religion)

Law (which in any given land have a basis back to religion)


Gender (this one is decided before we are born as the chromosomes split, the gender we pop out as then informs how we are treated, how we are expected to behave etc.

Work (although this is linked back to religion in the text, rather than economic)

Ideologies are things we believe whole heartedly to be true. Murder is wrong, girls play with dolls, the state should support the nation, England means a green and pleasant land with added cricket.

These are then all explained as things we participate in as material existence (referring to more than a thing we can physically touch), we are subjects who mirror the ideology as a fact rather than an imaginary object we can relate to in our real lives (this is the main difference in theses I and II as I understand it. The first theses is much more of a person in charge deciding how we will live over a choice by us to live this view because we have chosen to) The person/subject following the view, believes it communicates to them so they live their life following these rules, to not act accordingly is ‘wrong’.

However, as much as we choose to live by these rules, does that make them right? The ideology of law is different in every culture on the planet, so we can’t all be right? Also, how much of a choice is it?

I am lucky, I was born into a middle class middle England family which has to an extent given me free reign to become what I want when I want, with the caveat of motherhood, I would have been able to go straight back to work if I had had a strong desire to or it had been financially worthwhile however, I felt aas my husband earnt enough, that my place was bringing up the two children we put on the planet. However, I still appreciate and to an extent expect to have the door held open for me. Which is kind of at odds to the feminist ideal…

However, that is how I was brought up, with dolls and dresses, being taught to knit (my brother wasn’t, he was never given a sewing kit in the same way I never recieved technical lego). So subjected to an ideology of gender of which I became a subject and have subjected my own children too.

Is there an area of visual culture where this idea may seem to act in an overt way? find examples and make notes on them.

-TV gender roles were highlighted in the commentary on this years Olympics in Rio, where how the female athletes looked was referred to whilst the male athletes was not.

-TV, there are programmes and a full channel you can tune into for religious programmes and views. In fact there are several.

-Brexit advertising emphasised the cultural ideology of the country over a shared common goal in Europe and the cultural differences outside these borders.

-But then the Daily Mail is overtly grounded into several ideologies, ie gender, cultural, law. Whatever takes their fancy really. (current online headline guessing at immigrants drowning off the coast of sussex)

-Trump is using the same ploy

-ISIS are using social media to put their views on religion across, whichever of Althusser’s theses they fit into.

-Twitter is a whole bunch of ideologies and subjects who like to argue about them. The only view Twitter itself follows is one that keeps it the right side of the law, which is an ideology which is as discussed different in every country.

-Supermarkets sell food based on gender ideology, the mother provides food for the family. As visible in any given Asda, Tesco advert.

-Waitrose openly aim at a class ideology, as does M&S food.

-Most magazines aim at at least one ideology, if not two, gender/class(Vogue), law/class, ethics. This must increase circulation.

-So, do I like a piece of art because its showing me something from an ideology? That it is re-enforcing my position within that ideology? or something I wish to achieve because of my perceived view of life due to ideology?

That constable view of life is an English cultural ideal, the Hockney paintings of the 70’s appealed to a class ideology.

Do my pictures have to appeal to an ideology to sell?

Do we(the subjects) choose to view these mediums and self perpetuate the ‘myths’ within them? As Althusser ends:-

Yes, the subjects ‘work by themselves’.(…) I’m fairly sure this is actually a question rather than a statement.


I had to look up a more involved view on Althussers structuralist approach to understand it and the questions we are asked to answer, I refer to

Shmoop Editorial Team. “Structuralism.” Shmoop University, Inc. Last modified November 11, 2008. [accessed 25th August 2016] [accessed 25th August 2016]

Pt 1 Project 3 Base and Superstructure

What did Marx mean by ‘base’ and ‘superstructure’?

society (according to Classical Marxism) is built on a foundation of economism, this major block is its ‘base’, which is a part of the community around it or ‘superstructure’.

Of the different ways of looking at the subject outlined by chandler which makes most sense to you and why?

The main theme is that the base informs other aspects of the superstructure and dictates what is important from a point of what sells. Also that the person that owns the media decides the content (think Rupert Murdoch) and that this monopoly on media isn’t a good thing (Graham Murdoch).

The arguments against this are mostly about how all powerful this base is and how independent it is from the rest of the superstructure, does the superstructure have any influence over the base?

Also, isn’t this all a bit of an oversimplification of the system?

For the most part I think that media output is controlled by a minority.  They are pandering to a fixed group of people who have responded to the same genres throughout history.

However it is possible for the masses to have an effect on what the media deems acceptable to show, take the rise of You Tube and bloggers who have become celebrities without the help of the established media channels, these individuals represent a decision on the part of the watcher to avoid the traditional modes of news and switch. Also, the creation of the internet has led to a potentially more informed society, however, if you don’t switch channels, you will receive the same message.

I’m also not convinced that this is totally linked to a financial response, in that the media doesn’t piggy back on economics. The whole of society is more symbiotic, politics relies on the media and economics, society runs without the media (although the fallout when the wifi goes down is huge), but needs politics to avoid anarchy. In this regard I’m probably more inclined towards Stuart Hall’s ‘culturalist’ theory, society informs the individual though the media.

Does your understanding of base and superstructure vary depending on whether you are looking at society in general or the media and the arts?

I guess so, society runs as a whole, we all need hospitals an schools and emergency services, which are paid for out of a pot of cash decided on by central government. We elected the government, but have little say over the division of that cash. however, the base is elected by society.

