Category Archives: UVC1 Part 2

Techniques of the observer

This book was recommended by my tutor and partway through my first reading, I didn’t get much from it till I had to answer project 2 Barbarous taste. This seemed to resonate with the book and everything became clearer. These observations and notes represent the incredibly long winded second read through.

Chapter 1

The time period discussed in the book is very brief, a lot of views on how we see changed in a very short amount of time.

Current understanding of viewing is changing because the things with which we can view and understand are changing regularly also, ie mapping tools, cameras that detect different frequencies of light etc

Guy Debord ‘society of the spectacle’, power of society over medium used and content and who watches.

History has taken into account the different way the impressionists used to view the world, however the accounts miss the change in thought about how we actually see, the physical process, what affects it. this in turn changes how modern art comes about as a way of looking externally from the self with a regard to the normal still prevalent, which makes it all a bit less surprising.

this period in time was a starting point of cataloging sight, the studies used in these chapters are linked.

it also heralded a break down of class that meant symbology of content became more watered down as everyone could create it (photos) see it Obscura recreate etc.

whilst the camera photos a landscape we recognise, its in a form so vastly different, it has different meaning.

the new technologies created, ostensibly for research (ended up in the realm of entertainment) were made before photography and mass  construction.

Debord relates to 20th century however this is relevant as a starting point for the spectacle.

flaneur – an excess of stimuli and an inability to take it in and act. the process of reacting to what happens because there is so much happening rather than acting before to deal with it.

Chapter 2

we look at seeing through western culture and our history back through to the greeks, renaissance art leads through to the cinema as a link to a natural view of the world.

so the camera obscura is then linked to cinematography as a way of a controlling force by the elite.

the concept of the obscura was known since the Greeks, and was largely used as a piece of entertainment, however, Marx, Bergson, Freud et al thought about it more in terms of what was hidden and what was real.

it was talked about as much as it was used? Deluze “Machines are social before they re technical” [p31]

Used to create paintings, so art historians think of it within that confine.

Thought of by the users as producing a moving image that was more real than the real

Giovanni Battista Porta 1558 mentions obscura. Thought it would be a way to view specifics of nature and then use this knowledge to harness nature. Cassir thought he was referring to a type of magic, the knower and the know.

obscura becomes the way to define observing, as ‘isolated, autonomous’ [p39] sight is removed from the observer and done by the obscura. the experience replaced by machine and this version of the ‘truth’. which was a good thing to nietzche as ‘it is from senses that most misfortunes come’.

Newton and Locke wrote about a version of obscura, both describe a way for an enclosed space with the real coming in a small aperture one side displaying an element of the real on the opposite side and individuals being between the two planes. ‘free-flowing’.

Locke distances us from mechanism by hiding in the dark. this leads to theories on where thought happens, is it linked to sight?

is Vermeer implying the camera obscura in pictures? [p44-45] because they are inside looking at things relevant to the title of the work?

Descartes suggests using a dead eye as a lens, so sight is again separate from the individual, then how do 2 eyes create 1 vision?

Leibniz theorising that obscura was to localised a point to be anything other than fragmented and de-centralised.

flattening the landscape with a single point of view, a cone.

it doesn’t matter which external experience of the view you refer to, its a neat understandable view you are presented with on a wall, the memory is of less importance than the act of looking.

Berekley categorises sight as different from the other senses, not sure his example works independent of touch or because of it? [p58]

however, sight is linked to touch in many of these theories, Dierot theory on touch based on a blindfolded man over someone without sight, so reference to touch or seeing through touch?

end of the chapter is about how touch was bound up in observation. later artists could only have the view they had because of the work earlier in the century to define observation.

Chapter 3

Goethe observed the left vision after the light was taken away, ‘As the eye, such the object’ (p70) meaning we see what we can understand we see potentially over what is actually in front of us.

