Assignment 4: Rewritten following feedback

Following feedback, I have taken the suggestions Wendy made and rewritten sections, as well as taken out references which might underpin the argument – but due to space needed to be condensed into much simpler and shorter ideas. I think it is clearer now. (draft version for now)

Assignment 4 Self & Other Rewritten (2) following feedback

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Feedback: Assignment 4

In summary, the feedback I received from Wendy was that I had very good ideas but needed to distill the essay as it covered too much in 2500 words, which I think I probably knew. So I will spend the next few days relooking at it along with the artists that were mentioned.

Sarah-Jane Feild_assn_4_S_&_O_photography tutor report form

We also looked at various ideas I have for A5 and Wendy suggested looking at some related artists, also listed in the feedback above.

Assignment 4: Critical Essay

We were given a choice of questions mostly focused on photography and self. I requested to change the essay title and was given permission. My justification is in the reflection at the end.

 Discuss the blurring of self and other within the work of one or more visual artists of your choosing

Assignment 4 Self & Other web version

 

 

A4: Essay plan and ideas

For A4 we are required to write an essay. Two questions which I am considering from A4 are

  • What is your understanding of self and what bearing does your personal use of photography have upon it? Or

  • Discuss the blurring of self and other within the work of a photographer of our choosing.

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If I focus on the first of those questions I will invariably cover some aspects of the second based on what I have learned from my reading and may then refer to any artists as examples.

I managed to summarise, extremely briefly, some ideas I will try to bring together in a reply to Teresa Lanham when chatting to her online about her own course. Here is a marginally longer version of what I wrote:

I aim to include ideas from writers such as Julian Baggini who I quote a lot, and who writes about the illusion of a fixed self. He brings ideas and research together to describe an illusion that emerges from a bundle of mechanisms in order for us to function, to get from A to B, to feed ourselves, etc. Carlo Rovelli is a physicist who redefines reality and explains it as a network, which is a word that is very current and used to describe the digital age as well – which in itself affects the way we perceive selves and others. I have quoted him often recently as he’s so infectious with his enthusiasm as a writer it is hard not to. I LOVE this quote: “The nature of man is not his internal structure but the network of personal, familial and social interaction with which he exists. It is these which ‘make’ us, which guard us. As humans, we are that which others know of us, that which we know of ourselves, and that which others know about our knowledge. We are complex nodes in a rich web of reciprocal information”. “Reality is Not What It Seems” (2016; p227)

I will somehow need to bring some art crit recognisable names in, and I think Barthes’ Death of An Author is relevant since he explores the idea of a disintegrating sense of ‘fixedness’ in our language, explored in art through appropriation and fragmentation from Dada onwards. Hirsh’s Family Frames looks at Lacan’s image screen which is certainly worth looking at – Unconcious Optics (chapter 4).

Quanta mechanics  – quanta computing leads to greater possibility for post-language  – already we have experiments and early models of this – see discussed in UVC A5 -“Facebook (Sabin, 2017) and Elon Musk (Chen, 2017) are both experimenting with digitally transferred thoughts between people using software” pg 13. Resource and links to further info here: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-quantum-physics?ocid=ww.social.link.email If this happens where does self and other start and begin, what happens to notions of absence and presence?

This is a quote from my UVC A5 (2017). I am going to look into this a bit more:

“Lately, scholars, according to Amanda Bell of The Chicago School of Media have been looking ‘beyond binaried distinctions’ due to human integration with technology. She quotes Katherine Hayles, author of How We Became Post Human (1999), who says, in a paradigm where there is an integrated interface between humans and technology, “…there is no difference between computer simulation and corporeal existence”.

How does this affect my photography… I can discuss Lacan image screen if necessary as far as portraiture goes but I am more interested in the sort of work I am aiming to make going forward which is about this, in the first instance because technology is of course very interesting as we humans come to terms with it. But beneath the surface of all of that is another interest: The enmeshment of two people in an unhealthy relationship – no technology needed at all and yet it happens. How does someone with narcissistic traits manage to envelop an other and infiltrate his/her person; how does the person being enveloped stop his or herself from doing this? We describe people in relationships as ‘your other half’ and it is usual for people to become a unit especially when they are together in a good enough relationship. And in fact as mothers we do something very similar in order to care for our children – this article describes the neurobiology of love for a partner and a child and says: “It is noteworthy, from the point of view of ‘‘unity-in-love’’, that one feature of mentalizing in terms of the ‘theory of mind’ is to distinguish between self and others, with the potential of ascribing different sets of beliefs and de-sires to others and to oneself. To obtain an imagined ‘‘unity-in-love’’, so that the self and the other are merged, this process of mentalizing, and thus distinguishing between self and the other, must be rendered inactive.” (2017, pg 2577) https://www.academia.edu/35444202/The_neurobiology_of_love?auto=download&campaign=weekly_digest 

