In your BLOG…… a response to questions on ‘The bottom line on planet one’ by Dick Hebidge.

In your BLOG…..

1.Hebidge does not offer much in the way of a clear distinction between good and bad taste. It was a difficult text to negotiate because of this I think. Indeed for much of the article Hebidge talks about the second world, and uses the Jean Luc-Goddard quote to imply that judgements such as good and bad are not relevant in this world.

However, as he discusses the two publications and  compares their characteristics, they both seem to reveal characteristics which my sensibility tells me belong to both the barbarous and the good- and so it’s difficult to categorise them. For example, The Face has elements of ‘good taste’ such as its similarities with post-modern and post-structuralist thinkers, and it’s thus may be thought of as liberal, academic, and therefore ‘high’ art. On the other hand, its liberation from strict object signification reduces its dependence on the ‘high art’ western philosophical and intellectual tradition. In fact the author states explicitly that ‘it is out to supercede….scholarly and commonsense constructions of the relationship between cultural politics, the image, and the ‘popular’(Hebidge, 1999:106), suggesting that it wants to be thought of neither as  high or low.

Ten.8 in turn has low characteristics, and high ones. The students complain that it is too political, too heavy, and not stylish enough (compared to The Face), which suggests that it is High art, as does its funding by an Arts Council grant. In the closing paragraphs the author stresses the universal  humanity in the sorts of traditional ideas of love, death, and judgements which are found in world one and Ten.

2. Hebidge’s main arguments against the people of the post are that they seem to be going overboard on their ‘project’ to rid the world of (common-sense?) signifier and value judgements. They also include some factions who are anarchistic and refute even basic local political objectives.

3. I am aware that the terms high and popular culture are laden with a body of philosophical tradition and discussion, which makes the question What’s the difference? difficult to answer. I prefer a common-sense approach based on the meaning within their titles, as follows. Popular culture implies that it is liked by a large number of people, and that these people tend to come from the ordinary parts of society-what Marx would call the proletariat. High culture implies that it is consumed by individuals placed higher in society, which rationally constitutes fewer people than the ‘populus’. High culture may also suggest that it could involve institutions (or people) who are large in scale and powerful in action, such as the church, or the government.

Taking an example of each, I would class television as popular culture, as it is consumed by almost everyone (even the upper-class). Of course, the type of programme has some relevance, and this may be subdivided into high and popular programmes. Fine art is still high culture, though there is plenty of effort by programme makers to make it more accessible to the masses. With no judgement attached, I believe that in general the masses do not want to consume fine art in galleries or on TV, and that it is too remote, and will take too much effort to be rewarding.

4.Which of the art forms is in ascendence in the media and other cultural areas in today’s society? Is the world flat or round?

I will brainstorm some media and cultural bodies in my world today in order to think about this question. This brief survey will obviously be biased in favour of what I like to hear and watch, and my lifestyle.

Films

– on TV:  quite a lot of trash- action, shoot-em-up, goody v baddy, state v terrorists (Mission impossible, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, Die Hard franchises. All are simplifications and few make us think about issues. More occasionally we see cultured, meaningful, difficult, complex ones (on late at night when everyone has gone to bed!). LOW

-in cinema: Hollywood big box office films tend to be dumbed down, action, predictable, as above. Independent and thoughtful films do get into the cinemas, but not for very long. However they do get OSCARS- but the voters are from the film hierarchy and so are more ‘cultured’ than the viewers.  LOW/HIGH

TV programmes

Mostly trashy and popular- even on BBC 1, but there standards are slightly better eg. situationism-real life- played out as drama- babies, dolers, TV watchers, driving tests, talent contests, even the glut of cooking shows/competitions, police surveillance/traffic cops etc….  LOW

Some channels like SKY ARTS, History, and BBC 3 and 4 are much more learned and artistic. HIGH

Radio-

Pop/rock: massive numbers of radio stations, most independent stations are simply pedalling the same few easy chart tunes every day- helps the masses at work LOW ART. Some stations or programmes are more authentic and deal with Jazz, Country, Big Band, independent bands etc. MED-HIGH ART.

Classical- classic FM tries a bit but still introduces only the easy bits of classical (and often only individual popular movements) HIGH/LOW. Radio 3 is more HIGH brow, with longer (full) pieces, and less famous pieces and composers (and pieces which are less ‘approachable’ to the untrained

Talking/magazine radio

Radio 5 live- this is a phone-in style channel. It gives the listeners a chance to debate things, but I don’t think it often goes beyond the venting of small minded prejudices by the callers. LOW

Radio 4- this broadcasts good quality politics, current affairs, art and culture. Their news is often based on conflict and drama (see Marxist interpretations of media), but the art and culture is  good, thoughtful and doesn’t try to dumb down too much (eg. Front Row every day talks about classical and pop music, theatre, art, sculpture, film…). MED-HIGH

Sports radio – Sport is traditionally a subject for the masses, and phone-in shows a quite unsophisticated, and popular. LOW

FINE ART- when do we see fine art? Probably if we choose to go to a gallery or if you watch arts channels on TV (very few) HIGH. There are occasional stories in the news….mainly about the astronomic price of a picture at auction, or the controversial artists like Banksy, or the BRIT ART lot, but it’s quite trashy MEDIUM.

Some parks and public spaces have sculptures and quality architecture HIGH. It’s not very common, but in general the standard of buildings and art in public spaces has improved over the last few decades I think.

