Category Archives: UVS1 Part 1

Pt 1 project 6 leisure time and consumerism flanner

Khan Academy’s website draws a link with Manet and the  picture of people at The Tuileries and the work of Baudelaire. The people are looking and sitting and watching, taking on the the attitude of the flaneur, that is someone who has enough money and leisure time to walk and watch the world go past. In this instance of the artist its remarked that it is the Flaneur who is the observer watching but not necessarily participating. khanacademy manet-music-in-the-tuileries-gardens

We are asked to make notes on the phenomenon of the flaneur and what thinkers like Walter Benjamin thought of them, Walter Benjamin and the arcade project edited by Beatrice Hanson puts the onus on the Flaneur to be watching so as to make a sale, the Flaneur has the free time, the money and some political awareness or ideas that they wish to trade almost like currency so coffee shops, City Parks Galleries, places where you can congregate with others and talk. The influence of the shopping arcade as the forerunner of the department store, just as a place to go to get out of the house even if the weather is bad. In this book Benjamin compares “flaneurs, prostitutes and labourers; the mind on sale matches the body for sale as tart or as wage slave”. He suggests “the shelf-life of the flaneur is limited he will have, in time, to scrape a living and scrap his illusions”. Doesn’t bode well for my scratched at future career as an artist then, does it?!?

The space and time to move ideas between people had a major impact on the art that was created as well as appreciated by its audience (think Marcel Duchamp’s urinal maybe without the Flaneur it wouldn’t have existed, theres a thought).

So how is the Observer affected? Well in two ways, from Khan academy’s website point of view, the angle the observer is introduced to in the art, take Manet’s painting at the Tuileries, you aren’t centred on the action. Also with more free time, galleries and spaces where art is displayed become available to fill free time this means a large portion of the general public who had previously had very limited experience of art were now coming to terms with this accessibility, also prevalent in the available technology although I believe this has accelerated over time, the difference in cost between self developing, having the room to do it as well as ownership of equipment/chemicals versus a good phone camera and instagram with a child on the shutter button… As I wrote of this in the first part of the project, I will leave this here.


Hanson, B (2006) Walter Benjamin and the arcade projects. First editionNew York. Continuum International Publishing Group. (accessed 27 September 2016)



Pt 1 Project 6 Photography the new realism

Do you think that Brik’s article points to a practise that was taken up by photographers or other artists to any great extent. Also Do you find any resonances with Briks ideas in contemporary discussions of photography and painting.

Brik argues that photographers where still trying to create photos that had the studied pleasing effect of a painting and that overall they weren’t embracing the potential of photos of life happening and captured in the now. I see his point, the Ansel Addams photos are works of art in framing the subject and drawing the eye to that which the photographer want to in much the same way that a painting does, but to say its quick kind of belies the time in the darkroom burning in and shielding elements of the paper from the light of the negative. Chemical photography can be manipulated, even if its to a smaller scale than photoshop.

To me, the greatest impact is the recording of our history, paintings of historical events tend to put a glossy view on one side or the other and its difficult to achieve that in photographs without just with-holding the ones that show the side you don’t want seen.

Also, some of the most evocative images have had the perfect framing you expect to see on a mighty oil painting in the galleries, take the photo of St Pauls cathedral rising above the smoke and shells of homes in the foreground. I used that photo as the focal point for a year 6 painted play backdrop at the end of 2015, its a recognisable symbol of the devastating effects of the war and the hope that kept the nation going, however, it was a fleeting image that didn’t look the same the day before or after and the photo has the value of being a unique and accurate moment in time in the way that a painting really can’t be. However is Briks assertion that painters say their pictures ‘in which nature is not the subject but merely an initial impetus for ideas’ really such a bad thing if its true? the ambiguity in a painting can lead to more flights of fancy and creative imaginings in the viewer than a photo other than wishing to be there in a more real and recognisable way.

Anyway, the rise of photoshop kind of blows the honesty of the moment out of the water, perfecting the already potentially perfect.

On top of that the fact that the rise in quality of digital photography at the same time as its reduction in cost gives everyone a level playing field on whats possible and has had more impact on photography than I think photography had on painting. Whilst you generally have to study to get good enough at painting to put your pictures on a wall, anyone pointing a camera at the right spot at the right moment and let the technology do its programmed thing, can have a chance at capturing the photo that travels around the world in either the press or social media.