If nothing else this article shows us how the brain must operate in order to recognize the difference between “I” and “You”. E (nearly 14) mixed up I and you when he was a toddler. He spoke early, before his peers, before Lacan’s mirror image process had been resolved. “You want I to read”, he would say. The above process seems like it was immature to the point of muddling, in his language, at any rate, any sense of separation. 

To read or reread:

Death of An Author 

Katherine Hayles, author of How We Became Post Human (1999)

Lacan – image screen in Hirsh’s Family Frames and elsewhere

…as well as the links above

 

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Please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Your essay must be situated within a theoretical framework. It is suggested that you draw from the essays, theories and books outlined within this course.
  • Your essay should be 2,500 words, +/- 10% excluding quotes
  • Include a cover page with the title and a word count, including and excluding quotations and any footnotes.
  • Include examples to illustrate your discussion and list your sources in a list of illustrations at the front of your essay.
  • Your essay should be fully referenced and include a bibliography and the end. Follow the guide to academic referencing on the student website
  • Your essay should be in a standard font and 1.5 or double-lined spaced.
  • You may include additional material (primary research, correspondence) with appendices at the end if you wish.

Notes: A3 & A4 Blurring of Self and Other

  • A key concern in today’s social climate is difference as people focus on religion, skin colour, language, place of birth – as resources seem under threat due to climate change, resulting wars, economic struggles etc.
  • Similar concerns for economic reasons were seen in the run up to the second world war and with particular reference to the Holocaust (see end of Family Frames)
  • Therefore, any work that potentially deals with similarity, commonality between individuals and groups is political, even if it doesn’t immediately seem so
  • Research – perhaps post-war work (Giacometti, think of others that specifically deal with humanity) and work today that is attempting to explore difference, identity
  • What are potential objections to such a project (and they do indeed come from both left and right ideologies)?
  • Perhaps look at colonialism (heavily explored in course document in parts 1 and 2)
  • First person action research – living life as an inquiry? How to incorporate this? How to make this clear? How this affects what I’m looking at and how? Why this approach?
  • Ever since Darwin told the world about evolution (and even before that when we learned the earth was not the centre of the universe) white western man has been faced with coming to terms that the triangle of being is/was an unreliable and constructed dichotomy. Modern scientific theories go much further and reality is looked afresh, resulting in fundamental questions about what a self is, and therefore how other relate. Semiotics – essentially the study of linguistic categorisation might show us this flux
  • What artists are looking at this? And how?

A3 & A4 thoughts and reflection

A3 Assignment:

The readings, research and exercises should have led you to think about self portraiture in a variety of ways. Some practitioners deliberately play with ideas of fluidity and multiple selves, whilst still being anchored to a nominal self. Selfies, often used as self promotion, are intimately linked to their intended audience.

Create a series of six images of ‘you’ that show different ‘selves’.

Again, I am thinking ahead to the work I may explore in the next assignment. (Probably because, although I have to pull the work together for A2 and submit it online/to my tutor, I have in effect done it all. I will not post it however until after the Nexus exhibition has opened as I don’t want to pre-empt our collective work.)

I have yet to work through the exercise for section 3 but having flicked through it briefly I think I can see myself doing something that explores a subject which is fairly topical at the moment. The scales seem to have finally slipped from society’s eyes in terms of gender dynamics, as Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour went on public record and the resulting discourse, exemplified in the #metoo trend on social media, ensued.

I have not written #metoo on social media. I support any person who has done, but I feel strongly the responsibility for outing this behaviour does not lie with me or any one who has had to deal with any form of abusive, threatening behaviour. Predatory types should  stop doing it. My Girlhood project started as an exploration of the issues as I learned about various strands of Structuralist Theory during UVC, and I am returning to that as a starting point.

In addition, the following statement on Twitter accurately states what is not being said enough: “It’s in the express interest of capitalism to keep women striving to be objects and men striving to attain them.” (Kling, 2017) And although I have little sympathy for predators of any description, I think it behoves us to consider the context in which such behaviour is fostered.

