Hangout (and reflections) with my tutor 22 June 2017

1.       I am under some time pressure to complete my UVC module. Things should be ok, but I need to

·         Make a timetable for my work

·         Stick to my timetable

·         Send Peter a timetable for my assignment submissions


I still need to reduce the amount of notes I write on each project. I have begun already to prune them a little, but this requires further work.  Peter suggests that if I find an interesting idea that is not strictly relevant then I can mark it to be researched later.


It would also be a good idea to look through your BLOG to see whether you could do an overall summary of some of the learning processes which you may not have clearly brought out so far. This could be done after the Sep 1st deadline when you ve sent your assignment 5 in.


2.       The next assignment


·         This is about decoding advertisements

·,%20Decoding%20Advertisements%20smaller.pdf useful doc.

·         Who’s it aimed at?

·         Don’t make assumptions during the analysis

·         Doing it in an annotation would allow you to work on the clarity of your annotations.


3.       My previous assignment

·         The handwriting was legible ( I sometimes write illegibly)

·         Think about how an assessor will negotiate the annotation- where to start /stop etc….(chronology)

*        For example the Box for my conclusions worked, but make it clearer eg. Bolder outline or colours…..

*        You label where the reader should start

*      Arrows help reader to find the next text……..

             Also perhaps there is a hierarchy of content?? Eg concept/examples

             It is ok to use labels for bits of the annotation eg ‘postmodernism’  ‘structuralism’……..

             A combination of annotations and written points may be useful (numbers refer to the written points….)


4.       Hang-outs

·         The previous UVC hangouts have ended. It would be an idea to post on the forum as to whether anyone is interested in joining you to discuss visual culture ideas…

·         This would be useful to clarify your ideas about visual culture



5.       Next module etc…


·         Peter said that there was currently no level 2 visual culture module.

·         I talked again about  my Painting 1 course which had been disappointing and had reduced my confidence

·         However it is still possible to explore drawing and painting in further modules. Peter said perhaps I was not a ‘painter’ in the way that painters are ( I certainly don’t want to only paint …perhaps I might be a visual artist …who paints …….. perhaps………other sorts of artist……??

·         My painting 1 assessor had some encouraging comments about how to improve my painting outcomes eg…. By using colour more sparingly ?……so I don’t want tio stop further painting learning…

Assignment 2 – Tutor feedback

Annotated feedback:-







fig_6annotatedtutor report assignment 2

 Overall Comments

This has taken me much longer to get to than I intended for reasons beyond my control.  That is why I have put the date you had scheduled for assignment 4 as the next deadline.

I think that your annotations for this assignment have worked rather well but you might want to find some way of indicating where to start for the assessors who have much less time to go searching than I do!

Feedback on assignment  

I think most of what I want to say is in the notes I have added to your pdfs…click if you can’t see the comments in full as you roll over them.

It is a good response to the brief and seems to indicate that you have a reasonable grasp of the concepts involved.

Student name  Philip Hepworth Student number   508858 Course/Unit Understanding Visual Culture Assignment number   2

The questions I have posed in my comments on your documents are to make you think about it and perhaps to write about it in your learning log/blog. I don’t expect an answer to me.

This is an interesting selection of artists and works, see what links you can find between them.

We can discuss these things further if we can set up a video tutorial.


Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical review/essay

This is shaping up well. 

I am pleased to see you have taken on board the things I pointed out last time.

Be careful that the navigation doesn’t get too complex, remember that the assessors don’t have much time to try to find things and anyone else reading the blog will get frustrated if it gets too complex…ok so far though!

 Suggested reading/viewing

For the next assignment:-

As well as the articles The rhetoric of the image and  Myth Today by Barthes a couple of books are key here:

Chandler, D., 2002. Semiotics: The Basics. 2nd ed. Abingdon: Routledge

or the on-line version Semiotics for Beginners at 

Williamson, J., 1978. Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising. London: Marion Boyars 

There is an extract from the above book at:,%20Decoding %20Advertisements%20smaller.pdf  which is worth reading if you can’t get the book itself


 Pointers for the next assignment


• Pick an advertisement or campaign that appeals to you and that you can try to unpick in terms of possible different interpretations.   • Try to think who is being addressed and how, what is the message that the advertisers want the audience to at least think they are being given (in reality they are simply being told “buy this”!) • Remember it is your interpretations that must make up the substance of your assignment. • Although you could perhaps do this in a similar way to assignment 2 I think some extended notes at least would be a good thing to do.