As Jonathon Jones wrote in the Guardian 13th Nov 2014 ‘Paintings are made with time and difficulty, material complexity, textural depth, talent and craft, imagination and “mindfulness”. A good painting is a rich and vigorous thing. A photograph, however well lit, however cleverly set it up, only has one layer of content. It is all there on the surface. You see it, you’ve got it. It is absurd to claim this quick fix of light has the same depth, soul, or repays as much looking as a painting by Caravaggio – to take a painter so many photographers emulate.’ I think he said it better than me there.



References [Accessed 27th September 2016] [Accessed 27th September 2016]

Brik, O(1926) Photography versus painting In:Art in theory 1900-2000, Harrison, C. Wood, P. Oxford: Art in theory 1900-2000. pp.470-473



Pt1 project 5 Art as commodity

We are asked to read ‘The fetishism of the commodity’ by Karl Marx (pps 122-123 The visual culture reader second edition edited by Nicholas Mirzoeff -first published 1998- by Rutledge) to help understand the value we place on an object of art.

Can you see ways in which this may help us to understand the art market?

The chapter reminds us that we don’t just place a value on an object based on the sum value of its parts, we ‘view’ it internally as the sum of the man-hours that took to create it and the value we place on the whole market area the product has come from, which in itself helps to define the value of the object too (the craftsmen socialise and discuss what the items value is as well as the customer external to -in reference to the article we’ll use table makers- the table making fraternity).

So the value of art -as a thing pleasing on the eye- has a value which we then add to because we know it took the skill of an artist and we place the skill of that artist highly within the artist community, the object has a social standing as a piece that is almost as physical as the actual piece which has defined its value.

Does the article above go any way to explain the sort of work made by artists such as Jeff Koons?

Koons (1955- date)has an exhibition at the Newport Street gallery this year, as a retrospective of his work from 1979 to 2014, as the gallery puts it  Tracing the development of the artist’s radical reconfiguration of the readymade Koons takes ordinary commercially available inocent items and reproduces them in other materials so you can look at them a different way,

Koons as an artist has created work that appeals to some in the art world and the general public for a few reasons.

1 He is potentially poking holes at the relationship of the object and its social standing in this value argument.

2 Jeff is doing some art with objects that general public know and recognise, so they feel comfortable with it, in the same way that every generation of artists picks up whats at hand to replicate. Even if in the back of the mind the pieces are trying to get you to redefine their value.

3 His work has now achieved a social standing in its own right as art and that could be the reason for its value.


Find some examples of Jeff Koons work and read up on Jeff Koons

Find a couple of examples of artists who work in similar ways to Jeff Koons.

As was made clear for me in ‘The shock of the New  (Robert Hughes for Thames & Hudson), art has included what was available to it forever. As Robert says ‘the industrial revolution began to appear in landscape painting, slowly pushing its way into a fixed aesthetic category of a cultural world’. The next step in this inclusion had to be the imagery in the cities and our homes. Pop art was the fore runner of Koons work, taking that which is commonly available and elavating it, inviting us to take another look at the aesthetic and value. Although Jeff refers (in  Jeff Koons: conversations with Norman Rosenthal) to his art as having a link to time travel, Norman put it as ‘art having a connection to the past while remaining completely in the present.’

his steel shiny balloon animals, originally things created to delight us as children, now oversized, reflecting back the viewer from a height has the effect of changing the items from the benign to more overwhelming and intimidating when up close. However, Thats not the way he perceives them, they hark back to his earlier use of shop bought inflatables which he equates to us as humans because we hold breath and breath and these things are created of breath and air. He likens the “vacuous” inside (of the blow up) to the “vacuous” outside  “The inside and the outside become more , and this gives the viewer a sense of security to feel more open about investigation the external world”.

Its more than that though, he wanted what to him felt like an aspect of self from his work, as he felt that the colours of the inflatables was relevant to him and the mirrors he had been using in his work in the reflections created a heightened sense of sexuality which he wanted to be a step removed from.

Jeff’s work is a step apart from pop art, it was his starting point, he worked with Ed Pascke in the 1970’s and as he says, Ed gave him his sense of the ready made and to look around him where-as Duchamp gave him the thought process and reasoning.