Now we have investigation into observing and sight, Goethe calls for a dark room or closed eye to help gain knowledge of how the individual being experimented upon perceives light and colour.

Maine de Biran proposed that as we get tired we perceive colours differently, that observing was not the passive act it had previously been thought to be.

Schopenhauer went on to state colour was physical and chemical perception he and Goethe thought secondary (based on how we sense something, see, smell, taste, touch, hear) qualities were more important than primary (things that are actual, the object is a pyramid). Schopenhauer said that given colour was something we perceived when our eyes where shut, that ‘”what occurs on the brain’ is wrongly attributed to what is happening outside of it.

1800-50 saw the cataloging of our physiology that became the backbone of our understanding of us. 5 senses, separation of sensory/motor nerves, different functions areas of the brain

elitist comment on artists and genii finding sight most important because of its “indifference in regards to the will”

Wave theory on light (p86) Fresnel

Muller (p89) nerves were different and could only process 1 type of sensation eg electricity created a different sensation based on were it was applied, to the eye gave light, you could feel it through skin etc.

“experience of light has no necessary connection with any actual light”.

so, we really can’t trust what we see.

Ruskin gets involved here with the “innocence of the eye” Which I understand, creating pictures for me is about a fascination with the accurate recreation, its a joy and an obsession.

Chapter 4

On dealing with the afterimage, Goethe studied ‘subjective visual phenomena such as afterimages no optical illusion, now optical truth.

sensory perception separate from external referent (smell separate from a real odour?)

Our own personal experience of everything cancels out the objectivity of ‘just’ being an observer.

Ampere stated that any perception/understanding blends with one we’ve already had/remembered.

perception is “un suite de differences successives.”

Herbart we don’t intrinsically get the truth of something, we ‘extracts it from an ongoing process involving the collision and merging of ideas.'(p100-101) He also thought this was all bound up in a way of displaying info into young minds to instil discipline and attentiveness.

Dr John Paris thaumatropes. spinning disk relies on afterimage for effect.

Zootropes, phenakistiscopes, all brought about as studying tools based around the observer, not as ideas to look at actual motion. This changes there value.

Because of this innovation and experimentation, the observer moved on from the restricted view of the camera obscura in a darkened room to a mechanical movement that became acceptable and paved the way for the next

Part of the reason the kaleidoscope was invented as a means to produce art in a mechanical fashion creating  a symmetry of pattern and colour that humans could not create as quickly, this was argued by Marx as a trick with mirrors.

Stereoscope. Wheatstone and Brewster wrote extensively on optical afterimages and subjectivity. Stereoscope was also involved in discussions on space, when we start to perceive space etc. study into binocular vision accurately started at this point. How does split image merge? “An effect of the observer’s experience of the differential between two other images.”

stereoscope pictures, Diderot surmised where enough information to recognise the object/place in real life and not gain anything extra from seeing them in the real.

Brewster believed he was disseminating the techniques of illusions to the common man by creating the kaleidoscope and the stereoscope.

Chapter 5

by 1840, it wasn’t a study of vision, but a study of perception.

Turner as an artist stopped using a single point of light to illuminate his pictures. The camera obscura helped with the study of the sun but Turners paintings still put it at the forefront of some of his pictures as an experience that wasn’t possible with the camera.

Turners painting The Angel standing with the sun. which includes a form that isn’t of this word and is as a result not possible to create with the other form , the camera obscura.

Fechner studied sensation and stimulation deciding that there was an odd relation between them and external causes of them.

vision became relocated in the subjectivity of the observer.


Crary, J(1990)Techniques of the observer. First Edition. MIT Press. Massachusetts.


Pt 2 Project 4 Good Taste?

Read the Dick Hebdige essay The Bottom Line on Planet One on pps 99 – 124 of the course reader making your notes in the usual way

A popular magazine in the 80’s had more readership than another more editorial wordy magazine, likened to the Bible because for 2000  years it has lead the debate on what is and isn’t acceptable as the fashionable ‘bible’ of the decade

Hebdige surmises that Ten.8 has less appeal due to its wordy style and the potential readers ‘knowing’ what they will learn before they open up and read.