5. Find 4-5 examples of

Contemporary popular culture:

  • Hollywood film- Expendables 2
  • Soap opera- Eastenders
  • Pop music- Beyonce or Take That !
  • TV- The Voice- a talent show

High round world culture

High referencing popular culture

Richard Hamilton- Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing ?(1956)

hamilton

Jeff Koons-Popeye mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color 2009-11

koons

Eduardo Paolizzi I was a Rich Man’s Plaything (1947)

paolizzi

Edouard Manet A bar at the Folie-Bergeres (1882)

manet

Popular culture referencing High culture

Album sleeves

Deep Purple in Rock ( a reference to Mount Rushmore, USA)

deep purple

Metallica …and justice for all (a reference to The Statue of Liberty)metallica

The Beatles- Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band (several references to high culture- eg. the artist Sir Peter Blake)

beatles

Nirvana-Nevermind (a baby is born already corrupted by money).

nirvana

The Bottom line on planet one: squaring up to The Face.    by Dick Hebidge

Alan Hughes was a member of the photography magazine Ten.8 ’s editorial board. In an exchange with a group of Dick Hebidge’s visual communications students, one student criticised Ten.8 compared to The Face  magazine,  citing its left-wing politics, poor design, and its lack of interest (Hebidge, 1999: 99) . The author suggests that The Face  represented a urtext or epitomy of good design, and compares this to Northrop Frye’s view of the Bible as the gold standard for Western artistic thought (Hebidge, 1999: 99-100).

The author- a teacher- suggests that Ten.8 is viewed by the students as too dull, too wordy, too preachy, and just not ‘worth the effort (or the cover price)’ to read, for what they imagine they will get out of the text (Hebidge, 1999:100). Indeed The Face  has larger sales figures (52,000-90,000 cf. Ten.8 1,500-2,500), and regularly wins applause and awards for the standard of its design.

Hebidge ponders the question of whether the great difference in attitude of these students to the separate magazines could be attributed to any one factor. Had it to do with style or content (or both-or neither), attributes of the readership, style, advertising, financing, marketing or editorial policy?   More specifically he wonders whether it was due to Ten.8’s links to education, knowledge, and  a non-profit ethos, versus The Face ’s links to their polar opposites (Hebidge, 1999:100).  As regards attitudes to profit-making, the author admits that it is an unlikely factor, as both magazines are relatively small and independent (Hebidge, 1999: 102). As for the style and content- they offer style, image and fashion (The Face ), and the theory, politics, history and practice of photography (Ten.8), which the author believes does not lie at the heart of the difference.

Hebidge provides a possible explanation via an anology of two separate worlds, where the power relationship between images and text is different, and where in one the subordination of images to words has been reversed, and allows images to dominate. This second world is

‘larger…first and foremost pictured… (where images) have their own power and effects…looking takes precedence over seeing (‘sensing’ over ‘knowing’)…..’

(Hebidge, 1999: 105)

This world, corresponding to The Face , uses words, not to inexhaustibly explain the images, but to ‘put the image in play’ (Hebidge, 1999: 105). The author seems to suggest that this world is far more mysterious, nuanced, unpredictable, powerful and interesting than the lily-livered way pictures are used to meekly and merely accompany the predictability and didactism of text in the first planet’s Ten.8. My personal reaction to this is that this is all very well, but most of the articles in the reader, including this one by Hebidge, is severely text-driven, and quite explicit. On the other hand, these articles are for a different audience- of students and academics, not style consumers.

Continuing with the separate worlds analogy, the author suggests further that in the second world, the relationships between the contributors is less vertical, less proscribed and traditional, and the contributors themselves are more varied (including flaneurs and dandies).  Here the image is King, and the image is NOW, and there is no history, politics, or back-story. In this way the vertical dimension of history has been flattened, and there is only the horizontal dimension of the images and text that is presented each week (Hebidge, 1999: 105). By this stage the reader has a pretty good idea that The Face  seems a more interesting and innovative magazine than Ten.8.

The author quotes Jean Luc Godard in order to introduce several ideas common to both Goddard’s  words and The Face .

This is not a just image. This is just an image.

(Goddard quoted in Hebidge, 1999: 105)

Similarly The Face  is not a just magazine (for example ‘…it renounces…the moralist’s mission to expose and combat social ills’ (Hebidge, 1999:106)), it is just a magazine (to hijack Godard’s words). And the magazine is out to upset most prevailing orthodoxies of the relationship ‘between cultural politics, the image, and the ‘popular’ (Hebidge, 1999:106).  For example, it bizarrely juxtaposes fragments of such topics as clothes design, contemporary architecture, the thoughts of leading intellectuals, and electron microscope pictures of the AID’s virus (playfully titled ‘The sex object of the decade’).  It is a magazine which ‘goes out of its way to blur the line between politics and parody, and pastiche….’ (Hebidge, 1999:106). In the world of The Face, the author implies that we lose our conventional bearings, and thus are happy to be alive for the sake of life, and nothing else (Hebidge, 1999:107).

In an exhibition in the Photographer’s Gallery near Leicester Square, a room was converted into a ‘walk-in magazine’ (Hebidge, 1999: 107), and the room contained sections which exactly matched The Face. Reading the magazine is compared to someone physically walking through this exhibition, and to Walter Benjamin’s ‘urban consumer’…’ consuming looks, objects, ideas and values’ (Hebidge, 1999: 107). The consumer can interpret and use any information in whatever way they choose- unshackled by conventions.

