Read chapter 10, What Is a Picture? in the book The Visual Culture Reader by N Mirzeoff.
The object disappears? The gaze is important because its through the gaze we perceive light and can see the object? and as a result can ourselves be seen. looking at something I know that it is what it is as well as all the information behind it? -this is a vase, but its also a representation of work from a certain era and all the history that entails, or this is a vase, the flowers in it have an extra meaning than just flowers because they where a gift, (Barthes roses)-
As much as we gaze at the object, the object gazes at us it informs us what it is a “mask, an envelope, a thrown off skin.”
is the fact that we are being observed affecting how we view things?
• Look up Schrödinger’s cat. Make a brief summary of the theory.
A cat is put in a box that it can’t escape from. There is also an uncertain nuclear element that may decay. At which point a geiger counter if spiked would release poison and kill the cat. So whilst in the box, the cat’s future is uncertain as to whether it is alive or dead and so as it is in an unobserved state, it is in fact within both options of alive and dead at the same time.
Telegraph Schrodinger article[accessed 2nd June 2017]
All based on it being observed. Lucan was on about our reaction to being observed though rather than the cats point of view (which is probably with a growing fear of boxes) Lucan would have us in a state where the cat (as object) is deciding if we see it in an alive or dead state?
• In Blade Runner there are a number of instances of reference to Lacan’s version of the gaze. Think of the blimp with its lights and sayings about the off-world colonies. Think of the Japanese woman on the billboard. They remind us that we are always being seen and the structure of seeing. Other figures fit into this category: the owl, the eye at the opening of the film, perhaps even Tyrell’s glasses. Find six other examples of this in film, TV or other imagery and annotate and make notes on your chosen examples and explain how they fit in with Lacan’s ideas.
American Gods, an adaptation of a book by Neil Gaiman on Amazon Prime has one of the main characters Odin, receiving information from a raven [season 1 Ep5 Lemon Scented You], that has ‘seen’ things happen throughout the series, we have watched the bird fly over the landscape viewing as we are ourselves viewing the series.
Lucifer, Season 1 and 2, again with the Amazon Prime, Lucifer has a party trick whereby whilst staring at a person he can get them to tell him their strongest wishes, he can also reveal his legitimate claim to be the devil by making his eyes flame on command, this is someone we believe can dish out recompense showing us he can see your darkest desires, and us handing them over with a look. He acknowledges though that he himself is watched by God, Lucan’s viewed coming full circle.
David Inshaw (1943-) Cerne Giant III (2011) Oil on canvas, seen 31st May2017 in Salisbury Museum Exhibition titled British Art Ancient Landscapes. This picture of the chalk giant stretching up the hill, phallus displayed for all to see, under a blue sky, as circling ravens fly around, Watching him, watching us watching him, how do they see us and what are we supposed to think knowing we are being viewed looking at an ancient fertility symbol?
Mirror Mirror. (2012) [accessed 5th June 2017] The mirror can gaze across the land and predict who is the most beautiful as this is as important a power as you can get as a woman, the fact this film exists and still revolves around beauty is as sexist as it gets, showing the historical values of women impacting the present and the gaze showing that others view of us is more important than necessary.
Rachel Maclean, Feed Me. [2015 video produced for British Art Show 8, seen at Southampton Gallery in 2016 and Maclean’s website accessed 5th June 2017] This film is over an hour long, and Maclean plays all the visual roles herself. The story is about adults exploiting young girls, who sell a substance they purchase illicitly, we see this through cctv cameras, emoji icons are used to decide fates and the link to our own culture is very strong. Throughout the overly commercial lifestyle and how it creates the lives of the younger girls is a strong message, with the over large eyes of the girls and toys staring out of the tv. The gaze is used to sell within the story and help you as the viewer to draw conclusions over the comparable nature of the story with our own lives.
The Times [Accessed 5th June 2017] I’m using the Times as all the columnists are looking out of the website, all look directly at you the reader, either this is because the Times is making them out to be your equal or (and I think this is probably the case) they are commenting on our day to day lives and it needs to seem as if they see through us so their point of view is more visibly correct. Whilst we are looking into their worlds, we are expecting them to speak for us, so their gaze is showing us their truth.
Read the chapter The Subject on pps 340 – 355 of the course reader making your notes in the usual way
Lacan said he got most of his ideas from Freud, apparently note.
Silverman uses an Aristophanes story about the Gods splitting 4 legged two headed androgynous creatures in half that then became male or female and desired one another. Silverman uses this analogy to help explain Lucan’s belief that humans use this “biological dimension” to “determine their social identity”.