The face had a much larger readership and plenty of awards, but both were run on a tight budget, the Face appealed to the streetwise and Ten.8 supported the photographic community with facts.

Hebdige describes the two magazines as 2 worlds, one ordered, where the most respect went to the informed written word, where the picture supported the word within a correct theoretical historical context and the other planet where the image/photo in instant information was more important than the word, the words having equal weight to the image. ‘Looking takes precedence over seeing’.

Language ‘supplements the image  by describing the instant it embodies in order to put the image in play in the here and now. ‘Conversion of the now into the new’.

Does Hebdige make a clear distinction between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture?

Yes. He’s explaining the high culture as being the world of Ten.8 and popular now culture as that of the Face.

Ten.8 represented the learned fact backed up by history and knowledge whereas the Face is old news the moment its written, but as long as you are holding a copy (even if the pages are blank and its just a front cover) you represent the embodiment of street credibility.

Popular culture is more of a reaction than a participation.


Whether he does or not, what are his main arguments against what he calls the ‘people of the post’?

‘The Face is not so much as read, as wondered through’ this shows a lack of engagement on the viewer to the text? He also implies a ‘finished’ human with a good education can see through the text and come to the arguments underneath the ‘appearance’. Meanwhile, the distinction between the people of the 2 worlds appears to be that World 2 has a less informed rounded education and as such people of world 1 are as a result, thought of as having an outdated view and education.

The ‘people of the post’ set out to challenge any given view that cannot see itself as grounded in a history of learned knowledge, this results in ‘undermining’ such fundamentals as right and wrong etc. This promotes a world view were different is better than the tried and tested, even if the tried and tested results in less people dying.

This second world of people watch life, it happens around them without them taking part. I think Hebdige sees it more as a dipping a toe into life than experiencing it and questioning it based on a solid education.


Explain what you see as the difference between high and popular culture today.

Popular culture today to me is the Big Brother, X factor reality TV, where we watch what happens on the telly and makes popular the people with nothing attached to a skill, I admire the ones who grasp their 15 minutes and wring it out enough to fund a change of life, but they are few and far between.

Popular culture is promoting a lifestyle attained from doing nothing, when in reality, the You tubers with their own channels are probably pedalling franticly to go not very far and the quick drop from popularity for the latest winner in whatever reality show isn’t spotted by the children thinking they can have it all for no effort.

High culture is the BBC4’s, the long articles backed up by facts not showing in the Daily Mail. It explores and asks questions and you learn from your involvement with it. its the book clubs the talks and exhibitions you have to go to.

Given most of popular culture is found on the pages of our mainstream owned press, I’d have to ask if popular culture is self sustaining or owned by the manufacturers pedalling goods. Damnit I’m turning into a Marxist.

The difference between the two is probably best described by editing, the snappy short clip that doesn’t complete a sentence but looks great, over the full script of dialogue that answers all the questions, even if you have to filter out the bits you don’t want.

In the light of developments in the media and other branches of the arts and culture, which is ascendent today, the First or the Second world? is it flat or round?

I think you can pick which earth you choose to live on, I also think that your education level and those around you decide which one you tune into. I think both worlds exist, one is shallow and unsubstantial and will become distant the moment you start to ask questions, however I agree with Hebdige, over the years education has found its way to many more people, so the prevalence of flat earth is more down to the constant drip drip of advertising telling us how we should be living and feeling, the arrival of Instagram and Facebook as momentary snapshots that completely disregard what’s happening around the edges of a status update. In any given argument, its the one with the most financial backing to shout loudest with the most spin that wins.

Find four or five examples of contemporary culture, the same of ‘high’ round world culture and the same of high referencing popular culture. You might like to see if you can find examples of popular culture referencing high culture.