Similarly, Roland Barthes introduced the idea of ‘cruising’ a text (it seems to me, perhaps on the wet and muddy coat-tails of Walter Benjamin’s flâneur, who cruises the arcades of Paris?) as a method of reducing the reader’s dependence on imbibing the absolute meanings, the signifieds, contained within the text.  The author believes that this type of approach is engendered by The Face; readers are using-in any way they wish (or simply enjoying)- the information (or disinformation for that matter); and this is the fundamental difference between The Face  and its planet one relative Ten.8 (Hebidge, 1999: 108).

Expanding the argument to first and second world thinking generally, the author likens the second- world approach to that taken by post-structuralists and post-modernists to the image- ridding the signifier of its signified, whilst first-world thinkers like John Berger seek to extract all the meaning out of images (Hebidge, 1999: 108). This dialectic between the object as signifier-signified and  the object as just the object is explored by Pierre Bourdieu in his essay on the social definition of photography (Bourdieu, 1999). The planet 2 ‘posties’ seek to undermine what the author calls dominant Platonic meaning (ie. what is represented) and a world of images which may be good and bad, legitimate and illegitimate, or an anti-Godard world where images can be just and unjust. They seek to replace it with a meaning based on differences alone (Hebidge, 1999:109).

More expansively, the first world meaning is part of a long existing hierarchy and power system which can be seen in elements such as the Word, the Enlightenment, and European Rationalism, the Party and that it is oppressive, and may include political thinking (Hebidge, 1999:109). Is this the word of the Lord or more generally text referred to by the author here? This section usefully lists the pervading ideological dogmas of the Western, Modern, Civilised world and hints that there are and were other possible journeys. It might also entail bourgoise ‘truth-speaking’, or ‘representing the oppressed’.  The second world also includes anarchists and mystics (Hebidge, 1999:109).

It may seem somewhat impractical to live in a world which is completely without structures such as politics and law (the author calls these sorts of inhabitants an ‘impossible class’, a term originally coined by Nietzche, and appropriated by several anarchist groups).  However I can think of examples of  these pervading systems which can  appear laughable and appalling, such as the sort of bourgoise truth-speaking from the likes of Millionaire celebrity capitalists such as the Rock star Bono.

It would be an interesting exercise to analyse how these sorts of manifestations could be analysed in traditional planet-1 terms, and how they might be replaced by a more unusual but satisfying planet-2 alternative.

The second world doesn’t need to be as severe as an anarchist breakdown of society though, and the ‘assault on representation’ can be limited to a textual and image world of ‘radically empty signifiers’   (Hebidge, 1999:109). Shades, variations and nuances are all possible within the planet.  For example Jean Baudrillard is a current second-world thinker, espousing the belief that ‘…appearances can no longer be used to mask, conceal, distort or falsify reality’ , and that ‘… reality is nothing more than the never knowable sum of all appearances’ (Hebidge, 1999: 105).

These concepts inevitably prompt the reader to question his own views about what reality is. Is it simply what is visible, audible, only that which we can sense? Also is the past a reality? or the future ? How does this pared-down Baudrillardian view of the real relate to the Eastern, Buddhist, and spiritual ideas such as ‘thinking in the moment’, and for that matter modern medicine’s idea of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, where the triad of thought, feeling, behaviour is used as a model for both normal and abnormal living? One of my many favourite quotes from Mark twain is that I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.’ (Quotations page, 1994-2007).

Baudrillard believes that reality ‘flickers’, and that we can’t  interpret reality on the basis of our experiences, nor can we ‘speculate dispassionately on the meaning of it all.’ (Hebidge, 1999:109). Nor does the I exist. ie. ourselves. We are just what exists at that point, ‘The subject simply ceases’(Hebidge, 1999: 110). This Baudrillardian planet 2 life is suggested by the author to be like a person receiving inputs and playing out their life – like video tape heads receive information on magnetic tape and translate it into a screen picture- ‘…all human life can pass across the heads, but we never own or store or ‘’know’ or ‘see’ the material that we process.’ With the death of the subject the word ‘by’ becomes meaningless-  we have no power to intervene (Hebidge, 1999: 110).

I do not think that the death of the subject and this powerlessness logically follows, even from the analogy with a VCR player. It is I guess a concept which has been exaggerated to the extreme, for it’s  striking effect. I am happy to admit that in some senses (and this is key, as reality contains a large number of different separate ingredients) that the past and future don’t really exist (but they do as memories, or as hopes and fears…..), but even in the VCR world, even if we are simply interpreting stimuli, then for as long as we have a body, we are able to influence our environment, and our experience.

Is the age of the extinction of signifieds just sophistry? The author cites further abstractions such as the move away from the manufacturing model of economy towards one dominated by media, computers and global conglomerates (Hebidge, 1999: 110). We now have programmed obsoletism (of goods), and manufacture without human involvement, and the most important products are images and information-which have no physical substance, and these characteristics of modern society are breaking down Marx’s capitalist model…..into the model termed hypercapitalism by Jean Francoise Lyotard (Hebidge, 1999: 110).

This sort of societal model is pertinent to my dissatisfaction with our current society. It’s one that measures Quality of Life by measures like the GDP or whatever technological innovations happen to be on the scene- an evolution of science, and medicine, and engineering which is praised as our new GOD. But this evolution has no need of more simple social improvements such as equality. The answers to these profound social issues do not evolve in the same way. Indeed evolution of man or technologies is survival of the fittest and involves power over weakness and the eventual death of the weak. We have to value a different model for ensuring social justice and equality, which may move against our animal instincts, and where decisions are made not incrementally like science, but in major life changing leaps- such as the abolition of slavery, and the enfranchisement of  groups who were previously voiceless.  From an economic point of view, the increasingly abstracted economy came to a gut wrenching crash once again in 2008, caused by both greedy selling of  mortgage ‘debt’ to the poor  to buy houses, and more generally in the global necessity to trade in non-existent things,  such as stocks and shares and derivatives.

