Response to tutor feedback on Part One

Feedback

Peter has given a written report this time, but has suggested a video tutorial next time which sounds like a good idea.

My tutor has suggested that in the very full response I have given to assignment one, there were things which were not relevant to the question at hand. This seems a very fair comment.

To explain my approach to these projects, initially I began to summarise the texts through relatively isolated sentences, and a page number indicating the source page. At the end of the project I tried to summarise my knowledge by answering the questions posed in the OCA handbook.

At this stage I had felt very bogged down by the complexity of the average text in the readers (though this did vary). As I continued to work on the projects, I did not necessarily find them easier to understand, but I began to get better at working hard to understand the text. I was pleased to see just how much I was enjoying and understanding the texts, and a few projects in I was developing a slightly more comprehensive response to them, initially satisfied by added written notes or questions (often in italics to show they were my own).

As I read more of the texts I became a little more polished in my text summary, which developed into prose style and Harvard citations (including page number).  Additionally I started incorporating the many ideas that I was having into the text via extended prose. These  included both ideas of my own, contextual references to similar (or dissimilar) ideas by other thinkers, and (to my surprise) many thoughts about how the texts were written- their clarity, their language, their consistency, or the words and phrases used.

An interesting consequence of this collation was that I became a little better at indicating the different voices within my text through signposting. The main body of the text was simply summarising the author’s ideas (signposted by the text citation), my contextualisation was indicated by citations to other authors, and my own ideas were not subject to citations. I hope over part one that the different voices are becoming more  clear. I have not really thought about that technique much before, but began to experiment after reading The Harvard Guide to Using Sources (2016), and making notes and reflecting on them (see my BLOG – ‘An exercise to improve my use of academic sources’).

To return to my tutor’s comment, I think I’ve tried to enjoy the process of writing my texts, and have slightly taken my eye off the ball with respect to keeping strictly on the question. I hope this will become less of a problem if I concentrate on remaining relevant from now on.

My report has highlighted that finding out the ‘why’ of artist’s work is key, and that no one period or idea contains the right answer. Sometimes the former question seems the most difficult; after all we seldom have an artist’s view on exactly why he produced a particular work. More likely we extrapolate our thoughts about his general ideas, which seems a reasonable technique.

In my projects so far I have tended to use ideas from the essential texts I have read for the projects. It would be useful to try and broaden my use of citations to include other sources that I have looked at on the net, or in wider reading.

During my reading I have tried to keep an open and flexible mind on which articles to cite in relation to the ideas in the project texts. I’ve  followed my intuition in using both the ideas of others (and how they relate to the project text), and also my own ideas.  Indeed one of the exciting things for me has been how many ideas of my own (of course no idea is truly original) I’ve had.

I have consciously let these ideas flow and worked against the thought that I should not say them, especially if they look a little tenuous, or if they are critical of a text’s style or inconsistency. Instead I have taken the view that even if my ideas are non-sensical, or opaque to someone else, or that I am in the wrong (and ‘a more learned reader would see that’) , or that the text is not inconsistent, or the style is like that because ‘that’s how great thinkers express themselves’…….even if all these things are true, it’s better to have ideas and risk it (though some fail in the final analysis) than to be struggling to express myself.

I have also enjoyed being a little more creative with my own language and style, and even allowed myself to write slightly longer sentences than is usual for a scientist (which in another life I am), for added effect. This may also have contributed to the wordiness of some of my writings so far.

From a purely practical point of view, I am under a little time pressure on this module, and it will take enough time to effectively analyse the relevant questions for my responses, without addressing those that are less relevant.

My tutor has annotated my assignment, and has indicated that these are questions which It would be good to think about;/write about in my BLOG, which I shall try to do.

Learning Logs

Although my tutor is happy with my BLOG so far, he has correctly pointed out that I need to include some responses to exhibitions, websites and my learning process. This module is so different to my previous painting module that I seem to have forgotten to include these types of writing (with a few exceptions). I’ll try to remedy this by regular reflecting after my projects, and regularly visiting exhibitions and websites in the future. I will also undertake a brief review of my projects so far with a view to some retrospective analysis of my learning.

Suggested reading/viewing

My reading so far has been concentrated on the 3 essential texts,  ways of seeing (John Berger), Art in theory 1900-2000 (Harrison and Wood) and visual culture: a reader (Evans and Hall). I have begun to read and occasionally cite ideas from the visual culture reader (Mirzoeff-the 3rd edition is the one I’ve got). It would also be useful to widen my reading to include regular visits to the OCA website, and the other websites suggested. I have decided to buy Art history-the basics (Pooke and Newell) because it looks like this book may put visual studies into a context of the Art that I am used to looking at, whereas the texts above tend to be more general.

Bibliography

Harvard College Writing Program. (2016). Harvard Guide to Using Sources [online] At : http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k70847&pageid=icb.page350378. (Accessed on 13 November 2016).

 

 

Assignment 1-Formative feedback

 Formative feedback

 

Student name Philip Hepworth Student number 508858
Course/Unit Understanding Visual Culture Assignment number 1

 

Overall Comments

How about next time we set up a video tutorial?  I haven’t suggested it this time as much because of the time factor as anything else. So I have done a written report this time.  Let me know tour thoughts on this.

 

 

Feedback on assignment  

This is a very full response to the brief in many ways.  As I have said in my annotations, too much is generally better than too little but only to an extent!  Sometimes you have included things that, although interesting in themselves and certainly part of the good research results are not strictly relevant to the question at hand.  I am sure that you will get this balance sorted out as you progress through the unit and not something to stress about at this stage.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind, what we are really about is sorting out the ‘why’ of the matters in hand, particularly ‘why’ artists have done what it is they have done and how the ideas and insights of the various  theories under discussion help us to get to grips with the question of ‘why’.  The other thing to remember is that no one theory or period (-ism or whatever) has all the answers and the unit is not trying to convince you that any one theoretical stance is better or worse than any other, rather that certain ideas seem to have relevance and importance at certain times and so tend to influence the work made, or help to explain the work made at that time.  Sometimes later ideas supersede earlier ones and shed even more light on the work and practices…hindsight is not something to be ignored here!

The intention of the brief was really that you should talk about three artists in the first section and then analyse three work in the second but I think that we can say that you have done the underlying work and explored the ideas in question so let’s move on.