Project- Deconstruction

Notes on the theory of Deconstruction:

  • People: – Jacques Derrida (main founder), Nietschze, Heiddiger, Marx, Althusser , Plato, Saussure,

Eg. Marx’s “Religion is the opium of the masses” is Deconstructionist,  breaking down the discourse of powerful religion to effect the weaker society.

  • Institutions- works to expose institutions of Religion, Law, Political class, Males, Whites, Colonialists………
  • Era- late 60’s to 1980’s (context -Paris student riots- overcoming government, independence of Algeria over colonial French)

What does it do? It’s a Post structuralist, Post-modern way of reading Texts……. Eg text, images, films…..

Derrida’s essay  “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences”,

It allows us to deconstruct the text and reveal it’s inherent CONSTRUCTEDNESS.

Western thought and philosophy is not a ‘natural’ but is constructed and cycled through society by institutions forming a Discourse. Since PLATO Western philosophy iss dominated by various ideas, inc.  Religion, enlightenment, Binary opposition, Centredness, Hierarchy, unchanging sign-signifier-signified , voice over writing,

  • The binaries are endless – male  v female, young  v old, west v East, Good v Bad, God v devil…………..speech v writing. These dualisms are never equivalent; they are always hierarchically ranked.
  • Queer theory, feminism, post-colonialism are related ……..these are attacks on the stsus quo of powerful institutions.

Deconstruction involves

  1. Technical aspects: voice v writing, graphie (written form) , gram, differance, trace (the originary- but is not original and has no centre),
  2. Revealing the inherent biases and positions of a text: re frozen signs/ bias of one of the binary pair
  3. Allowing an alternative meaning/reading/discourse……where there is a slippery/shifting sign , and a balancing of the hierarchical relationship eg….toward the weaker….. and a recognition that there are no absolute oppositions….

Derrida’s ‘différance’ is both  semiotic and philosophical. The a represents several features in the application of this theory:

  • Différance is the difference that shows there is no origin (Différer =to differ). Something can only differ wrt to something else…..
  • Différance  is written: we can see the a that we cant hear it ( voice has no  hierarchy over writing)
  • Différer [to defer] is to displace, shift, or elude. It means that signification is not static, but always changing. There is no ‘transcendental signified’.


A.V Club (2010)  Lights! Camera! Deconstruction!: 19 movies that double as movie criticism [online at] [accessed 15th June 2016]

Gnanasekaran, R. (2015) An Introduction to Derrida, Deconstruction and PostStructuralism [online at]
[accessed 15th June 2016]

Stanford university (nd), Jacques Derrida-Deconstruction [online at] [accessed 15th June 2016]

The Bubble (2010), An introduction to deconstruction [online at]   [accessed 15th June 2016]


Author, What author? In your BLOG……..

  1. In the light of the two texts on authorship, I made the following observations on two works, by Sherry Levins and Cindy Sherman.

1.Sherry Levine

Fig. 1 Crystal Skull_(2011).


  •  Cast-crystal skulls in vitrines are part of Levine’s show at the Whitney Museum of American Art (Fig. 1)
  • Sherrie Levine is famous for appropriating others’ work
  • See also assignment 2-my annotation of ‘After Walker Evans’
  • What of this work?
  • Skulls are quite common in art so it’s not immediately obvious if there is an ‘original’ here    eg….Vanitas paintings, mask like primitive African Art, but Damien Hirsts diamond encrusted skulls was a very famous contemporary example of its use (he also uses Vitrines a lot) .