Contemporary culture this year would include:-

  • An unbelievable number of celebrities dying,  (David Bowie, who has since had an impact on what we listen to and talk about throughout the year)
  • Brexit and immigrants (mass fear and fake statistics people believed),
  • Trump et al(much the same as Brexit).
  • Music includes a load of pop, referencing exes (Taylor swift got in there many times before Little Mix).

High culture referencing popular culture (these are also my high culture suggestions):-

  • I’m not sure were to fit Banksy, he’s popular culture, but there’s thought there, not least in the locations he chooses and the messages he puts out, however we are talking about a graffitti artist, which is anarchic from the start. (which Hebdige mentions as a trait of second world).We can’t look at his education level as its unknown.
  • Jeff Koons is high culture referencing popular culture, he uses the objects we all recognise to make us think, that helps achieving the widest audience. Like the ballon animals (balloon Venus (Magenta) 2010-12 a steel shining statue of a twisted ballon shape reminiscent of a human form).
  • Annie Leibovitz, as a technically knowledgable photographer with the eye for creating an image, I’m placing her as high culture, referencing popular culture, especially with the series of photos based on Disney princes and princesses Disney photos.
  • Sky arts Landscape artist of the year, I was a wildcard this year and it was a really good experience, landscapes aren’t something you generally fight time over when creating (except light)and I had some good conversations with my fellow wildcards. However, is this simple concept of bringing art into an accessible place high art referencing popular culture because its reaching more people in a less wordy way, or is it popular culture referencing high culture because its goal is to elevate someone into the ranks of a well paid commissioned artist?

Popular culture referencing high culture

  • War and peace on BBC1 was popular culture referencing high culture, they shrunk a tome into a series fit for a Sunday night post 9pm audience and slaughtered the competition.

Hebdige, D(1985) The bottom line on planet one: squaring up to the face In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp. 99-124

Leibovitz, A(2011)Disney dream portraits [Accessed 7th December 2016]

Pt 2 Project 3 The society of the spectacle

Read the Guy Debord chapter, Separation Perfected on pps 95 – 98 in the course reader, making your notes in the usual way

1 In modern consumer/production society, everything that has happened becomes a thing that represents it, that party is associated to the photo that reminds you of it, or is he saying a memory?

2 These memories or objects that reconstruct the memories are not linked together so they recreate a portion of what happened rather than a united whole. These objects have a prior life that is the history linked to them. and this is more important than the object, this is the lie. disjointed like this the memories would be different to the reality though?

4 The actual images aren’t the important thing, the reactions and memories of the people surrounding the images are merely curated by the images.

5 I like ‘materially translated’.

an image that has become a world view as a physical  unemotional thing, an actual event in itself to be interpreted on its own merits without the information that went around it?

Weltanschauung- world view

6 this object that personifies a memory is an unreal representation constructed by society for a purpose of furthering current social ideals, its made with socially acceptable mediums to socially acceptable ideals.

8 you cannot see how the object differs from reality because it has been made within the confines of the current society, both in the method and philosophy it is created and in what it portrays.

12 because the object exists and it can’t be changed in its existence, it is a fact and original I think this paragraph is merely showing the paradox of a fact being accepted?

15 society is an object based thing that self perpetuates based on its objects, this I think links in quite nicely with reality tv making stars without effort based on the spectacle of their lives and this being acceptable in the current time.

16 we are slaves to materialism based on these socially self-perpetuating visions. we all try to keep up with the joneses because the tv advertises things that we buy?

18 the object doesn’t answer back, its a monologue.

19 its a dumbing down of society because it doesn’t allow debate.

20 its not that these objects have killed off religion, its more that they’ve embodied themselves with this power, instead of using belief as the get out clause as to why things happen, the object has taken on this role? (not convinced of this argument)

24 the object hides the fact that all the faults within the society are observable within the object (until the object is viewed as history, look at 1970’s tv shows us that) the object proves the class system because it separates the people who watch from the people who direct content.