When I as questions in my notes, it is that I want you to send answers to me but that you address these questions yourself and perhaps discuss them in your blog…matters to think about as it were.

This is a promising start to the module in my opinion.  I know that some of the key texts might not be the easiest to deal with but you seem to be coping well with that.

I look forward to your next assignment.

 

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical review/essay

Your blog/learning journal seems to be shaping up well.  It shows that you are engaging with th topics in the unit with enthusiasm and I am pleased to see you applying some of the ideas beyond simply the unit itself.  It is a good idea to reflect on exhibitions and websites that you visit and do include some self-reflection of the “What I learned from….is….” and notes about how the unit is or even is not affecting your practical work.

 

Suggested reading/viewing

A couple of books have come to my attention since compiling the lists for this module in case you are interested in investigating them, they are:

Pooke, Grant and Newall, Diana. (2008), Art History: the basics, London: Routledge.

Sturken, Marita and Cartwright, Lisa. (2009), Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Also The third edition of Mizoeff’s book has appeared, it doesn’t have the readings in it that are referred to in the unit notes but a whole lot of current, shall we say post-postmodern articles…worth remembering for later on:

Mirzoeff, N., ed., 2012. The Visual Culture Reader. 3rd ed. London: Routledge.

I normally include a link to Ways of Seeing  here but you mention it in your response this time so I have left it out but it is a relevant text for the next assignment.

 

Pointers for the next assignment

  • Artists and students often engage in transcription projects and this link is quite interesting in showing how a student from Wimbledon went about it. http://process.arts.ac.uk/content/national-gallery-transcription-project-poussin
  • Think how or if this differs from appropriation art http://arthistory.about.com/od/glossary_a/a/a_appropriation.htm and how both of these differ from the use of works of art in advertising (John Berger has a lot to say about this in Ways of Seeing)
  • All of these things could provide material for this assignment and bear in mind the readings when making you choices and comments.
  • The link in the brief for Looking at Other Artists is changed the new one is in the Getting Started Study Guides (the direct link won’t work here as it is a secure site) You might want to annotate a copy of the work in your notebook and send me a copy of this…but it is up to you how you approach the brief.

 

Tutor name Peter Haveland
Date 14/03/2017
Next assignment due 19/05/2017

 

Assignment one: The interaction of media

  1. Richard Hamilton

hamilton

Fig. 1 Kent State (1970)

Richard Hamilton (1922-2011) was a British artist and art commentator. He was a co-founder of the Independent Group in 1956, a collection of people working in various media (including painting and architecture). The group was interested in technology and contemporary culture (Hamilton, 2003: 742), and Hamilton exhibited work which led directly to the term ‘Pop art’ in Britain. Hamilton saw pop art as a way of appropriating the subjects of popular culture and mass media, into the business of fine art, and was necessary if the artist was to avoid becoming redundant (Hamilton, 2003:743).

Other writers such as Lawrence Alloway had similar views.  Alloway fought against the idea of artistic elites, and championed the ideas and art of the masses. He believed that the industrial revolution had increased the importance of the masses (the working class?), and that rapid changes in popular culture and popular art forms were better descriptions of life than the more conservative and academic artistic elite.

He directly criticised Clement Greenberg over his use of the word Kitsch to describe ‘a mass art which was destined for ‘those who are insensible to the values of genuine culture.’ (Alloway. 2003: 715). He thought the ‘rejection of the mass produced arts is not, as critics think, a defence of culture but an attack on it’. (Alloway, 2003: 717).

Within this context of mass culture Hamilton produced art from photographs, paintings, and reproduction techniques such as printing and lithography. His ideas drew upon mass media such as newspapers, magazines, TV and advertisements. Fig. 1 shows a print (one of 5000) based on a photograph that Hamilton took whilst watching TV news. It depicts a shooting of a university student by the national guard, during an anti-war demonstration in the USA.  Hamilton thought it was a powerful image and developed it further (Tate online, n.d).

The artist described the many routes and processes through which the original information had passed in  order to arrive at the final prints. This involved a cine camera (at the scene), taking chaotic and shaky footage, satellite broadcast by the USA, UK TV  station broadcast, electrons in Hamilton’s TV screen/cathode ray tube exciting the pixcels into different amounts and colours of light (ref). Then, once the artist took the picture of the TV screen, it was transformed additionally through a long process of mechanical reproductions into the final prints.  This included the use of a process camera to transfer several different images into different patterns on 13 nylon grids. Each grid was used via the process of print screening, to transfer 15 layers of differently arranged and coloured transparent paint onto each final print paper (2 grids were used twice) (Tate online, n.d).

Fig 1. Shows an image which is both real and abstract to a degree. It is still recognisably a picture of a person who is lying prone, with others around them. The print is in a format which suggests the average TV screen, and the grid of the screen is detectable within the image- echos of the original circumstances when Hamilton first engaged with the scene.  However, the complexity of the information transmission process has caused a loss of some information and a consequent blurring and fuzziness. This has been augmented by the overlapping of different coloured transparencies which, at the edges, have given a feeling of movement-  almost reinstating the life of the original footage. Despite this ghostly appearance, the wounds are powerfully described using a very vivid red to suggest blood.  During the transformation this image has become less like a photograph, and much more artistic, more colourful, subtle, and painterly.

It is interesting to analyse this work in terms of both the artists feelings and those of the thinker Walter Benjamin. The original subject here was a violent act against a student protester. The authentic object from Benjamin’s point of view was probably the original footage on cine camera. This scene, viewed through the camera lens by the photographer alone may have contained characteristics of the immediate shock and chaos felt by all involved. This usefully corresponds to Benjamin’s aura of the original (Benjamin, 1999: 76).  Hamilton described the process of change starting at his camera,

‘In spite of the many transmogrifications, what’s left always has a kind of validity. So every change that I have made, so long as my hand didn’t come into it, and as long as I didn’t tamper with it in a physical way, had its own  authenticity’  (tate online, n.d)

This is a classic restatement of Benjamin’s discussion that process reproduction (as opposed to manual reproduction) does not destroy authenticity completely (Benjamin, 1999: 73-4). Benjamin also states that the loss of aura involves both things becoming closer physically and humanly, and a loss of uniqueness of an object (Benjamin, 1999:75). This too is applicable to the violent scene which Hamilton saw on his TV screen that night. The loss of aura through transmission to another person, is also accompanied by a reactivation of something else- not tradition, something different (Benjamin, 1999: 74). Hamilton was shocked by the scene- but no doubt it did not make his heart race and his skin crawl, as it might have done to the camera operator ( perhaps the true presence of the aura here).However he was moved to highlight the political aspects via his artistic method. His process transformed the scene for a different audience, an artistic one – one perhaps more ostensibly ‘cultured’, powerful, and political than many TV consumers.