  • One consequence of ‘the death of the author’ is that one can be more creative about one’s thoughts about a work of art- one is not anxiously thinking ‘I wonder what Dr X said that this painting means…’ or similarly ‘I wonder what the artist really meant ?’… really gets you thinking- not regurgitating text from ‘experts’ in a book or on the internet !
  • This feels very powerful and empowering. It seems to allow us to reduce the effect of that ‘…Ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning’ (Foucalt, 2003). It’s the same idea as Berger’s complaint about the stuffy detached analysis of two Franz Hal’s paintings which ‘transfers the emotion provoked by the object from the plane of lived experience, to that of disinterested ‘art appreciation’ (Berger, 1972:13).


  • In relation to Brit pop artist Damien Hirst, the use of a skull and glass vitrine may draw attention to aspects of his art- this skull is less bling, less ‘valuable’ in terms of materials? (and in terms of market value?). Perhaps Levine thinks Damien Hirst’s skull (and perhaps the artist) is overrated, overpriced, and over hyped?


2.Cindy Sherman


Fig. 2 Untitled #223. 1990


  • This looks like a Renaissance picture of Maddona and child (the symbology)
  • The background looks Dutch- flowers resemble the Dutch realist’s trompe d’oleil style, which developed alongside the initial development of a well-to-do middle class in Europe.
  • Is the idea of Madonna and child an ‘authored original’? No it’s a reworking of Biblical characters. Though much scholarship is invested in deciding what is part of the bible and what is not, the characters in the bible are not controlled and copyrighted like contemporary symbols such as Mcdonalds golden arches. or the coke bottle (though Iconoclasm in various times and by various groups, destroyed religious images thinking them ungodly- ‘Thou shalt not worship a graven image’, )
  • The artists painted them at a time when the ideology of authorship was less important, but symbology and reverence to God was more important.
  • Hundreds of artists have painted this subject…… Duccio, Sano di Pietro (c 1300) Sassoferrato (17th C), Marco Basaiti c 1510), Giovanni Bellini, c. 1500
  • Could this photograph have a feminist discourse?- we see a false breast, and a removal of overtly sexual organs like breasts?
    • That the idea of an ‘accepted’ image of any woman is damaging to ‘real women’?
    • That the immaculate conception (The virgin Mary) is damaging to ‘real women’ ?
  • Her hair garment resembles a Dutch Vermeer sitter , but is the garment Scottish tartan- if so what does it symbolise? Is it irony about the nationality of the Virgin Mary ? perhaps the artist believes that Mary is no more from Nazareth as from the Scottish Highlands? Indeed perhaps she does nt exist at all????
  • Is the baby anatomically normal- ? the feet look a little flat and forward- like an animal? The right foot looks like it’s webbed ? What could this mean?? Is this a discourse against ‘perfection’ which could be a feminist/ disabled rights discourse?
  • The breasts are not obvious –no flesh is seen- in fact the chest seems rather flat-
  • Except a false boob is being sucked by the baby. What does this mean? False boobs are commonly bought by women who are unhappy with their body image ( a feminist symbol?) , they can be used by women who have had breast disease ( a symbol of courage over disability?), and they are FALSE- perhaps the story of Jesus is false and is an IDEOLOGY
  • Perhaps the perfect woman is an ideology?
  • As usual Sherman puts herself in the image to reinforce that it is a modern appropriation of a text


2. If the birth of the reader is at the expense of the author is there still any of Benjamin’s ‘aura’ left?

Benjamin’s text on the original and the reproduction centres around visual images, and the effects of reproduction on the original. In relation to the original alongside a mechanical reproduction ‘the quality of its presence is always depreciated’ what is lost being the aura. Benjamin states that reproduction both  ‘detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition’, and reactivates each copy ‘shattering’ tradition (Benjamin, 1999:74).  When we ponder the more general case of loss of authorship- eg in relation to ideas, such as those in written or visual texts, I think it is useful to remember that Benjamin also distinguishes between technical and manual reproductions.

I believe that appropriation of ideas is analogous to the reproduction of an image as described by Benjamin. To see an exact authored text is like the case of technical reproduction (the text technically and accurately reproduces the author’s ideas). To appropriate the text for oneself (to use it to continue meaning-making) is like Benjamin’s reactivation of the exact copy, which involves a little loss of aura but allows a meaningful and powerful creative process to continue. However, the product of one’s appropriation of the original text (in idea or written as text) is akin to the process of manual reproduction- it’s not identical to the original-it involves a human process….- it may be inferior or indeed superior. If the original is of good quality it’s more likely (on balance ) that the next appropriation will tend towards the mean- and be slightly lower quality. In this way we lose some aura of the original each time it’s appropriated. Meaning therefore evolves with the diminishing of aura, and quality may either increase or decrease (based on either a single appropriation, or an overall collective appropriation).