34 The background noise about a thing becomes the thing as its all you can hear.

Weltanschauung – a comprehensive philosophy or world view?

In his writing I think Debord is suggesting that Weltanschauung is a philosophy whereby society is responsible for the medium and content and the content is reflecting a part of society?

What do you think Debord means by the spectacle?

I think he is referring to what is seen rather than how it is seen, the photos, tv programmes, films. The newspaper stories, internet content and adverts. the social constructs around this object/event are what and how it will be interpreted, however the spectacle is the selection of memories that are open for interpretation.

The book was written in 1967. Has the passage of time confirmed or contradicted Debord’s view?

I’d say confirmed, as I pointed out in my notes, looking back at what we have created previously shows that society decides what is acceptable much like the generation after will point at our history and pull it apart (operation yew tree is the current example for this).

Does his view that we “see the world by means of various specialised mediations” mean that we are having our view of the world controlled or that we simply don’t know what is propaganda and what is not? 

After the US elections we have just had and our very own Brexit, I’d say that we don’t know what is propaganda and what is not. We get to tune into so many streams of information yet we tend to only aim ourselves at the ones we identify with to start with, so the amount we read into this info is limited from the start. However, in the 1960’s we had the cold war, communism as a threat and general post-war paranoia that probably means Debord was more likely to be meaning controlled over confusion.

Although modern day propaganda as the spewing forth of heavily edited recordings of past events (even reality TV) relies heavily on hearing as well as sight. Touch being well and truly removed.

Reification is the process of viewing the abstract as real (have a look at what Marx has to say on the subject); is the spectacle viewing the real as abstract or an extreme reification?

I looked up the Marxist view of reification at the  Marxist International Archive Encyclopedia, it has two elements to focus on, the part where the product of a worker is in effect strengthening certain ways society functions, sort of like a self fulfilling prophecy(?) the second is that after creation, the product of the work is separate from the worker but elements of society are so firmly embedded into the product that we don’t see them.

I’d have to say by either of these views that the spectacle is an extreme reification, it is a product of man and we don’t view objectively often enough, it reflects were our society is at now in a historical context. this includes a lack of abstract thought.

Unless our lack of distance as we view is the abstract with which we are viewing the real?

Debord, G(1967)Separation Perfected In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp. 95-98

Blunden, A. The encyclopaedia of Marxism: reification [accessed 3rd Dec 2016]


Situationist International

Situationist International

We are asked to look online at the Situationist movement with a suggestion to start at the     Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University centre for Digital Discourse and Culture

The situationists  appeared after previous movements failed before it with twists on the same ideal.

The forerunning Dada and Surrealist movements failed to gain enough momentum to break away from their links to preconceptions on beauty and art, or to finish the thought and create the pictures.

The Situationists, as a group formed in Paris in 1957. In their anti-authoritarian Marxist views believing that art should be created as a collective thing by all the people, that there was a place for cultural practise every day. However all the people were stuck in outmoded beliefs and therefore needed guidance from artists who were themselves free of the shackles of the past and worked for no overlord ideals of art and beauty.  The artwork in this time is different, its not trying to be beautiful, however it is quite forceful Asger Jorn’s oil painting, Letter to my Son (1956-7) is a large representation of childlike drawing which up until this point would not have graced a gallery, it has impact as a covered wall thats nearly 1.5x2m in size in faces. None of which appear to be smiling.

Essentially, on top of getting a skill and performing as part of a society, the surrealists  (who had families and skills that paid the bills, as writers, ceramistists etc) shunned social order and rebelled. In inciting everyone else to do so, they represented a problem. Their ideals were a key part in civil unrest in Paris in 1968 and they slowly disbanded over the next 4 years. The movement could not have enough energy to move on if the body of the people behind the head of it where not as free in time or as affluent.