Gerhard Richter

Fig. 2 Grauwald (2008)

ichter

 

Gerhard Richter (b.1932) is an artist who has worked in a whole variety of different styles, but at times has seemed obsessed with both photographs and painting. He, and his thoughts on these disciplines seem a little enigmatic, sometimes inconsistent, and perhaps ‘melodramatic’.

In ‘Notes 1964-65’ he seems to turn the thinking of certain writers on it’s head. For example he believes in the precision of the photograph (Richter, 2003: 757), but in stark contrast to Brik, who believes in the supremacy of the photograph as a record, over the painterly and artistic progress (Brik, 2003: 473), Richter states that the photo is meaningless as a record of reality (Richter, 2003: 759).  And yet, Richter also sees that photos have taken on religious overtones, with people using pictures of family or friends in quasi- religious ways (Richter, 2003: 757). By acknowledging this he acknowledges that photos have a religious or ‘magic’ characteristic which Walter Benjamin believes to be a sign of authenticity (Benjamin, 2003: 76). This seems absurd if the subject is indeed meaningless.

Richter’s work almost universally uses photographs as a source material, but the emphasis is on the painting process and the materials he uses. He seems to be making a firm statement for the supremacy of the painting (the object) over the photograph (the subject). He uses the photograph simply to suggest artistic elements to him, all that interests him are ‘ the grey areas, the passages and the tonal sequences, the pictorial spaces, overlaps and interlockings.’ (Richter, 2003: 759). In fact it seems that if he had  the power simply to imagine such elements, he would simply paint abstracts from his imagination.

Fig 2 shows one of the artists ‘painted over photographs’. This seems to suggest  painting’s supremacy over the photo in several ways. Firstly paint is placed directly on top of the photo, a very physical and painterly sign of dominance. Secondly the photograph, of a wood, has been obscured by the paint till it is almost unrecognisable- as a photo. Furthermore, the grey paint is monochrome and hence less real compared to the colours of the source photo- which emphasises paint- over photography (and Brik’s faithful camera reproduction (Brik, 2003:471)).  Even the title Grauwald (Greywood) puts paint and the monochrome grey rather clumsily and surprisingly before the more familiar call to reality contained in the word Wald (wood).

3.Luciana Haill

This artist works between the borders of science and art. She is a research fellow at Sussex university and investigates the Neurophysiology of Lucid Dreaming, and her own personal sleep consciousness (Haill, 2016 a.). Her installation ‘Sleep cycles’ includes several different objects. Fig.3 and 4 show part of the artwork.

1

Fig. 3 Sleep cycles (2016)  i.

Fig 3 shows a digital representation of the brainwaves (The EEG-electroencephalogram) recorded during a subject’s vivid dream, superimposed on a weighty book. The artist has said that the wave pattern indicated light REM sleep, close to waking. The waves shown include some corresponding to rapid eye movement, and a dream in which the subject recalled riding a unicorn along a beach (Haill, 2016 b.).

I find the artistic impression of fig. 3 to be rather weak however. It does not give me a palpable pleasurable feeling which I get when I like art or music, be it modern or traditional.  This is a strong litmus test for me, although within this test may lurk the problems of personal prejudice and/or laziness in my artistic response.  The juxtaposition of the old and new is certainly striking though.

I do think the new potential for art to be expressed using physical manifestations of our thoughts (both conscious and subconscious- previously little known to us), is massively powerful.  This artist is interested in exactly what scientists are interested in- with a different artistic slant. The revolution in psychology and psychiatry has involved both it’s beginnings in the subconscious and ‘the interpretation of dreams’ by Sigmund Freud, but latterly a drive to connect thoughts with physically identifiable entities- whether EEG waves or the status of anatomical areas of the brain.

 

The use of advanced imaging such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a modern modality of ‘seeing’- not with white light (as in human vision), nor using X-rays (as through X-ray pictures- which the artist Francis Bacon was interested in), but with quite different physical magnetic waves. It is a continuation of the scientist’s urge to visualise with increasing resolution and power, and the use of these modalities for recreation and learning in art is intriguing.   These possibilities of vision are extensions of the idea discussed by Benjamin, that the camera and it’s photograph introduced us to  ‘unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses….’ (Benjamin, 1999: 78).

2

Fig. 4  Sleep cycles  (2016) iiI

Returning to the installation, Fig. 4 shows a second part and includes rolls of pianola paper, several antique-looking books, and a 14 million year old rock fragment in two hemispheres contained within a glass jar, which has an extinguished candle attached, and a trail of hardened melted wax. The rock sections look like a dissected brain to the novice. The candle, the rock, and perhaps also the pianola, are interesting objects from the perspective of physical manifestation of duration and a physical process which is nevertheless ‘nebulous’.   The wax trail illustrates the life of the burnt candle, the different rock areas perhaps the duration of the physical processes which formed them; even the pianola paper translates something physical (marks on the page) into a different form (sound and music). Perhaps these objects reference the idea of capturing the physical trail of a nebulous thought or dream?

Illustrations 

 Fig. 1 Hamilton, R.  Kent State (1970)  [screenprint on paper].  Online at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hamilton-kent-state-p77043 [accessed 16th February 2017]

Fig. 2 Richter, G. Grauwald (2008)  [Lacquer on colour photograph].  Online at: https://www.gerhard-richter.com/en/art/overpainted-photographs/grauwald-79/12108-grauwald-16544/?&categoryid=79&p=1&sp=32 [accessed 16th February 2017]

Fig. 3 and 4.  Haill, L. Sleepcycles  (2016) [installation].  Online at: https://lucianahaill.wordpress.com/sleepcycles/ [accessed 16th February 2017]

 References

Alloway, L. (2003) . ‘The Arts and the Mass Media’ 1958   In  Harrison,C. and Wood,P. (eds). Art in Theory 1900-2000. Oxford. Blackwell Publications. p. 715-717

Benjamin, W.(1999) ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ in In visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.      p. 72-8

Brik, O. (2003) . ‘Photography versus Painting’ 1926  In  Harrison,C. and Wood,P. (eds). Art in Theory 1900-2000. Oxford. Blackwell Publications. p. 470-473

Haill,  L (2016 a) ‘Sleepcycles’ online at: https://lucianahaill.wordpress.com/digital-artworks/ [accessed 16th February 2017]

Haill, L (2016 b) ‘Technology is not neutral’ online at: http://technologyisnotneutral.com/LucianaHaill [accessed 16th February 2017]

Hamilton, R. (2003) . ‘For the Finest Art, Try Pop’ 1961   In  Harrison,C. and Wood,P. (eds). Art in Theory 1900-2000. Oxford. Blackwell Publications. p. 742-743.