3. Does any of this explain or validate the unregulated nature of the internet?

The internet basically allows any connected person to see other people’s texts (in the broadest sense). It’s in the nature of man to use these and to appropriate ideas and to republish them online, and the shear amount of ideas is impossible to regulate completely (even though most (all?) of these avenues do require a person to attach an identity to the idea however). It’s the shear size of the population of internet surfers, augmented by the ease and speed of appropriation which explains why the internet of ideas too large to regulate.

As for validation of unregulation, I see two sides. Lack of regulation allows plenty of what an evolutionary biologist would call ‘hybrid vigour’- lots of appropriations between lots of different people. This is generally likely to be good for the production of interesting and good ideas. However not all individuals are making quality contributions, and some are downright socially un acceptable, corrupt, criminal, or unpleasant- there is no ‘survival of the fittest on the internet- everyone survives and all ideas remain).

If we consider that we must take the rough with the smooth on an unregulated internet, then great ideas flow, and some people are hurt which is acceptable to us as a net product. This is my belief. If we consider the negatives outweigh the positives, then we introduce regulation (impossible completely anyway), which stifles free speech and ideas, and reduces both the net good and the net bad !

4. Does this invalidate the interest in the artist’s or creator’s intent at the time of making?

I would tend towards a common sense approach. It seems silly to disregard an author’s intent or circumstances (see also my BLOG entry Epilogue-some worries about structuralism)  . This includes his name- because one way or another quality authors who write, paint etc for a living need to be remunerated- or they will starve and their ideas will stop! But reducing the element of authenticity in authorship will allow ideas to flow more freely. We can appropriate them ourselves and make them what we want (equivalent to Benjamin’s manual reproduction). We will still want to read, and view original works and ideas from truly great minds (technically reproduced for us) – Shakespeare, James Joyce, Rembrandt, and the like.



Fig. 1 Levine, S. Crystal Skull (2011) [Cast glass] online at [accessed 8 June 2017]

Fig. 2 Sherman, C Untitled #223. (1990) [Chromogenic color print] online at [accessed 8 June 2017]


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

Berger, J (1972) ‘Chapter 1’ in Ways of Seeing. Great Britain, Penguin.   p.  7-34

Foucalt, M. (2003) . ‘What is an author’ 1969   In  Harrison,C. and Wood,P. (eds). Art in Theory 1900-2000. Oxford. Blackwell Publications. p. 949-953





Myth is a type of speech- Some thoughts on Ulysees by James Joyce (replaces exercise on an annotated image)

I was a little uncertain how to approach this annotation based on the given quotation. I therefore decided to replace this exercise with  some ideas about structuralism based on the book Ulysees by James Joyce.

I am currently listening to this book on audible, and thought that the complex nature of the language would make an interesting analysis  with respect to structuralism, myth, and the several layers of meaning which the text might contain……







Project: Structuralist Analysis

This project consists of annotated images of

  1.  Two naturalistic paintings- In what ways do the formal and informal have a similar structure?
  2. A formal and an informal photograph- In what ways do the formal and informal have a similar structure?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1. Two naturalistic paintings.    (right click on image and open in new tab for zoomed view ).   w1

2.A formal and an informal photograph (right click on image and open in new tab for zoomed view ).w3



Fig. 1 Durer, A The Hare  (no date) (watercolour and bodycolour on vellum) [online at ] [Accessed 27th May 2017]

Fig. 2 Audubon, J. Snowy Heron or White Egret  (no date) (aquatint and engraving with hand colouring ) [online at] https://www.bridgemanimages./en-GB/ [Accessed 27th May 2017]

Fig. 3  Charles Dickens  (no date) [photograph] [online at] [Accessed 27th May 2017]

Fig. 4  Mccullin, D Biafra (1967) [B& W photograph] online at [Accessed 27th May 2017]