Media is private, paid for by adverts and patrons and has to appeal to a narrower audience to continue its funding. If we as artists don’t understand this and create art based on what society wants on its walls having paid for, is it anyones fault but our own if we starve?

References [accessed 20th June 2017]

pt1 project 2 Fetishising the object of your eye

First, lets get this straight, I work in a school. I have to protect children from their environment, us the staff, other children and adults that surround them in their lives. Hell I have 2 kids I gave birth to as well. I am as a result finding Freud particularly hard going. Bringing everything back to genitals (or a lack thereof) seen in your childhood is rough.

I also don’t think its necessary to prove the point of the essay that I think we are supposed to get about looking.

We are asked to read part I of a piece written by Otto Fenichel, then swap to an essay by Sigmund Freud about fetishism, then back to the rest of the Otto Fenichel article.*

My first comment, written between the articles, noted that looking at something appears to mean empathising with it or ingesting/inserting/ taking on board aspects of the item. Which is at odds with Greenbergs view that modernist art couldn’t be participated in in the same way as traditional art?

The first thing we are asked to consider is if this reading has helped my understanding of why and how we look, for instance going to an art gallery.

I never really thought in depth about why we go to galleries for anything other than appreciation of the pictures. I Realise now, I go to look at the technique of the artist, or to interject the technique but in which case, is my viewing of the pictures rising above a primitive look?

Do I think the essays offer a complete answer to these questions? No, I think associating looking with the libido and the eye with the penis or vagina creates a very limited view as to why we want to see pictures, Scoptophilia as a descriptive word explains looking in a sexual manner for pleasure. There has to be a better word. I also take issue with ‘fetish’ as a sexualised form of distraction, if you can take these theories away from the genitalia, we can get somewhere.

The viewer perceives the picture, wants to partake of the emotions the artist is displaying for them, do they want to be in the picture experiencing them directly or merely empathising with what they are seeing? I’m not feeling like I want to destroy (or castrate) the image so no-one else can benefit from its emotional potential to them. But I can’t speak for everyone. However, I’d think security at galleries would have to be a lot tougher if a desire to destroy the pictures so no-one else can look at them was a common issue.

Maybe the different ways we interpret seeing inform us about the art itself? Modernist art according to Greenberg can’t allow for a truly empathic response because we can’t place ourselves in a recognisable part of the picture. Maybe we view modernist art from a technical un-emotional view  first?

Do the articles suggest to you reasons for staring at someone being at best bad manners and at worst threatening?

Yes. Looking with a libidinal stare, fixed, (spastic) was viewed as an active physical response from a fixed person, this was viewed as female

Freud appeared to be implying (as interpreted by Fenichel) that the act of staring with transfixed motion, could be relevant of the eye representing both the erect penis or the vagina/mouth, so  it could imply erection or castration/death. Either way, not something you want from someone you potentially don’t know.

can you make any suggestions as to the reason’s for some people’s need to avidly watch TV

TV is escapism in its lowest form. our hand is held and we are led to emotions through the characters we have come to know and love (or hate). Its less involved than reading where we have to create worlds in pictures from written words. We devour the images on bake off, filmed to look there most succulent whilst coveting either the physique of our heroine or the attentions of the hero. this is directly linked to the types of seeing discussed in the articles.

We can imply that in the act of looking at the telly we wish to imitate that which we see,  become like the celebrities, follow their fashions, swallow their views on the world.

In the act of looking, we identify what we see, then we introject and then we respond empathicly. 

Alternately, we could be using the telly as a fetish, distracting ourselves from life or the fact that our lives just aren’t edited into short interesting segments (creating amnesia). 

What visual fetishes have you notes in everyday life – your own or others’? (An example might be a city dweller who collects landscape paintings to ‘replace’ real countryside.)

Any given situation when you are glamourising life elsewhere over what you have, ie glossy magazines potentially counts as a fetish. You are using it to distract you from what is actually there.

Children do it all the time, during the holiday when they’ve reached bored and they start to hone in on a course of action, say a visit to someone or somewhere as the answer, it becomes the distraction from the boredom. I realise this isn’t visual unless they are holding a pamphlet.

My husband has a 15 year old Porsche (this sounds significantly more glamorous than it is in reality. the damned thing costs a fortune if ANYTHING breaks in comparison to any other car and feels like you are sitting in a bag of spanners really close to the ground. We use my mid-sized family hatchback more) which is his visual distraction from the mundanity and immovability of family life and work.

So what fetishes do I have? I have always read for the love of reading, its been my escapism, my distraction tool, its led me to different worlds and groups of people. I’ve kept lots of the books too in the hopes that sometime I’ll find the time to re-read and re-enter those worlds.

Until a couple of years ago. I stopped having head space for fiction. I’ve read nothing but factual books since then, the words being more of a distraction as I learn.


Why are people often so keen to display wedding photos or family portraits?

Maybe people have them because by looking at the photos they take on board the aspects of what they see? the memories.

Or perhaps its to invest the memories with a better option than the reality (rose tinted spectacles)

Or it could be as a fetish, photos of specific people and events to act as an exaggerated distraction from either other people not on the wall or mantel piece or life in general?

I’m more inclined to believe its to act in the first response as an aide memoir of good times.


Fenichel, O(1954) The scoptophilic instinct and identification In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp. 327-339.

Freud, S(1977) On sexuality. Three essays on the theory of sexuality and other works, vol 7. England. Penguin, Pelican, pp 351-408