Lacan believed that the moment our chromosomes chose whether we were male or female, how we would react was decided. That we have to link with the opposite sex to complete this wholeness and that our social path dependant on our sex will lead us to sexual completion.
This is all learnt through childhood and our mothers teach us through their care which areas will be used for that gratification later. In fact the child bypasses its own link to those regions of its anatomy in favour of societies view as to what is acceptable.
The object now refers to something that is missing from the persons self. an item split from them.
Mirror phase, toddler sees itself as a complete comprehensive form in a stronger way than the non mirror image. In fact the relationship between the real and the mirror will seem (to me) to be almost Schrodinger like in that as long as its observed, its trapped in the knowledge and the actions of the observed.
This theory is widely used in film, where someone essentially has a lack (probably from early childhood) that they spend the film fulfilling.
Lucan states the mirror image relationship is a neutral figure with no “social determination” and that this is carried on into relationships that do have “social determination”. This initial relationship has no emotional resolve until the child gains language and enters the oedipal stage.
Signification The signifier and signification is linked to the signified through linguistics as this is the only history we have to go on to form meaning,
Signifier is the pattern and the signified the linguistic terms used to explain it so signifier is idea and form for Lucan.
Signifier has its own individual meaning that does not need to connect it to the real. To the point that we as humans are signified at birth as are the laws we will fight to keep or break and the description of us at our deaths. Wow! Also doesn’t take into account that laws will change over time either due to education or necessity.
The only thing that stops the thing entering the language are the wants and desires of the object and phenomenons around it in the world. Once its become a signified, its place in culture/society is fixed, a rose is no longer a weed etc.
Story of a challenged child who throws toys away from him, claims they are gone, then finds them. Freud says this is to do with the absences of his mother, Lucan says its to do with his view of himself, the thrown toys become the “objet” that are then drawn back to the child, the part of the child they need to become complete. The gone was confirmed by a further game involving a mirror and the child ‘disappearing’.
The next step is the addition of want, or acknowledgement of a lack. the things that amused the toddler, that were ‘his’, are no longer enough.
Desire is narcissistic in that the want is for the things that are perceived as being capable of making us whole, and are impossible as they are just out of reach.
Also, our society within which we are born decides linguistically that we have lost and socially how we perceive it.
Levi-Straus and incest (Of Course!) nature doesn’t tell us it is wrong, culture does.
Our birth in this culture tells us the relationships we have with those around us, their hierarchies and the expectations of where we will fit in, from the beginning.
Lucan points out that its only incest because of the Oedipal complex, in that language created the term mother and father to start with. In fact there is such a close link between Oedipus and language that Oedipus is a linguistic problem.
I can’t tell at this point if Lucan is merely showing us the way the system is or if he’s disparaging of it.
Lucan reckons that our mother and father can’t live up to the ideal of The Mother and Father of -well what? we get our views first from our own families, complex reading to inform is something that is learnt and we have TV, but modern fictions have a diverse range of flawed people to look up to anyway.
To Lucan, the phallus stood for everything that the person lacks but could desire, and symbolises the strength of the position of the father
The phallus cannot be the penis and the father cannot live up to the Father figure, which is separate again from the patriarchal system.
Contradicts himself on women, about cultural traps and ecstatic pleasure we women get elsewhere that presumably makes up for it.
To an extent I think Lucan’s problem is the one we women have of to many hats to start with, having to define ourselves when we have been defined as essentially pretty and caring for choice, whilst mostly lacking… balls.
Having read this chapter you should, perhaps, revisit the previous Lacan projects in this and other sections and see if they now are clearer and, if necessary, re-do the tasks associated with them
I have chosen to re-look at pt4 Project 2 The Mirror Phase
Read the article by Jacques Lacan entitled The Mirror-Phase as Formative of the Function of the I on pps 620 – 624 of Art in Theory 1900 – 2000 making notes.
Pre-linguistic identification of I, understanding that there is an I as a whole thing, that leads to the recognition there is an I others see, leading to projection of the I that others see.
Mirror phase creates the link we have with the outside of us that others can see
Fragmented body is the internal struggle of the formation of the I, the building of walls and the break downs with wrenching apart of form
Existentialism encountered because of the above, described negatively through current trend “of being and nothingness”.
Looking into this aspect can help describe whole communities and the actions of those therein. as well as explain to people that “thou art that” (I think this is referring to the whole philosophy where we are described by what and whom we come into contact with from birth and that defines our lives)
• Lacan was associated with the Surrealist movement. Find two examples of Surrealist work that might have echoes of the mirror phase and annotate them to show how.