Richter , G. (2003) . ‘Notes 1964-1965’  In  Harrison,C. and Wood,P. (eds). Art in Theory 1900-2000. Oxford. Blackwell Publications. p. 757-760

Tate online, (no date). The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, online at : http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hamilton-kent-state-p77043 [accessed 16th February 2017]

Separation perfected- Guy Debor

This text has been edited from the original. What remains resembles a restatement of various Marxist ideas about the state, and its base and superstructure. I will therefore choose to  summarise the text bringing out these similarities.

The titular ‘separation’ seems to be far-reaching, and could be summed us as that between the real and the represented way of life. This may include but is not limited to the separation of: working and ruling classes, images and ideologies, and the  good and the bad.

The initial quotation from Feuerbach suggests that the piece relates to the overwhelming occurrence of signs, symbols and illusions in society, and that they are now more sacred than  simple truths (Debord, 1999: 95).  The author first states that in societies which are characterised by modern production (a thoroughly Marxist approach to society) life is presented through spectacles, rather than more representational methods. Reality consists of a visual representation through images, which make up a pseudo-world, which ironically are more characteristic of the non-living, such as mechanical and inanimate objects. This paragraph reads like a Marxist interpretation of the media where images may act directly upon society to interpellate an ideology, and perhaps a false consciousness, and that individuals in society are not free to choose how to live, but have become subjects of the ruling classes (Althusser, 1993). The author states that ‘this spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.’ (Debord 1999:95). Restated, the author believes that society is not what it seems on the surface, but is corresponding to a Marxist society, where all its social relations are affected (not exclusively) by visual images .

This spectacle is described as a Weltanschauung (world view (Free dictionary)), resulting from the ability to share images globally (Debord, 1999: 96). Debord believes that this state of affairs is so pervasive that it is the essence of society, not an added extra, and lists several manifestations of it’s presence; information, propaganda, advertisement, entertainment. The power of these to control and mould society, in a unidirectional way flowing from the ruling classes to the working classes, is shown by the author’s use of language in this paragraph. The language alludes to a classical Marxist view of society.  ‘It [the spectacle]is the omnipresent affirmation of the choice already made (DeBord’s italics) in production and its corollary consumption’(Debord, 1999: 96).

In extract 8 the author discusses a theme previously approached by Althusser, suggesting that it’s not actually possible to separate the disseminated images (here we may  if we desire, substitute Althusser’s Interpellated State Apparatus and its ideology) from reality- because although the ideology is not real (Althusser says ) ‘like a paving stone’ , it is experienced through material things (Althusser,1999: 318).

The spectacle is described as appearing positive, and indisputable- though inaccessible (DeBord, 1999: 96). This corresponds to Althusser’s  ‘false consciousness’ . However, whereas DeBord believes that the ideology is accepted passively because it is monologous and ubiquitous, Althusser’s classic position is that the subject has some freedom to accept the ideology being pedalled (Althusser,1999: 318).   In fact Debord goes as far as to say that the spectacle of the image world which constitutes the ideology, can be thought of as the main production of society (Debord,1999: 96), and later that ‘The spectacle is capital….’ (Debord,1999: 97). This definitely leaves us without doubt that he believes the magnitude of the effect is great, but rather mixes his metaphors within the context of a Marxist analysis.

The spectacle ‘subjugates living men’ (Debord,1999: 97) in as much as the economy does. This states the classical (economist) Marxist view that the economy is the base of society, and effects all other aspects of it (these constitute the superstructure) – including the media, and man’s behaviours and social relations. The author believes that vision is the most important sense by which society is affected by the economic base, in a mystical and hypnotic (ie. not completely grasped) way- unlike in former times when touch was probably dominant (Debord,1999: 97).  Images, which are so powerful and mystical a force here, are known to be ‘felt to be weak in respect of meaning:…..’ when compared to text as language (Barthes, 1999: 33). In fact they are so weak and have such a potential for layers of coding, that text is often added to them in the form of either anchorage or relay in order to facilitate their identification and interpretation (Barthes, 1999: 38). However, this weakness- of- meaning makes images eminently suitable for the hidden communication of ideologies, from the powerful ruling classes to subjugate the working class. This is described as the ‘opposite of dialogue’(Debord,1999: 97)  reinforcing the unanswerable power which ideology constitutes. Debord shows his underlying disdain for image-based ideology by saying it reflects the weakness of western civilization and thought, which is based mainly on images. He uses a simultaneous example of two rhetorical devices here producing a double-whammy linguistic reinforcing effect (these techniques are further illustrated in Victor Burgin’s essay ‘Art common sense and photography’ (1999: 47)):

The spectacle does not realize philosophy, it philosophizes reality

(Debord,1999: 97)

This is certainly an example of chiasmus (using two words the opposite way round in one sentence) and I think it is also a subtle antanaclasis. Antanaclasis refers to repeated usage of a word with different meanings.   The effect here relies on the shaded meanings possible for the word philosophy. In the first clause philosophy is used to communicate the sense of  ‘the ideas of a society’ , a straightforward interpretation where one’s ideas are used to build a reality for ones’ self. However, the author  uses the term with a more flexible, political, and Marxist inflection in the second clause, where  the word philosophizing has taken on an extra function- it now carries a suggestion of Marxist ideologizing with all its added ramifications  on the power relationships within societies.

In the second paragraph of section 19, the author compares and contrasts the all-consuming image- world of his time with religion, both described in terms of ideology. He believes that they are essentially both spectacles carried out by humans, and that they co-exist. However, whilst religion uses illusions which detach from man (clouds, and projection into the sky- perhaps a reference to heaven, or the ill-fated Tower of Bable?), the image-world uses illusions which are firmly based within man and his society (Debord,1999: 97). He seems to consider both to be illusions based on very unstable foundations.