According to some ‘posties’, in this hypercapitalist world the signifier has won out, the playing field is levelled, and everyone has access to the means of reproduction, not production (Hebidge, 1999: 111). In the sphere of knowledge and education the model of the university, and intellectual and cultural value of subjects like social sciences will reduce. These will be replaced with linguistics (to break down communications barriers?) and cybernetics (to manufacture and reproduce things). Communications technology expands and national boundaries and culture are levelled…..everything changes……production ,consumption, subjectivity, knowledge , art….(Hebidge, 1999: 111).

There are lots of structures breaking down here, and I found it difficult to follow the argument here. For example was all this collapse due solely to the loss of the signified?  Or was it due to the ‘intellectual’  ideas of Planet 2 in general, which are varied, and where too there may be  some disagreement (between planet 2 posties), and some nuances, and some disclarity…

One specific problem I had with this part of the text was that it hinted at possible bipartisan approach by the posties (eg. disagreements exist) about what planet 2 is like, but I did not clearly understand who espoused what. Additionally, I can agree that the post Marxist hypercapitalist world seems to  reduces differences (between countries and classes, and hierarchies) and increases the abstract nature of economics, and that therefore the signified is weakened (if not killed off). However ‘the triumph of the signifier’ (Hebidge, 1999: 111), seemed to suggest a dominance and increase in its prevalence during  hypercapitalism. My difficulty here is that if this triumph has actually killed off the signifier I agree. If it remains and is even stronger, in a world where abstraction seems to be rife, then this seems paradoxical – but perhaps paradoxical is also allowed in planet 2!

Continuing to describe the planet 2 world, the author suggests everywhere becomes the same and that this is the world suited to The Face  (Hebidge, 1999: 112).

The author now cites a Levi jeans commercial (the main character has a copy of The Face in his suitcase) – where the playing out of the dialectic (?) between East/West, Age/youth, Chains/Freedom etc. is going on, and sums up the hypercapitalist society (Hebidge, 1999: 112) the society of  ‘…commodity consumption, personal identity, and desire…’ (Hebidge, 1999: 113).

I became a little confused here, as the very polarised world of the advert appears to be more simply capitalist to me…us v them and the power of consumer goods- not the sort of hypercapitalist breakdown of these polarised structures. The author says that this advert’s story is not just a ‘bourgoise myth’ but has some reality ie. that The Face and Levis are worth a lot of money in the Russian black market, and they are more like a dream of freedom for the subjugated and trapped Eastern citizens (Hebidge, 1999: 113). For me, is this any different to the bourgoise myth of working classes desiring consumer objects to free them from their life?  (ie the typical Marxist / Barthes myth of consumerism). There seems no real difference.

The author compares the second world to the First-world thinker John Berger who in his ‘Ways of Seeing’ TV series moves between a picture of starving refugees, onto an advert for bath salts, whilst reading the Sunday Times. He calls the culture that is responsible for this epistemological gap ‘ (Hebidge, 1999: 113).

In the flat (second world) arguments can be built but with difficulty because it is easy for slippage to occur. In The Face ’… irony and  ambiguity dominate…’  and hyperbole (Hebidge, 1999: 114). When the author opens  a copy of the Magazine at the exhibition, he sees a SWATCH supplement, faithfully parodying the style of The Face  (Hebidge, 1999: 115). These rhetorical devices are used to reduce the feeling that meanings contained within its pages are dogmatic/didactic opinion. Similarly they frequently use new terms (‘Butcheoise’, Doleocracy..) avoiding terms which might be laden with old and traditional meanings (Hebidge, 1999: 114). Photographers, writers, and ‘subjects’ are anonymous (really?always?), which protects them from being categorised and remembered (Hebidge, 1999: 115).

The typefaces used within the magazine are sometimes barely decipherable (Hebidge, 1999: 117). This too is taken by the author as an example of planet-2-ness. Its more iconic, more Eastern Japanese script (a non-phonetic alphabet). The author describes The Face as using ‘the semiogram; a self-enclosed semantic unit- a word, graphic image, photograph……which cannot be referred (or signify? ) to anything outside itself’ (Hebidge, 1999: 119).

The author and his generation tend to remember a particular idea of ‘the popular’ around the inter-war and post-war years, exemplified by The Picture Post (Hebidge, 1999: 120). These ideas are well  known to consist of equality, fairness, justice etc (think of the  post-WW2 political concensus around medical and social provision for all (NHS and national insurance) and protection (via nationalisation and NATO).

This sort of national view and the symbols it was used to, broke down with the maintained affluence of the post-war period, and a break from concensus towards conviction politicians such as Margaret Thatcher. Another break from the past has been an increasing educational level available to the masses, and feminism, which has put the rights and issues of women at the heart of society   (Hebidge, 1999: 120). This is the transformed political landscape that Hebidge sees The Face as serving.