I was tempted to post a photograph I took of an avert on the Underground here, but after several weeks of careful consideration have decided I won’t. This is not something which can be solved easily or simply.  I don’t see the value of disseminating the image further;  it’s such a good example of what needs to be addressed, however, so I will describe it below as I viewed and interpreted it. Another reason for not posting it here is that doing so somehow implies a type of moral judgement towards individuals about whom I know nothing, including the woman in the advert, potentially shaming her rather than the system in which such an advert is possible. (I’m certainly in no position to make moral judgments about others in relation to this – and why would I want to anyway?) By posting it here, I also potentially pass judgment on the many, many young women who respond to the advert, and others like it by emulating the core connotations in their own selfies. And I absolutely I do not wish to do that. To post the photograph somewhere more public than here, addressing the advertising company, would be even worse, and in the case of Twitter, reducing the key points I wish to explore in my work into simplistic moral absolutes that fit into a small number of characters. Bashing people over the head with moral indignation, a sense of sanctimonious superiority is one way of dealing with this perhaps. But I don’t think it’s the most effective, nor do I think it helps long-term (and merely deepens the sense of educated elites vs the rest – which is an oversimplified narrative itself), if only because it leads to unhelpful polarisation. A short-hand language seems to emerge under such circumstances, used to address issues that would possibly be better served using a larger linguistic and ideological repertoire. Bad, good, evil, etc, for example.  And, from what I have witnessed and experienced, people don’t listen either – instead reading a couple of words and then responding defensively to what they think has been said, or what was inexpertly expressed. I do this too in life – it’s a failing of human beings desperate to say their piece, perhaps having only just gained access to a voice (or a platform for one as society has done with social media). Again I do my best not make moral judgment of others or myself – merely notice. Long threads are posted sometimes to overcome some of these problems which begs the questions – are we best placed to used a platform that is structurally and inherently reductive, and combative, to address critical issues? (This trend with language is something I have been watching for a while and may well return to in later work, as I discussed in earlier posts, again without moral judgement if at all possible. We humans are as I have said before, peculiar little critters that function according to the world in which we live. Nevertheless, words are a key interest of mine and language informed by our use of social media a significant aspect, which seems to me an extension of what I am discussing here on some level – a patriarchal capitalist structure that informs everything.)

Back to the advert I mentioned: it promotes a clothing brand and well-known department store which sells everyday fashion,  cosmetics, and homeware. A young adult woman, heavily made up, is wearing black trousers, a red crop top and black heels. She leans against the wall behind her so her bum is sticking out and she stares alluringly out at the viewer. Her stance makes her look as if she has something up her rear end – I don’t quite know how else to describe it without medicalising my language. I had to ask my friends if I was imagining it because it seemed such a ludicrous position for her to be in, which is why I took the photograph in the first place. I searched up other images in the same campaign. There was one where a women was positioned so her bottom was sort of sticking out as she turned towards us, invitingly, with the ubiquitous open mouth we see so often in this sort of advertising. Remember, in the advert we are ostensibly being sold clothing, but in fact – as the Twitter quote above says, it is the system ‘striving’ to tell young women what they need to be within the system in order for it to keep functioning. This particular set of images seemed more overtly sexualised than most.

The following draft is an excerpt from a longer piece I have written, which I will return to as a prompt for further work in A3.

I am a faulty product. I’m not sure it’s anyone’s fault per se. The therapists have long blamed the mother. And certainly, it looks like a fairly straightforward open and shut case. Harsh relating, followed by physical abandonment. However, it would seem she’s a faulty product too, so can one really ‘blame’ her, as it were. Under the circumstances, perhaps she did her very best.

Whose fault is it really when such manufacturing of a type goes awry? Do we blame society? If so, who in society takes the fall? Who is responsible? The mother, they say! The mother, the mother, the mother. The therapists have spent years saying so. When will you own your rage with the mother?