The two artists I have picked as working in the same way as Koons are Paschke  and Warhol. Paschke who like Warhol used Marilyn Monroe, also used such cultural icons as sheakspeare and the Mona Lisa ,branching out into shoes and accordians whereas Warhols use of the mundain concerned much more memorable brands like campbells soup and marmite

The big however in all this is purpose though, Warhol famously created a factory to create art on mass, Paschke didn’t and neither does Koons.  Koons has many reasons between his different series of works however the effect of using people and symbols in this way has probably helped create the same fervour around all three artists.


Marx, K(N.D) The fetishism of the commodity In: The visual culture reader, Nicholas Mirzoeff. Second edition. London. Routledge

Koons, J(2016)Jeff Koons now exhibition: Newport Street Gallery 18 MAY 2016 – 16 OCT 2016 [accessed 26th September 2016]

Rosenthal, N & Koons, J(2014) Jeff Koons conversations with Norman Rosenthal, First edition. Thames and Hudson Ltd. London

Hughes, R(1991) The shock of the new, repreinted 2012. Thames & Hudson. London.Tate (2016) Ri [accessed 18 September 2016]

Pashke, E(2016)Ed Pashke website available here [accessed September 25th 2016]

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



Pt 1 Project 1 Modernist art: the critic speaks

Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) is dissecting modernist art in his essay ‘Modernist Painting’ (Blackwell publishing 2003 reprint edited by Charles Harrison & Paul Wood) This is the later version which was itself a reprint in Art & Literature, Lugano, no.4, spring 1965.

Modernism is a way to create art that doesn’t draw you into a 3 dimensional world you can inhabit so much as understand you are viewing something from the outside. Its basis is scientific over philosophical thus optical review over emotional.

Its a narrowing of a field to exclude techniques to create illusions found in other areas of art i.e. sculpture or theatre and this exclusion is what can lead to abstract images because they no longer need to respond to the traditional laws of painting something you can identify as a 3d object in a defined space.

Its a subtle criticism accumulated over time and the successes of artists before within the movement that refines its position apart from other art movements.

It doesn’t deny that it comes from what came before, however it rejects a lot of the theories that surround previous method of art creation. Whilst criticism lags behind due to it mostly being done by journalists reacting to previous methods while they seek the next zeitgeist.


Greenberg mentions Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) as the ‘first real modernist’ due to his views on self criticism opening the door to the method of modernist assessment of itself. as Greenberg says ‘Kant used logic to establish the limits of logic’. He uses Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Mondrian(1872–1944) as his examples of modernist artists, however his final analysis of Mondrian states ‘that his work is more traditional in its colour, as well as in its subservience to the frame, than the paintings of Monet are’.

As the impressionist movement was a pre-curser to modernism, Greenberg also offers a passing nod to Manet (1832–1883) and Cezanne (1809-1936) to explain their initial flattening of the image by concentrating so purely on colour that shading is not featured, he leeds to the cubists who took it a stage further and flatter than Cimabue (medieval religious artist 1240–1302).

Also mentioned are David (1748-1825) for bringing back a style of sculptural painting in the 18th century and Ingres (1780-1867) his pupil who Greenberg thinks used more colour but created pictures that where ‘the flattest, least sculptural done in the west by a sophisticated artist’. I’d have to disagree here, Ingres picture of the Baroness de Rothschilde is stunning and both the sitter and her beautifully rendered garment come out of the painting.

At one point he refers back to cave painters limitations of image creation on the surfaces they had to create upon and its lack of frame before suggesting modernists were the reason there was a revival in the works of Uccello(1397-1475), Piero(there are 3 15th century artists named Piero, I’m not sure which one he’s refering to) , El Greco(1541-1614), Georges de la tour(1541-1614) and Vemeer(1632-1675), potentially Giotto(1266/7–1337) without lessening the value of Leonardo(1452-1519), Raphael(1483-1520), Titian(1488/1490-1576), Rubens(1577-1640), Rembrandt(1606-1669) or Watteau(1684-1721). Looking back to look forward explains this best.

I don’t get a sense of whether Greenberg likes or dislikes the work he alludes to in this essay, its quite clinically written stating names as reference points over offering whether they were right or wrong or he liked it. As an essay, its given me a clearer idea as to what constitutes modernist, while also blanking it away saying art is going to be art whatever and will continue which is kind of negating itself?

But I suppose that is the influence of modernism being scientific based over all else.


Greenberg, C(1965)Modernist painting In:Art in theory 1900-2000, Harrison, C. Wood, P. Oxford: Art in theory 1900-2000. pp. 773-9