In the final coda of the essay Hebidge surprised me a little. After a lengthy difficult exploration of the concepts and context of planet-2, and its relevance to the style of The Face  magazine, he comes down to earth quickly, by stating that The Face  is not a complete reflection of planet-2, or Baudrillard,  and he commends it for its popularity, significance, influence, and (sometimes) excellent journalism (Hebidge, 1999:121). He also addresses my previous point by suggesting that the depth of his analysis regarding this popular magazine might be viewed as somewhat comical by some.

The most surprising to me were his final thoughts. In fact one last battle between planet 1 and planet 2 had yet to be described, and planet 2 was not (as I had come to believe during the essay) necessarily going to win. This became important as he left the The Face  exhibition, and heard a Chrissie Hynde song playing in a loop (Hebidge, 1999:121). The author’s revelation was that when all is said and done our simple humanity makes us believe in words (such as pain, love, faith), and their associated symbols, signifieds, and  time frames (not just the present, but the past and the future); all those planet 1 attributes which common sense and humanity had made it difficult for me to accept were not important (at least in planet 2).  And he would go on reminding himself  ‘….that this earth is round not flat, that there will never be an end to judgement….’ (Hebidge, 1999:121). And with that I happily breathed a sigh of relief and the thoughts of planet 2 began to  disperse and dissolve a little from my brain, at least for now.

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

Hebidge, D (1999) ‘The bottom line on planet one: squaring up to the face’ in  visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.      p. 99-124

Quotations Page (1994-2007) Mark Twain  online at

http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/38977.html   (accessed on 16th April 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)

 

Ways of seeing-chapter 1. John Berger

As an introduction to this powerful piece the dominance of  vision in our lives is suggested by the fact that seeing comes before words- both in the infant, and as we make sense of the world through seeing and thinking (Berger, 1972: 7). Of course what we see informs what we think, but what we think changes the way we see too. We do not simply mechanically see, we choose what to see by moving our eyes (Berger, 1972: 8).  If we see we can also be seen, and this reciprocal nature is more fundamental than that of speaking/dialogue (Berger, 1972:9).

The author gives one idea for the definition of an image

An image is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced. It is an appearance, or a set of appearances, which has been detached from the place and time in which it first made its appearance….

(Berger, 1972:9-10)

Berger believes that photos are not a mechanical record we are aware that the image taker has selected the image from many different variations (Berger, 1972:10). This is less ambivalent than Walter Benjamin’s view, and accords to a greater extent with my own (see above). His choice of subjects reflects his way of seeing, as do the brushstrokes of a painter reflect his (Berger, 1972:10).  I find this analogy a little imprecise. Surely this compares apples and pears? Both artist and photographer choose subjects similarly, but whilst an artist uses an artist’s techniques – brushstrokes, choice of colours, and other technical processes, a photographer uses technical knowledge of exposure, colour filters, light levels etc.  to make the image real.

How we see a photo is dependent both on how the photographer sees and how we see (Berger, 1972:10)– but this is true of all art forms I think. Originally images were used to conjure up invisible entities- this use corresponding to the ritual which Benjamin describes (Benjamin, 1999:76). Images developed to include people and how they looked, and the consciousness that it was an image of how one person felt another looked. This was due to an increasing sense of individuality and of history.  Berger states that the image is the most direct communicator of history, compared to text for example, and that it is ‘therefore ‘more precise and richer than literature’ (Berger, 1972:10). It may be richer and more direct, but the philosopher Roland Barthes asserts that the image is less precise than text, in a complex article ‘Rhetoric of the image’ (Barthes, 1999: 33).

When we view images of the past we bring with us assumptions  and ideas which include beauty, form, status, and  genius  (Berger, 1972:11).   Berger  argues that these ideas are not really relevant to the world today and they  mystify the past. This makes artworks both more remote, and importantly it reduces the chance of  us learning from them (which he describes as  offering  ‘us fewer conclusions to complete in action’ )(Berger, 1972:11). To understand the past we need to place ourselves within it, and the past is mystified by a ‘priveliged minority’ in order to validate  a historical role for the ruling classes literature’ (Berger, 1972:11). This article is powerfully political and subversive and very refreshing because of it.

The author now criticises an unnamed art historian over his analysis of  two Frans Haals paintings- Regents of the old men’s alms house, and it’s sister painting  Regentesses of the old men’s alms house.  The analysis ‘transfers the emotion provoked by the object from the plane of lived experience, to that of disinterested ‘art appreciation’ (Berger, 1972:13). I think the critic deserves his relative anonymity here, as he  seems to describe the paintings using a fairly standard ‘artistic elements’ approach. Berger suggests that rather than dismiss our own thoughts about how the figures were painted- and the personalities and relationships which emerge, we must use this as the only evidence available. He also says that bringing in various historical facts and figures cannot change the reality of what we see (Berger, 1972:14). Mystification is not about the  vocabulary used, but about ignoring what is evident (Berger, 1972:15).

There now follows a rather rambling, sometimes repetitive   section where we are counselled how to avoid this type of mystification, taking the example of perspective. From Renaissance times perspective was a way of ordering things so that the viewer was at the centre of things (Berger, 1972:16). With the development of the  camera what was seen is dependent on the photographers position in time and space.  This meant that images did not have to look like all the old paintings (Berger, 1972:17). I think of the way the photograph may have influenced the Cubists- their altered perspective, their lack of traditional perspective, and their incorporation of several views in one image.  ‘The visible came to mean something different to them. This was immediately reflected in painting’ (Berger, 1972:18). These are well argued points but its not immediately clear how this discussion is an example of demystification. The author does not make clear how this lengthy example fulfils his criteria.