One can see I was given the right formatting instructions from time to time, thanks to the father: Wear these coloured tights, they’re so feminine. Look, there goes a genuine real-live princess who wears them too. Why won’t you wear the coloured tights? What’s wrong with you? Oh dear, I think now, it must have been hard work, formatting me. Or; it’s a shame your hair isn’t like hers, isn’t it? It’s a bloody bird’s nest! Cut it all off; I like it this way or that way, he would say. Not your way. And, if only you were tall and thin and blonde, like that sexy little thing over there, yes, your best friend, the 14-year-old. She was not a faulty product at all. A shining example of manufactured excellence. Can the father with his dangerous comments and looks be blamed? The father made promises because he was  meant to be the provider, and so that was what he should do: I promise to send you to the best drama school. When you grow up, I was told, you will be …You will be famous. I was given all the books we could find, books filled with images of famous female faces from the very beginning of time. We flick through the pages. Oh yes, that one; she was a naughty girl, you could be like her, I was told. This one here, she was quite mad, a man eater by all accounts. Or here, she was a terribly diffcult woman. Will you be like her perhaps? There are many options to choose from… lots of blondes, brunettes too. Made-up, lit a certain way, and so-called beautiful. I had so many choices. So many models to internalise. Hester in The Deep Blue Sea appealed, as did Scarlet O Hara… Oh,  Rhett! Susan in Plenty was a favourite. The list goes on. Should we blame the father in that case? The father who died penniless and broken and lost, utterly unable to function his entire life.

My period didn’t arrive until much later than most. I starved myself as many do. My body was too short, too incorrectly proportioned, where were my breasts? I felt like Rumpletstilskin, not the princess; angry and deeply wronged. Promises were made. They never arrived at all. Eventually though, I did begin to bleed. And so I would always have been faulty, it would seem, no matter what we did. The mother, the father, or me.

Kris Kraus’ I Love Dick (1994) might be another influence. The book’s letter format is powerful and reminds me of something I wrote after my divorce, where I addressed the entire scribe to ‘You’.  I also enjoy the way book breaks with traditional narrative structures in many ways, and utterly breaks from how a woman ought to behave and be seen. It’s an expression that attempts and succeeds in going beyond previously entrenched forms, in particular the form of the feminine, even if at times it risks inviting (perhaps predictable) ‘Cassandra’-like accusations. Episode 5 of the TV production (Amazon, 2017) is perhaps the most effective in the series, and something to return to too. I don’t wish to fix anything yet (reading this sentence back I was amused as I considered a different meaning of the word fix – i.e to mend) but am remaining fairly open minded about how I might develop all these ideas. I have some section 2 exercises to complete and so have a little time before amebarking on A3.

 

Refs: All accessed 22 October 2017 

Kraus, C. (1997). I Love Dick, Kindle Edition. 2nd ed. US: Tuskar Rock,.

Field, SJ. (2016) Girlhood (Photography) https://www.sarahjanefield.com/index/G00009CMzWAe8XwU

https://twitter.com/benkling/status/919945496784986113

Research: Useful links

 

Thinking forward to A4:

Write a critical essay in response to ONE of the following questions:

  • What is your understanding of self and what bearing does your personal use of photography have upon it?
  • How does the visual work of Rosy Martin, informed by psychotherapeutic theory, link personal memory to the construction of self?
  • Discuss the blurring of self and other within the work of a photographer of your choosing
  • What are the dangers in representing people other than your-self?
  • Using case studies, discuss whether single images can ever fairly represent others or self?
  • Your essay must be situated within a theoretical framework. It is suggested that you draw from the essays, theories and books outlined within this course.

I am likely to write about something to do with the word ‘feminism’, and collecting information which might be useful here. This will tie in with the work I plan for A3, which in some ways leads on from A2 and much of the work I have done prior to starting S&O. I am interested in the phrase the ‘digital feminist’. I suspect I can link this to the single image question above quite neatly. As well as some of the essays we are asked to look at in the course it will be useful to research elsewhere. Below are a couple of useful bits and pieces I have come across online recently. I will also interview a young  girl I have photographed, who models and received several A*, has a place at university which she has deferred and who thinks of herself as a feminist.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/new-look-t-shirt-fad-diets-juicing-doughnuts-shop-clothing-retail-a8006361.html

Thread about capital and sex: https://twitter.com/benkling/status/919668233149526018

And:

http://bust.com/feminism/9982-digital-feminism-a-new-frontier.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/19/liberal-men-feminism-harvey-weinstein

A possible influence image wise – http://www.kimberlywitham.com/kimberly_witham/and_some_in_dreams.html

Myths surrounding matriarchial goddess prehistory  – http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/e/eller-myth.html

See reports of ape’s finding symbols useful to distance themselves from low impulse control but be wary of lack of rigorous research methods as  – below for accurate reporting of various research programmes.

https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/1959055/mod_resource/content/1/Non-human%20primates%20and%20language_%20Belsack%20et%20al%201999.pdf

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/08/koko_kanzi_and_ape_language_research_criticism_of_working_conditions_and.html