In extract 24, a complex paragraph,  the author refers explicitly to the Marxist idea of ‘relations among men and classes’ (Debord,1999: 97) which are represented by ‘spectacular relations’. The spectacle itself is not the product of technical evolution (Debord uses the term ‘natural development’), but is instead the product of an evolution driven by the controlling forces of the state and it’s administration. In other words, the form of the spectacle is chosen (or evolved) by the state to be just that form which is best able to totally control the working class,  in this case visual media which are essentially unilateral, and whose message cannot be returned, and is non-negotiable (Debord,1999: 98).

BLOG Questions

Weltanschauung- a comprehensive philosophy or world view?

It is a little difficult to answer the question based solely on my reading of the given text, as the term is  new to me, and being mentioned just once in the text remains a little unfamiliar to me. Based on its literal translation the term means ‘Worldview’ in German. However, based on my belief that this term is used to describe one of the main state apparatuses used to subjugate the working-classes (images  and the mass media)  I would say that it is more of a philosophy and subsumes a whole collection of associated ideas and relationships (at least in as much as Marxism is a philosophy which does the same).

What do you think Debord means by ‘the spectacle’ ?   

Throughout the text  ‘the spectacle’ is referred to in rather abstract terms. In one rather clearer citation it seems to be described as having the forms of  ‘….information, or propaganda, as advertisement or direct entertainment consumption’(Debord,1999: 98). These take on visual shape in ‘the spectacle’.

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

The sources of visual media in 1967 would have consisted of advertising, television, books and newspapers. Of these television and advertising (in newspapers, television or billboards) would be most likely to carry the coded messages which Debord refers to. Political messages from books would be less common, and more honestly transmitted.  In 2017 television remains popular, and probably has more channels, all still full of adverts. Newspapers (and perhaps books) are in the process of being replaced by ‘online’ alternatives whose power is roughly equivalent to the paper versions.

The massive change is the advent of computer world, and the birth of the internet in society around 1997. This has massively increased the global power of visual communications. The average person spends several hours a day on visual on-line gadgets, and many programmes and activities are laden with troublesome, hard to avoid, advertisements. Moreover, sophisticated programmes track your history, and algorithms tailor advertisements directly to the individual consumer, increasing their power to influence.

Whilst this sort of internet use increases the subjugation of the working classes, it must be said that their ability to communicate with each other globally (facebook, e mail, flickr etc..) and form political groups and associations, and their ability to find out about any conceivable topic for themselves through search engines (if executed in a rigorous and careful way),  has to be politically empowering. Think for example of the way that recent revolutions in Africa and the Middle east have been facilitated by the transmission of pictures via mobile phone, both to other downtrodden citizens, and to the more priveliged first world occupants (Mirzoeff, 2013: xxxiv). Mirzoeff specifically discusses the 2011 revolution in Egypt where ‘Facebook [was] used to set the date, Twitter was used to share logistics, YouTube to show the world, all to connect people’ (Mirzoeff, 2013:xxxiv).

Does his view that we ‘‘see the world by means of various specialized 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?

My feeling is that the author makes clear throughout the text that we are being deliberately controlled. His language about the spectacle is Marxist and often perjorative and dismissive. So for example the spectacle is ‘the choice already made in production and it’s corollary consumption’, it demands ‘..passive acceptance’ , and it ‘subjugates living men to itself …’ (Debord,1999: 96-97)

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

Marx considered that the commodity was a realization of the summed worker contribution and social relationships invested in in it. He called this idea reification. In the rhetorical quote discussed above, although using wordplay, Debord states that ultimately he thinks the spectacle is an explanation of reality-not a reality itself. In Marx’s sense of the term, reification of media images would suggest that they are the real manifestation of thoughts and political behaviour by the state, but as the state is ‘the other team’  to Marx’s ‘workers’ I will refrain from choosing to reify them here. Of course all these decisions are somewhat arbitrary; reality may have several layers, as discussed previously with reference to Althusser’s view on the reality of ideology (Althusser,1999: 318).

References

Althusser, L (1993). ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’. In visual culture: A reader. Evans, J and Hall,,S (eds), London. SAGE Publications.   p317-324

Barthes, R (1993).  ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ in visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.   P33-41

Debord, G (1993). ‘Separation perfected’. In visual culture: A reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds), London. SAGE Publications.   p317-324

Mirzoeff, N. (2013). ‘Introduction: for Critical Visuality Studies’ In The Visual Culture Reader. Mirzoeff, N (ed). Routledge, OXON. p.ⅨⅩⅩ- ⅩⅩⅩⅧ.

The Free Dictionary (2016) Farlex Ltd. ‘Weltanschauung’  at  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/about.htm   (accessed 17th March 2017)

 

Barbarous taste? The social definition of photography by Pierre Bourdieu

This is a complicated text, which spends a lot of time developing an argument, and involves lots of subtle rewording and transformation of ideas and illuminating examples which can occasionally border on the repetitive.

The initial statement is that a relationship exists between the social use of photography, the use of photography as we know it, and the total of all possible uses of photography (Bourdieu, 1999;162). The uses of photography as we know it seems to be a subset of the total use, and this subset defines it’s social use. The corollary is that the social uses of photography defines it’s uses today. It depends which way we look at it.

Photography is seen as a model of truth and objectivity, whereas art is seen as something that allows more of the personality of the artist through. This seems to separate art and photography. But photography is not a true record of reality, so for example, it’s often in black and white, it’s visualised on a flat plane, and in a reduced size. The author believes that photography is thought of as true because of the social uses it has had- which themselves are thought real and true (Bourdieu, 1999;162)

In fact the language of photography as we know it conventionally is very similar to the language of art from the renaissance onwards, including the use of perspective. An example is given of the way it is possible for photography to make its subjects very different from how they appear to the naked eye, told via Proust;

I can think of nothing that can to so great a degree as a kiss evoke out of what we

believed to be a thing with one definite aspect the hundred other things which it may

equally well be,……

(Proust)

 

In other words, a photo can change the appearance of an object from what we thought it was into hundreds of different looking objects, by using other legitimate perspectives.

There is a big difference between the possibilities of photography and what we see as the results of ‘normal’ photography (ie. That which uses traditional laws such as perspective). If photographs move away from normality they are not accepted, are thought not understandable, or are rejected, by people in all ‘social milieux’. (Bourdieu, 1999;162). This seems to suggest that lower barbarous taste is not characteristic of the lower classes alone.