There then follows a restatement of Benjamin’s idea- that photography reproducing a painting destroys some aura (a place, a history) and gives the new image a different meaning, or many meanings (Berger, 1972:19). When a TV programme transmits the image of a painting, each viewer has  their own context, and their own meaning (Berger, 1972:19).

In the age of  mechanical reproduction, viewing an original now tells us first and foremost that it is an original, not what it’s message is. These days the value of an object is due to its rarity, not its message, and that this rarity has assumed a bogus religiosity and mystification in an era of religious scepticism. Before a work of art we feel that due to its authenticity, it is beautiful, and it is art. (Berger, 1972:21).  This suits the artisitic elites who run galleries and the arts. They are far more interested and concerned with research and scholarship that establishes authenticity, and much less bothered about the message! (Berger, 1972:22).

Berger’s next artistic example is Leanardo’s cartoon ‘The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist’. He suggests that it has become impressive due to its market value.  Berger argues that this ‘bogus religiosity’ takes the place of what was lost when paintings became reproducible, and claims that the art establishment makes  the original mysteriously authentic, which is undemocratic .  (Berger, 1972:23).

Art galleries are visited by fewer uneducated than educated people and people think of art as belonging to the world of the rich (Berger, 1972:24) due to connotation with market value I presume. The original meaning is lost and new meanings are created in the age of reproduction of images. These can be achieved by i. isolation of a single part (Berger, 1972:25),  ii. The splitting of a painting up into parts which are arranged in order to tell a story (such as a  filmmakers message) .  (Berger, 1972:26),  iii. Addition of text (Berger, 1972:27), and iv. The  addition of other images around it (Berger, 1972:29).

His next point is very powerful, and is perhaps the central statement of this text, that because of the ways we can change the meaning of art, anyone and everyone should be able to use art. But in the modern world art is still mostly used in a way that justifies the old view of art and its importance to hierarchical  structures like the Church, The aristocracy, and the powerful(Berger, 1972:29). This does beg the question of what examples can be imagined of more democratic uses of art, and can I think of any that are being used in the present day and world?

The author cites an example of a board used by a person to pin up personal memorabilia. These may include images, and all are usually strongly connected  to the person; ‘logically these boards should replace museums’.  (Berger, 1972:30). Originals do not become useless – they have an immediacy – in the paint, the brushwork, but it’s what we do with our experience which can be different now (Berger, 1972:31). Nor does he believe that old art must be easy to understand as if difficulties can simply be personalised away. We need to have a view of art which relates it ‘to every aspect of experience’, and applied  to our own life, not one which is dominated and led by artistic elites and antidemocratic thinking which the art establishment believes in (Berger, 1972:32). Berger describes how art has always been isolated, originally in places connected with magic, and later in churches, castles and Palaces, dominated by the elite. But reproduction has freed art from this elite culture! .  (Berger, 1972:32). He reiterates that the use of art still does not empower people- it still works for elites, but we can gain power by using art  in a more personal way, using it to understand ourselves, and history (Berger, 1972:32). In fact ‘The entire art of the past has now become a political issue’ (Berger, 1972:32).

This is a very Marxist view of art, and it’s is interesting to wonder whether art has become more democratic, personal, and applicable in the forty years since this article was written (both how we view and use old art, and what we view and use as new art). It  is also massively illuminating when I think about my reaction to modern art. Although I have increasingly broadened and democratised my opinion of modern and contemporary art, I still frequently work against an inner voice which says ‘A child could do that’, or ‘that does not take skill’. Berger’s view of art tells us that if we have this view, then we need to remember that art must be personally empowering, and political, and has no need to look like the art of the past. In fact it should not. It should be whatever is relevant to each of us in society and should include everyone.

BLOG questions

Do you find his case convincing?

Berger believes that art’s elite nature is a mystification of art. Mystification has to an extent always been part of art, through it’s rituals of magic and religion. We now live in a world where magic, and religion no longer dominate and where  technical  reproduction has the  potential for the democratisation of art. However, Berger believes that the elites still control art through their concentration on an approach to art which is dominated by a bogus aura; an obsession with rarity, value, research and scholarship. This ignores what’s most important-what art can mean to individual people, and how individuals can act on the conclusions they make from their experiences of art. In order to redress the balance he believes that we should look at what the art tells us, act on our conclusions, allow the art to affect how we live our lives. We should reduce our dependence on academic scholarship and the provenance of artworks. We should be open to new ways of personalising our experience of art. His Marxist view is that the powerful art elite (the superstructure) are maintaining this hierarchy, and I suspect that he would like a significant change made in the art establishment (new appointments and de-appointments).

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

On the one hand removing a work of art from its original site may diminish it’s aura. This reduces the aspect of ritual connected to the art, because it’s original site is lost. However, the history, age and authenticity of the art does not completely evaporate by the move, and the artwork can be re-energised by it’s repositioning. To be controversial, and play the devil’s advocate- when I visited Rome, I did not go to the Vatican to see Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Cistine chapel- I was told that the queues entailed hours of waiting. If the ceiling were removed and broken up, and distributed to sites all over the world, would this be a bad thing? Yes the painting has broken up, and some small loss of aura has occurred. But if the peoples of many countries had a small piece to  look at and learn from, the power of Michelangelo’s artistic message may  have been increased compared to it’s original setting.

Does familiarity breed contempt?

In the case of reproductions of rare masterpieces I don’t think so. It has to be a good thing for these reproduction images to be democratised; to be used in adverts, on postcards, in TV programmes, for comedy… and any other way which we can usefully engage with them in the context of our present time.