Pierre Bourdieu wrote

“In conferring upon photography a guarantee of realism, society is merely confirming itself in the tautological certainty that an image of the real which is true to its representation of objectivity is really objective.”

I think this is more of a question really. Bourdieu answers it later on in the essay by saying that society has decided a photo has been taken independent of emotion and social impact, he did not believe that society is itself objective. Its always squewed in one way or another be it matriarchal or patriarchal, a religious society and/or a well educated bunch, society has ideals it aims to live up to and a plan. therefore the importance of a subject will have a greater effect on the photos taken as they would be the ones viewed over other ‘irrelevant’ content.

Do I agree with it?

He may have a point here. The photos with the most likes speak to the most people, or society, does this not then propagate more pictures of the same content? same visual appearance?

Not content with that, photoshop has made a mockery of the sentence by allowing the ‘real’ photo to be as manipulated as the ideas in a painting.

References html [Accessed 13th November 2016]

Asger, J(c.1950)Letter to my son [Oil painting on canvas] Tate. Available from: [Accessed 13th November 2016]


Part 2 Project 2 Barbarous Taste

We are asked to read an essay by Pierre Bourdieu from the course reader called ‘The social Definition of photography’.

Whether or not you are totally convinced by the argument, do you see ways in which his arguments could be applied to some of the more contemporary forms of visual artistic expression – performance, video and instillation art for example?

The essay has several points;-

  • Photography as a new medium was automatically used to create images in the same style as paintings had been done for hundreds of years,
  • It is seen as the authentic reproducer of nature and the natural because it copies it so well and is unemotional. The last paragraph in this section was difficult to unravel, I asked someone with a masters in English to translate and their notes turned it into a question which helped clarify it for me, so I think its is the unemotional factual depiction of the real really unemotional and factual? which it can’t be because someone has decided to create the record at that time and they have a purpose in making that recording. There is always an agenda whether it is perceived or not.
  • Its inability to create beyond a single depth hasn’t led to another way of constructing an image.
  • Because it is so easy to take a picture that a ‘peasant’ could do it it has a lesser value than if an artist had created it.
  • Each picture is a construct of a socially pre-defined  situation with the individuals in it positioned in a pose that does not break away from the way pictures like this are always taken (although I’d argue this is is incorrect, the pose is a thing that changes with the generations, thus the duck faced selfie is now the accepted norm but must have been new at some point) also, doesn’t this contradict the use of photography to take images of the natural as naturally as it can? The act of posing as the essay states, is deeply un-natural.
  • The pose is then discussed as a means to convey the subject to the viewer, served up in an uncomfortable face on way that makes you self-conscious of how you look, obviously I am a peasant, because I hate having my photo taken and am body conscious (thanks for that Bourdieu).
  • This leads to the wrongful representation of society, if the hierarchy of a positioning within a group photo is defined by society, this area has merits, a family shot is taken with the parents in a position of overriding importance, either guarding their children or seated in the most important spot, while this may convey the relationships within the family, it doesn’t state the strengths of all the individuals within that unit.
  • Not all photos are relevant to everyone, which is true, we pick and choose which images catch our eye as they stream past on Facebook, it is also what allows us to admit that not all pieces in a gallery are appealing. But could it be they have been chosen incorrectly based on universal likes versus personal more limited likes? In which case is the curator wrong for including it or merely trying to open our eyes to something else?
  • Taking photos for aesthetic purposes devalues them, the argument is a bit hazy here, but I think its to do with the purpose of photos really being to increase the value of the object/people in the photo, so by creating a photo purely because its a nice picture means it doesn’t fit into a category, it has no story explaining itself, its disconnected.
  • photos values are based on  societies views on the value of the subject, the photo is reviewed by a different hierarchy within these groups, so society is deciding what photos we take.
  • He ends by saying that having grouped photos by class, can they not then show the sociology of the group that produced them, isn’t that a direct depiction of the culture? So you can get a true indication of society from photos, because society dictated what was acceptable to put in a picture?