I’m using my original annotation from Pt 4 here as its sound my analysis is from this viewing though.
Not to be reproduced (Portrait of Edward James) by Magritte.
The viewer is presented with the back view of a man wearing a smart jacket, his hair appears to be neatly tended and he stands shoulders relaxed visible from the waist up in the painting. in front of him, we are presented the corner of a very large mirror, the frame of two sides disappearing in front of the man. There appears to be a marble mantle with a book on it under the mirror, an Edgar Allen Poe story about the adventures of Gordon Pyme.
The reflection in the mirror is of the back rather than his reflection and face, painted exactly the same as the first outside mirror version. There is only a grey background reflected behind the man.
This is someone observing themselves as they are seen by others, this is viewing our projection over actually seeing ourself.
Or its about looking at ourselves looking at others in which case we are doing the judging?
Either way, its interested more in others that aren’t in the picture than the actual person in the mirror who we can’t form an opinion on as we can’t see them.
The persistence of memory by Salvador Dali
The landscape starts with a sky that seems pleasant enough, this disappears into the suggestion of water on the left which is edged by red earth to the right, topped by mountains.
The foreground is flat with a flat raised area of rectangular form in front of the water to the left. There is a suggestion of a further raised block front left emerging into the picture at an angle and into this is a suggestion of a dead grey trunk with branches off it. over one of these branches is draped a melting fob watch. Another fob watch melts off the edge of this raised area and another fob watch is next to this, face down with ants on its back. There is a portion of a face (described by the curve on the eyelash and a suggestion of eyebrow) over which melts another clock.
The land is barren and there is no life-form included in the painting.
I see the fragment of the face as the questioning Lacan refers to in The Fragmented Body, we aren’t safe behind castle walls, there is a lack of control over time and its referred to more than once with the many clocks, the portion of the face does not appear to me old, and there is no sign of blood with helps with the dream element, this image occurs in the mind. The questions it raises are:
Are the clocks (which all show different times) referring to a holding back of time or a rushing uncontrollably froward of time
Why is there a portion of face with a closed eye? it seems to be relaxed, resting almost
Why a young face? is this linked to time in any way?
Ants are a busy insect constantly in movement, as they are on the back of a fob watch, is this another clue to time marching on as someone searches to work out who they are?
• Find two examples of the way the contemporary media make use of Lacan’s ideas and show how.
Advertising uses the mirror phase to place the viewer into a situation where they can see themselves with a product, giving rise to the libidinal urge to purchase.
(edit) Advertising does more than that advertising makes us see how an item will fit into our lives and make them better even if they don’t show us any benefits, these objects will be the envy of our friends and will improve our social standing. This reinforces the mirror phase to us
Instagram users are sucked in by the mirror phase to liking someone they don’t know in an imaginary situation (unreal) because of photos that only show the best bits about this persons life. The social affirmation going back to the original poster of the photo.
(edit) as a poster, we seek confirmation that what we are showing is acceptable to our peers by asking for likes, the images that receive more likes inform future content, the mirror phase asks us to start the process of looking at what we project, Instagram keeps us at this level.
I think re looking at Lacan’s influence throughout this course has opened my eyes to how little choice we have probably given ourselves throughout our lives.
Lacan, J(n.d)What is a picture In: The Visual Culture Reader, second edition edited by Nicholas Mirzoeff, 2002 Routledge, London.
Merz, T(2013)Schrödinger’s Cat explained, The Telegraph, 12th August 2013, available here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/google-doodle/10237347/Schrodingers-Cat-explained.html [Accessed 10th June 2017]
Episode 5 Lemon scented you, American gods series 1 [television programme]Production company Starz. produced in US. Dir. Vincenzo Natali, 55 mins available on Amazon Prime here: ‘The Secret You’, Horizon [television programme] Dir. Dan Walker. BBC, UK, 21.00, 20/10/2009, BBC2. 60mins. [Accessed May 2017]
Lucifer, Series 1-2[television programme] Production company:Fox, produced in US, Time unknown available on Amazon Prime here:https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dprime-instant-video&field-keywords=lucifer [accessed 1st June 2017]
Inshaw, D(2017) Cerne Giant III, 2011. oil on canvas] British Art ancient landscapes. Salisbury Museum 8th April-3rd September 2017
Mirror Mirror[feature film]Dir. Tarsem Singh, production company Relativity Media, Yucaipa films, Goldman Pictures, us/canada, 1hr 41mins, 2012 available on Amazon prime here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/51/Mirror-Julia-Roberts/B00ESQAX7C/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1500579792&sr=1-1&keywords=mirror+mirror [accessed 10th June 2017]