Any sense that we are treating the images with contempt, or any sense that we are not respecting their history because we are interacting differently with them should be quashed. I agree with Berger’s argument for the democratisation of artistic images. We no longer live life in reverence to magic and religion, and yet we are still allowing ourselves to be imprisoned by artistic elites who continue to alienate the masses by maintaining the bogus aura of a work’s history and uniqueness.

The overwhelmingly important aspect of our relationship with old ‘authentic’ art, is that we are touched and learn from it. Mechanical reproduction allows this art into new aspects of our lives, and if we remain open to it’s powers, we should be able to change our lives through it. We need to reduce our obsession with how things were for others- concentrating on how things are for us, when we approach a historical artefact. This is a wonderfully democratic idea, and strongly revolutionary.

Has Benjamin’s aura been removed by the postcard? See above!

References

Barthes, R (1999) ‘Rhetoric of the image’ In visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.      p. 33-41

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

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

The work of art in the age of mechanical production

Benjamin begins by suggesting that manual reproduction of art has always been possible and cites examples from roman times. Mechanical reproduction has progressed slowly, but in in leaps and bounds. The first way of mechanically producing art was the woodcut, developed before the printing of text. In the middle ages engraving and etching were developed, and lithography in the 19th Century. Benjamin cites lithography as being different from previous printing methods, and that it was more direct (Benjamin, 1999:72). Previous methods allowed large numbers of prints but lithography allowed an image to be changed more frequently – at the pace of text printing (Benjamin, 1999:73). Here Benjamin seems to use the term printing to mean printing text as opposed to a general description of the method. It is not entirely clear why lithography was so much easier to use; perhaps the tracing of the image on stone was simpler and more controllable than engraving (which requires some chemical dissolving), or woodcuts (which may be more difficult, making the image less refined?)

Lithography was soon overtaken by photography, which freed the hand from the major part of the reproduction method. Because it could be executed so quickly it was natural that it could change with and thereby accompany speech-  and foreshadowed the development of ‘talking’ films (Benjamin, 1999:73).

It is interesting to ponder the status of photography as ‘mechanical reproduction’. How do we distinguish manual and mechanical reproduction? It is not completely free of the hand- but neither is any reproduction method-so this will not suffice as a  criteria. Identical reproductions through photography are impossible, but they can be virtually identical- and this too applies to many other printing techniques. It seems that one needs to distinguish a photograph of an existing image from a photograph of a scene from ‘life’- a living scene. Whilst the reproduction of an existing image, such as a painting, from the direction and distance intended by the artist, seems very ‘mechanical’ and produces a virtually identical image (but see later for photography’s ability to revolutionise viewpoints and other aspects of seeing). However the capturing of a live image, such as a landscape or a portrait, seems to be a very different case. Here one is producing a very different image to that originally viewed through the camera- it is static, and is much less alive, and seems especially different from the original scene (for example it is viewed flat on a surface and can be touched directly). In this sense a photograph from life, if it is not less mechanical than a photograph of an existing flat (or static) image, seems at least a special case. Perhaps in this sense it is more akin to manual reproduction.

By 1900 technical reproduction had become so accurate that it could be used for all works of art. This had a great effect on how people viewed art, and also increased the value of reproduction as an artistic process in its own right (Benjamin, 1999:73).

Benjamin acknowledges that a perfect reproduction still lacks a uniqueness of time and place, amounting to a loss of a specific history (including any damage), and ownership (Benjamin, 1999:73). The idea of ownership, and provenance has become massively important to an art work’s monetary value.  I watched a TV programme recently in which ownership (for example by famous people) was described as one of the most important factors determining the astronomical figures famous art sells for. Specifically the fact that a Mark Rothko painting had been owned by the Rockefeller family contributed to its 50+ million dollar price at last auction.

Benjamin continues, stating that ‘The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity’ (Benjamin, 1999:73). However, a distinction is drawn between manual and technical reproduction; a manual reproduction loses authority, but not so a technical reproduction, in the presence of the original. This is because when compared to a manual reproduction,  a technical reproduction  is less dependent on the original, and can increase the  public’s access to the work, admittedly via a copy.   Whilst the latter point is undeniable, I’m not sure I find the criteria of independence from the original either  useful or  consistent to distinguish the two reproductions. Benjamin now adds to the confusion, as he discusses that photography, being process reproduction (and therefore less dependent on the original) can bring out additional features or those hidden to the naked eye (Benjamin, 1999:74). The wording seems too imprecise.

The next paragraph seems a little repetitive, and unclearly stated at the very least.  Nevertheless, at this point Benjamin has established that when  original art is confronted with a mechanical reproduction ‘the quality of the its presence is always depreciated’, and that what is lost may be described as the aura .This process of reproduction both  ‘detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition’, and also reactivates each copy, completely  ‘shattering’ tradition (Benjamin, 1999:74).  In other words, in the age of mechanical reproduction we begin to think about art, previously dominated by originals and authenticity, in a very different and revolutionary way- which is to an extent mirrored in contemporary society and mass art forms- particularly film.

Benjamin believes that the masses are becoming more important in life (see also Alloway (2003), Hamilton (2003) and Karl Marx!). It is proposed that  the social bases for the loss of aura in contemporary life is due to the need of the masses to be closer to objects (both physically and humanly) and their need to overcome the uniqueness of realities. In other words Benjamin sees that the masses are adjusting their reality (both their thinking and perception) in a potentially limitless way (Benjamin, 1999:75).