I can see his point, the value of something that hasn’t taken a huge amount of energy that was completed with a medium that -as automated as it is- means even less effort by the creator, could be conceived as less than if the artist had studied a medium for years and the picture/sculpture took years to create. Having said that, the modern artist could potentially have still spent a grand amount of time learning how to pose the viewer, complete the idea in the plot and production values to give the piece its emotive effect/value.

Bourdieu’s attitude seems (like Benjamin, possibly a bit scared of the unknown future) a touch elitist and also ignorant of the fact that with modern installation art and the likes, by using the media as art to question what we see, maybe it is being used in away that isn’t traditional and conforming to the socially acceptable way of representing the world, my viewing of British art at Southampton gallery included a piece by Lawrence Abu Hamdan (A convention of tiny movements, 2015) that showed how we don’t need microphones because household items can be made into them, with a crisp packet being the most acoustically similar to how we hear through modern microphones. The piece as a wall sized poster picture of a supermarket next to a chair with a box of tissues on it that you could sit at and listen to a voice from, made its point about modern technology and a potential layer of paranoia, really well.

However, as a created piece, it didn’t consist of much. The picture was a black and white image of the shelves in an elevated view so several rows of shelves were visible. Some of the items on the shelves were in colour, the information written in a note on the adjacent wall stated that the coloured items where what had been found to have listening qualities so far and explained the message clearly.

The table and chairs didn’t seem to be bespoke and the electronics involved also didn’t strike me as expensive or complex, in fact most of the premiss of the piece was from information the artist had arrived at through an engineer.

But I still got something out of it, either as a knowledge that we far from understand everything, and that we will arrive at a point where if someone wants to find out about something, the chances are there will be an inconspicuous way for them to achieve it, which gave me a sense of discomfort as much as it intrigued me with its findings. So I’m not about to devalue it because it probably didn’t take him 6 months of morning till night work to complete.

Subscribing it as a socially accepted image as an installation piece is incongruous to the knowledge that it was constructed to go into a gallery, not on a wall in a private abode, and as John Berger wrote at the start of ways of seeing, most people who go to galleries are of a higher education level, which is I believe still  mostly a class based attainment, so the peasants are not seeing the easy art anyway. The argument doesn’t fit the art.

Is it devalued because it is a social construct and not an objective item? One of the other students on the visit to the gallery pointed out that the background of the artists who’s work is shown in British art show 8 had an impact on the mediums used, and content of images,Lawrence Abu Hamdan, in this instance is from Beirut, his work as a result of this is not a floaty landscape or a comfortable piece about recycling.

Also, if I reach a point where my art sells, does it mean I have a better grasp of what is a universally acceptable image so that a gallery will pick it to show? or individual personal one that speaks loudest to someone so they want it on their wall and are prepared to pay?


Bourdieu, P(1965)The social definition of photography. In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp. 162-180

Hamdan, LA(2016)A convention of tiny movements, 2015. [Audio, tissue box and print] British art show 8. Southampton gallery


Pt 2 Project 1 The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction

We are asked to read an essay by Walter Benjamin, originally published in 1936 and still as relevant today.

How does he state his case fort the removal of art’s elite nature?

Walter states that the work of art is depreciated by its replication and as the image of the cathedral can be brought into the living room, or the choral music be listened to away from the place it was recorded, it has less value and is accessible to many more. This demystification through replication had for Walter a huge effect on the value of the work. He couldn’t have fore-sawn the increases in technology that mean our sound systems could replicate the recorded acoustics of a space without the crackle of the phonograph or that ultra HD would bring in sweeping views of a cathedral that you couldn’t reach in a pre drone- pre floodlit cathedral era.

He attributed art as having either cult value or exhibition value, cult value meaning the work wasn’t for public consumption and was for ritualistic purposes although this had different meanings to the different viewers of the work throughout the ages, the statues of the greek gods not having the same significance to the Christian victorians etc.