In other words, popular opinion is that photography takes a ‘precise and objective’ (real) view of the world, simply because photographers take views which they believe to make up their world (Bourdieu, 1999;163), and that in labelling photographs as real, 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’ (Bourdieu, 1999;163).

Part of why photos are felt as real is likely to be because they are taken by a relatively complex object (the camera), and the more sophisticated the object the more it is considered to automate the process of reproduction. Additionally it’s very easy to press the camera button. These characteristics make it different (and more reproductive) than painting, because painting is seen to entail difficulty and struggle. People take photos with the hope of particular outcomes, which exclude the possibility of some photos as ‘useless, perverse or bourgoise’ (Bourdieu, 1999;164); ie. they select their subject.

Certain apparent contradictions can occur with photos. For example they should be taken of views which are not ‘useless’ but it’s easy to take them (which in some way deprives them of value (because the artist struggles). These contradictions do not prevent the love of photos by the working classes (Bourdieu, 1999;165). Here the author seems to use a traditional class system-excluding middle and upper classes- is this inconsistent with barbarous taste exhibited by ‘all social milieux’ above? The working-classes are not bothered that the object is produced via a machine (compare aesthetes who are). For today’s modern sensibility, the author’s language appears quite dismissive of ‘working-class’ and ‘peasants’ throughout this text. I suspect that liberal views would necessitate a softening of his language and tone today. For the working classes photos are the most realistic, and natural, and for them ‘ the beautiful picture is only the picture of a beautiful thing,….’ (Bourdieu, 1999;165) With this comment Bourdieu widens the debate to include the nature of beauty, which will become relevant later.

The author sees photos as representing the peoples idea of aesthetic fulfilment, but asks is that because it’s simply all they want, or is it also due to the limitations of both the popular machines (presumably they are technically inferior to the rarer expensive ones), and the prohibitive photography rules which abound, spread by manufacturers, salesmen and colleagues. It’s clear (to the author at least) that all these rules combine to define an aesthetic where technical experiments and variation outside the ‘rules’ will be regarded as faults, and not progress. Other photographic aesthetics could be defined which were less restrictive (Bourdieu, 1999;165). I believe that if photography was limited like this at the time of writing, it is no longer the case in 2017, and artistic photography is now part of a mainstream art establishment.

The author now draws a good analogy between popular photography and primitive art. Primitive art was often thought naïve because of the primitive’s low technical skill levels. This is now thought of as misrepresentation, and these primitive naïve objects were produced because their simplicity was all that was needed socially, not because the people were technically deficient (Bourdieu, 1999;165).

That the limits of photography are defined by a social function is the opposite of a pure aesthetic (Bourdieu, 1999;166). Because photography is based upon the presupposition of norms, it is fulfilled in an exemplary way by the community. Ordinary people take photos which show normal things- people are face on, in the centre, standing up, apparently as we view them in the community. But in reality this posing is the opposite of natural.

Holiday pictures may seem to favour the natural pose, but often the natural is created from a cultural idea, it is staged to look natural (Bourdieu, 1999;166). Group photographs have a conventional look too, and if one wavers from it, you are admonished or criticised. In anonymous photos ‘the function of the different characters must be clearly symbolised’(Bourdieu, 1999;166), so unfamiliar people must fulfil social roles; that mum looks and acts like a mum etc. The need for a frontal pose in these photos is probably linked to it’s important social value- of honesty and respect (Bourdieu, 1999;167)                                         Peasants have a poor sense of their own bodies and they are likely to look more acceptable in posed photographs (Bourdieu, 1999;168). Here again the language is extremely perjorative, and low self-esteem is not confined to the working-class (at least not today, and probably not then). The straight on/full face photograph is stated as ‘clearly legible’ and presenting one’s own image to view. The opposite would be an image taken by someone who can’t be seen , or of someone who is not looking at the camera, which may be thought more as consisting of the theft of the subject’s image (Bourdieu, 1999;168). This is interesting in the context of historical interior paintings such as Jan Vermeer’s The Love Letter (1667-70) or Degas’s Bather (1886). Both pictures show the artist as if from an un-viewed position- through doors and curtains, or from a position high above the subject respectively. It is also interesting to note that the Egyptian civilisation adopted a different and unusual aesthetic- perhaps nearest to the Cubist style if any were volunteered. The Egyptians represented objects in various views within the same scene. The view of any object would be dictated by which view showed the greatest amount of information to the viewer. This functional approach uses ideas now commonplace in principal components analysis. For the working-classes the representation of the people in images seems to mirror their relationships in society; family ties are more important than individuals, social rules more important than outbursts of feelings, and people live in fear of being judged (Bourdieu, 1999;168).

The common man’s aesthetic is dependent on social norms, but he does not explicitly deny a purer aesthetic. He may even acknowledge a duality of norms saying ‘It s beautiful, but I d never think of taking it’(Bourdieu, 1999;169). The popular aesthetic does not recognise its own system of rules, and is in fact the opposite of Immanuel Kant’s idea of an aesthetic. But the author suggests that despite being the opposite of philosophy, it’s still possible that the common photography can be a kind of aesthetic, requiring aesthetic judgements.

A complex sentence follows; ‘the fact that the contravention of a rule may be apparent….’. It is 5 lines long and again restates that just because photographers don’t externalise their rules, it doesn’t mean that their system isn’t based on them, and obviously so (Bourdieu, 1999;169).

The question of whether common photography can be thought as an aesthetic system is now raised, and it’s a difficult paragraph to understand. More specifically the writing is so dense and broken up by so many commas and different clauses, that it’s not clear where the signposts are which enable one to follow the argument. I find it extremely difficult to unpick this sort of overlong sentence, and wonder whether it is a fair analysis and whether some texts do indeed have a reduced clarity, in favour of complexity and wordiness?

The author thinks that the popular photography has nothing to do with beauty for its own sake, but I can’t work out whether this is cited as similar or dissimilar to Kant’s view, in this convoluted paragraph. At any rate its clearly stated that there is some social conditioning in Kant’s aesthetic hypothesis (Bourdieu, 1999;169).