The uniqueness of a work of art is uniquely connected with tradition, but the tradition can change.  For example the Greeks worshipped the statue of Venus as a deity, whilst in medaevil times it was seen as an idol (Benjamin, 1999:75).  Originally art was used for  ritual– initially magic, and subsequently religious. Benjamin states that ‘It is significant that the existence of the work of art with reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its ritual function’. The  example of Beauty is discussed. It’s origins were in sacred ritual, and though examples are not given one presumes this includes the beauty of religious subjects such as Mary, Jesus, the saints etc… Beauty continued as secularized ritual from Renaissance times, but Benjamin suggests that this idea reached a crisis point. With the development of the photograph, and social change we reached a crisis where the social function of art was questioned and devalued (Benjamin, 1999:76). This era to me, is probably Modernism, but does not name it. However, updating the idea of the ritual of beauty to the present day, Beauty is everywhere and has tremendous power over us, even if we think we know better. It is used in the entertainment industry to sell us films, and in advertising to sell us goods and services. It seems to be worshipped by the media.

However, in fine art Modernism did seem to rid art of its need for a story, or an illusion, for example in abstraction-but even abstract art can have a function- for example to shock.  Benjamin states that mechanical reproduction has removed the artwork from its dependence on ritual, and sees that ridding the artwork from ritual allows it to become political (Benjamin, 1999:76).

There are two polarities of art – Ritual and Exhibition. Ritual art included cave paintings and was not intended to be viewed -except by the spirits. Exhibition- the viewing of art images seems to be easier when ritual is removed. It’s easier to transfer a statue of a goddess to an exhibition if it’s removed from the temple it sits in ! (Benjamin, 1999:76). Reproduction of works of art changed its ability to be exhibited, how many could view it, and also the quality of the object. Film is cited as a good example-  where art is designed to be viewed, perhaps by more the better (think of Trashy commercial TV). It has no ritual function, and   its artistic value may be of secondary importance. (Benjamin, 1999:77).

The author now discusses Freudian theory in relation to our enriched perception through film. His book the Psychopathology of everyday life has enabled us to examine and analyse previously imperceptible things within our lives. Similarly film has enabled visual and acoustic perception to be analysed and understood more deeply, compared to a painting (to which it is more precise), or to a stage situation (because it can be ‘isolated more easily’.) (Benjamin, 1999:77).

Film allows us to use close-ups and reveal which can extend  ‘our comprenhension of the necessities which rule our lives’ (Benjamin, 1999:78).  It is empowering in this respect because it extends the scope of the areas we inhabit such as streets, offices, stations. He suggests that it can free us from the entrapment of the modern world (Benjamin, 1999:78), the type of world and its anxiety described by George Simmell (ref). Also the opportunity to observe via film is increased  revealing more than normal human vision can appreciate;  ‘the camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychanalysis to unconscious impulses…’ (Benjamin, 1999:78). As well as describing camera uses such as ‘slow mo’ and ‘close up’, these thoughts are pertinent to the use and development of different modalities of seeing, Computed tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

BLOG questions

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

Benjamin believes that there is always something more authentic about the original than a mechanical reproduction, but that a mechanical reproduction will  reactivate the image and make it more powerful and democratic. He distinguishes two polarities in art- ritual and exhibition. The former involved the rituals of magic and religion and was not reliant on vision by the masses. The latter involves the masses and depends upon art being seen by as many people as can see it.  We now live in a world where magic, and religion no longer dominate and technical reproduction has the potential  (there will be a small loss of aura) for a massive increase in  democratisation and political power. As the masses become more important in life the Exhibition element should be dominant to the ritual element (which is associated with elites- including artistic elites).

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

I believe that Benjamin’s ideas about the aura are extremely useful and powerful. With it he explains our relationship with unique historical artefacts, based on how man previously lived his life in reverence to magic and religion, and which filled in the gaps of his knowledge, and made life easier to bear. Mechanical copies depreciate the aura of the original, but importantly, they are reactivated and re-energised in a way that makes them much more powerful and democratic, and of use to contemporary society. Films are a good example of this power, as they are so popular with ordinary people, are an important leisure activity, and can have a strong political message.

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

I don’t really think so. His ideas about the aura are flexible enough to cope with the revolution in technological reproduction. He allows for a small reduction of aura when a work is reproduced- amounting to history and uniqueness. This is inevitable with art produced before mechanical reproduction was easy and widespread. In today’s world, where artist’s use techniques of reproduction much more widely- in order to disseminate their message to potentialy millions or billions of people, an artist may never produce one ‘original’ and the reliance on aura has been replaced by an increase in the artist’s political power and the democratisation of art. Benjamin believes that this is more important than the aura.

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

For the soviet experiment I will read ‘the Communist state’. This is a very complicated question. It’s answer depends upon how much of the failure depended on the ideals inherent in communism, and how much was dependent on it’s execution by weak and fallible people- ie. members of the human race. Communist states seem to fail due to man’s inability to avoid iniquity, hubris, war and destruction, not on an ideal of equality. Additionally they are often  supported by Western democracies, who affect the results. The soviet experiment may have failed due to the rise of a despotic leader Joseph Stalin, and how he treated his own people. As a model for politics, Benjamin’s aura is still valid, and would preclude any one powerful person (or a selected few) leading a state- this is not democratic.

References

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

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

 

Blog structure

Today I m setting up my BLOG contents structure, according to the OCA BLOG guide.