However he points out that the oft repeated photo won’t have the same authenticity as the original due to it having relevance in its time and a history of care and ownership that has accompanied it to this point. I can’t help feeling that his attitude is a touch aloof though, almost as if the reduced value of the reproduced is about right for the masses.

What do you make of his ideas of the ‘aura’ of the work?

The Aura is linked to the objects point in history, the work, ie a point in time where you see the sun through the autumn coloured leaves, is un reproducible as the moment will pass, the things that make your viewing of the object the thing you remember, will not happen in those circumstances again, in this Walter is correct it is water under the bridge, he also links an aura to the history an object has accrued, the dust and patina of age, which is lacking in an easily reproduced thing, however I’m not convinced it takes away from the objects authenticity as a thing potentially wanted by someone, it lessens its value because its distanced from the origin and probably the person who originally came up with it, but we have already distanced ourselves by not creating it as a one off painting anyway. It is now a more accessible thing because its more affordable, like prints of a painting, who are we to judge if a thing has such a reduced value though if its reproduction is of a good enough quality to mimic the original satisfactorily in someones home.

Does the improvement in the methods of reproduction, colour printing, digital imaging and television, strengthen or weaken his case?

Walters case has an element of truth regarding value, however, multiple copies have a value too, listening rights on radio means a composer will gain every time a piece of music is used, so potentially over a lifetime the same amount as the cost of a private performance even if the experience is a slightly de-valued version without the emotion of the experience of being at the concert. However, as an entry point to engender interest in an artist, the reproduced is accessible and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Does the failure of the soviet experiment alter the validity or otherwise of this case?

Communism as a method of dissemination of assets fails because someone always wants more than the next person. Walter’s suggestion on the devaluing of the easily reproduced does not take into account the media and the strength of imagery in holding people in a set pattern of behaviour or the fact that easy access to world news gives them the means to see another future contrary to the person in charge at the time, this is a power that is a value of its own that Walter could not have foreseen. In this context, the value of images changes somewhat.

On John Bergers first essay in ‘Ways of seeing’

Do you find his case convincing?

Yes, value and meaning change immensly as the original work is seen out of context and out of time, Bergers argument for Aura is more powerful than Walters because his examples are strong. His case being that the item has many meanings, seen by many people in many locations and that value is created by an elite educated few who both review the art and purchase it, also that in reviewing within the reviewers agenda the work cannot hope to represent in writing what its initial point was and that the writing can and does sway how we think and feel towards it.

Do you think that a work of art removed from its original site grows or dimineshes in meaning?

I think its meaning changes, the point in time it was created for has gone, potentially the people with those beliefs and lives are gone so we cannot access the art for the same reasons or purposes, however, we can make an informed decision to look at the art out of situ. We will of course always be viewing it through the eyes of the curator, they will have decided the setting, the objects to the left and the right, the cost of entry and the arts perceived value, but we can get something out of it.

Does familiarity breed contempt?

I think it can breed contempt for the people who are outside the scene and that is why the language around art is so tough to understand as its a bit far up its own bottom. I have a deep distrust for a work of art that takes 500 words next to it to explain…

Has Benjamins Aura been replaced by the postcard?

The postcard is a memory of a point in time where you saw something you could not afford to have in your life. It represents a part of the Aura of the original thing, it disseminates the aura further around the globe, it propagates it, but it isn’t the aura on its own. Also, a postcard is as inadequate at showing a sculpture as a moving image, whilst its showing a point in time that is felt to be as perfect a rendition as can be achieved, the external senses and dimensions are lacking.


Benjamin, W(1936) The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction In: Visual culture reader, Jessica Evans, Stuart Hall. London. Visual culture reader. pp. 72-79

Berger, J(1972)Ways of seeing, Penguin Books LTD, London