The philosopher Immanuel Kant, in an attempt to define aesthetic judgement separated

  1. Disinterestedness (the sole guarantee of aesthetic quality)
  2. Interest of the senses (the agreeable)
  3. Interest of reason (the good)                                                               (Bourdieu, 1999;169)

But popular culture uses terms like reason, ethics, morality, and agreeablness to judge photos, which seems to negate their aesthetic quality.

Several examples of people’s analysis of photos in these terms are given in smaller text, but it is not clear if this is from the author’s own research, or whether they are hypothetical.

In the language of Sausser’s semiotics the author states that photos seem to require the signifier to be dominated by the signified- the moral or the message. ‘Peasants’ constantly recall the ‘limit and validity of their judgements’ (Bourdieu, 1999;170) as if a photo cannot be universally pleasing, but must be addressed to specific audiences, and with different uses (Bourdieu, 1999:170). So for example if photos are put forward as universal objects this can be thought of as ‘improper’. People judge photos via genres whose limits they understand (Bourdieu, 1999;171). Once again this is the opposite of Kant’s aesthetic which demands universality. If people find classification difficult they still classify as ‘competition photo’ (would we say arty today?), and those photos deprived of genre are deprived of ritual and value (Bourdieu, 1999;172). A hierarchy of genres is described through which the likelihood of aesthetic judgement will increase by the peasant, ranging from babies (the object’s existence is valued irrespective of quality), pets, famous monuments, and landscapes (their existence may require some added aesthetic quality).

The author’s alternative view is that when any subject is subject to aesthetic experiment, and processed as a photographic object, the object is identical aesthetically whatever its subject- and quotes Descartes; that the sun is the same whichever objects it illuminates. The author states that, unlike the peasant appreciation, universal appreciation requires us to dissociate ‘the object from the picture and the picture from the object’(Bourdieu, 1999;173);or to rid ourselves of the symbology?

Most notably, colour frequently allows peasants to redeem a photo felt valueless due to a lack of clear symbology (Kant says that if taste requires an added element or emotion its barbarous). Legibility of a photograph is discussed as the ability to read the symbology within it (the text/title is also important as peasants require this to clarify the symbology too) (Bourdieu, 1999;174)

Comparing painting and photography, because the photo’s similarity with reality is obvious and assumed, it requires to have a more formulaic intention. In contrast realist painting only demand’s that the painting look like the subject.

(pleonastic = repetition of the same sense in different words… eg a free gift http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pleonastic)

There then follows a complicated discussion; that if we allow for the object to be viewed without a story or genre, then we can measure the representation of the object against the (real) object itself- ie. direct comparison is easier. Bourdieu once again concludes that the idea that photography is the most real of techniques, depends upon a misconception (and a tautology), because realistic photography is simply photography which satisfies the masses that it conforms to their view of the world. Any abstraction in the photograph is denied severely and is felt to be a mystification (Bourdieu, 1999;175).

There is a sense that barbarous taste implicitly defines a ‘good taste’, and that when peasants define their good taste it implies de facto exclusion from another idea of good taste. Peasant’s who are deprived of real aesthetic ‘good taste’ seek to judge via a set of principles related to genres.

Arts and expression have a cultural legitimacy hierarchy. When an art like photography or jazz has less cultural legitimacy, people feel freer to comment and to be individual consumers, they don’t need the canon of learning as a scaffold that sophisticated arts assume (opera, fine art etc.) (Bourdieu, 1999;176). Three different groups of activities are shown

  1. sphere of legitimacy with universal claims eg. literature/theatre
  2. sphere of legitimizable eg. photographysphere of the arbitrary- eg cookery, clothes etc.
  3. sphere of the arbitrary- eg cookery, clothes etc.

The hierarchy is made up by the set of rules and meanings which are communicated by the institutions. Elevation in hierarchy depends upon factors such as the duration for which it has been practiced (sculpture is higher than photography), and it’s link to education levels (there is still more university education on classical than popular music). Legitimacy implies an institution to set the rules (Bourdieu, 1999;177), so jazz for example (which is expressively as complicated as classical music) has less legitimacy. In order to elevate itself jazz critics may try to ‘as a sign of their pretension to cultural legitimacy, assume the learned and tedious tone of university criticism’(Bourdieu, 1999;177). In the present day areas such as Jazz, popular music and sport have achieved more cultural legitimacy through incorporation in university education (BMus Jazz, BMus Pop), and through association with more traditionally rigorous activities such as science (Batchelor of Sports science).

In this respect photography inhabits an intermediate hierarchy. Some practitioners try to legitimise it with ‘artistic’ refrences (which I would argue are now totally acceptable), whilst others stick to the vulgar. A practice in the process of legitimization imposes on itself and it’s practitioners the questions about its own legitimacy. This doesn’t mean that the rules of the more vulgar are completely disorganised and individualistic only. They are organised systematically to a degree but they are organised according to the rules of their own class and ethos, some being implicit, others implicit. Photography in this sense is an excellent example of a practice in the process of legitimization (Bourdieu, 1999;178).

References

Bourdieu, P. (1999) ‘The social definition of photography’ in visual culture: a reader.    Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.      p. 162-180

BLOG Questions

1.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 installation art for example?

Contemporary art such as performance, video and installation can usefully be analysed within the context of Bourdieu’s ideas. Many people like contemporary art, and hail it as less elitist than traditional ‘fine art’. At least as many see it as pretentious and unfathomable. My own struggle to give modern art and contemporary art a fair appraisal is a continuous journey. My sensibilities have changed from initially, finding most contemporary art unlikeable and distant, to currently allowing myself the time, space and attitude to properly react to it. This has increased the depth and breadth of the art I appreciate.

Bourdieu considers that the relative ease of the process of photography requires it to assume both a realism (Bourdieu, 1999:164), and a story, often containing overt symbology (Bourdieu, 1999;170). Many examples of contemporary art do superficially look rather easy to execute. Take the installation My Bed (Fig 1). It looks pretty much like any unmade bed we all could leave when we go out in a hurry. However whether we appreciate it as art may depend upon whether we can see any obvious symbology here. I suspect those who love it will appreciate the social and human aspects of the work whilst those who hate it may not get past the fact that- on the surface- they could do that too. This idea may also be applied to performance art, and video (closely related to photography) which superficially may look like episodes in our own real life, involving people, or photographic images of people as we ‘know them’, and thus appear ‘easy’ to execute.

Tracey emin

Fig. 1 My bed (1998)

Much contemporary art contains ideas which are rooted in socially familiar situations and ideas. These might include birth, life, death, sleep, travel, loneliness, and heartache. These genres may allow us (Bourdieu would say the ‘peasants’) to ‘get a handle’ on how to judge these kind of works (Bourdieu, 1999;170), and accept them as art. This is the opposite of the pure aesthetic response suggested by Kant. Consider Fig 2 which shows Bill Viola’s response to birth, death, and life’s struggle. This still from a video work contains ideas which we can all understand and react to in a very personal way. The importance of these subjects are confirmed by Viola’s use of a triptych structure which was used in religious art in art of medaevil and renaissance times.

Nantes Triptych 1992 by Bill Viola born 1951

Fig 2. Nantes Tryptich (1992)

Some may dislike this work, considering the subject unfit for art. This may reflect the way modern society has an extremely uneasy relationship with death; we like to avoid it and all references to it, if at all possible.

In contrast to photographs, or more generally any art, which seems socially familiar, Bourdieu believes that art which moves away from an accepted normality is likely to be rejected by the crowd, because it lacks the social acceptability and obvious symbology/narrative that we need (Bourdieu, 1999:162).. Perhaps this may explain the artistic upset which followed the people’s reaction to the famous ‘pile of bricks’ installation in the Tate Modern in 1966 (Fig 3). The crowd could interpret this as ‘easy to do’, but the narrative is far from obvious.

equivalent V111 carl Andre 1966.jpg

Fig. 3 Equivalent VIII (1966)

Perhaps the reaction ‘it’s nice but it’s not art’ is a reflection of Bourdieu’s idea that we are constrained by the technical norms of our society, or the technical expectations we have for artistic methods (Bourdieu, 1999:165)..The Wrapped Reichstag (Fig. 4) has elements of performance art, and is a visually stunning piece. If people are reluctant to acknowledge this as art, it may be because they are used to traditional art dealing with materials in normal ways- paintings, sculpted figures etc… The idea that a meticulously planned procedure to successfully wrap a huge iconic building in a strange material, with all the technical requirements that involved, may be too strange and unfamiliar to be accepted as art.

wrapped reichstag

Fig. 4 Wrapped Reichstag (1971-1995)

 

2. Consider Bourdieu’s statement that “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.”xiii •

It would be useful, but not sufficient to start with a definition of realism, and we can find several.

  • interest in the actual compared to the abstract
  • the tendency to view or represent things as they really are
  • In literature, that representing description of everyday life of the lower and middle classes.
  • In philosophy the idea that objects exist outside the act of our perception of them.

(Dictionary.com)

It is interesting that the first three definitions have similarity to how Bourdieu’s peasants view the art of photography. The fourth definition is strikingly different in nature, and seems to correspond to the additional reality, such as an art, competition or abstract photo that Bourdieu believes lies outside the peasant’s definition of real. It is also obvious that the first two definitions come dangerously close to the tautology invoked by Bourdieu’s statement, if we accept that real is synonymous with actual and as they really are.

Bourdieu’s statement seems to suggest that society simply adopts one possible aspect of real to define real ie. The aspect that they personally believe in. This suggests that the definition is tautological (it is equivalent to saying this is real, because I define it as real), and additionally that there are other possible entities that society would not consider real. In general I agree with the statement, as applied to the specifics of photography at the time of Bourdieu’s writing, although I think we now live in a society which has broadened its definition of the real in photography.

It makes sense that 1950’s society considers that the photograph is real because it was taken by a relatively complex object (the camera), which automates the process of reproduction (Bourdieu, 1999;164). This could be due to a sort of blindness to the drawbacks of a new, strange, and poorly understood technology, and a transference of special powers to it; powers to reproduce reality. This may be akin to the special powers invested in God to explain what we don’t know or understand (in science this is sometimes called the God of the gaps). However it also seems obvious that in some ways the photograph is no more real than a painting- it is often in black and white, it’s visualised on a flat plane, and in a reduced size (Bourdieu, 1999;162).

On the other hand if we acknowledge that there is some reality in the socially defined photograph-for example of a family group portrait, we must also acknowledge, as Bourdieu believes, that this reality is only one reality. Others exist because we can take photographs of other families who may be breaking ‘social rules’ such as facing away, or looking unprepared (Bourdieu, 1999;168) or even without any clothes on! And in today’s 21st C society these sort of photographs exist everywhere- for example in extemporised selfies. Additionally we can take photos which are evidently just as real, of various subjects which would have been rejected by the working classes- or simply not understood at all. These could consist of the mundane (a leaf, a football), the unrecognisable (a virus?), the abstract (photos which for example use the alternative perspectives discussed by Proust), or make use of technological advances in process (such as using an electron beam in place of white light to capture an electron microscope image of a virus), and it is still difficult to argue that they are less real than the genre picture of Bourdieu’s peasants. In the language of definition four above (Dictionary.com: 2016), these unrecognisable or unfamiliar objects are still real because they ‘exist outside the act of our perception of them’.

Bourdieu acknowledges peasants may see genre photos as representing the peoples idea of aesthetic fulfilment either because that’s all they want, or due to their ignorance of the technological possibilities of the camera (Bourdieu, 1999;165). Both are possible, and I believe both are probable, and whilst I hold with Bourdieu’s peasant’s tautological view of photographic reality, this view does not carry any negative judgements. Indeed I am struck by the analogy with primitive art, which seems to suggest that Bourdieu believes (in a tone which seems less judgemental than some parts of the essay) that as primitive peoples used only those artistic techniques necessary for their society, so working-classes may recognise only those art objects which are necessary within their society (Bourdieu, 1999;165).

Illustrations

Fig. 1 Emin, T (1998). My Bed (Installation: Mattress, linens, pillows objects) at http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/tracey_emin.htm (accessed 9th March 2017)

Fig. 2 Viola, B (1992) Nantes Tryptich (Video and mixed media

duration: 29 min., 46 sec) at http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/v/video-art (accessed 9th March 2017)

Fig. 3 Andre, C (1966) Equivalent VIII (firebricks) at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/andre-equivalent-viii-t01534 (accessed 9th March 2017)

Fig. 4 Christo and Jeanne-Claude (1971-1995) Wrapped Reichstag, at http://christojeanneclaude.net/projects/wrapped-reichstag (accessed 9th March 2017)

References

Dictionary.com (2016) definition of realism [online at ] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/realism (accessed 9th March 2017)