A response to watching ‘The Nice Guys’ on NETFLIX.


Fig. 1 The Nice Guys (2016)

‘The Nice Guys’ (Black, 2016) was a very enjoyable film starring Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling (fig.1). The two star as LA private detectives Jackson Healy and Holland March, who stumble upon each other through the same case, the disappearance and murder of several people involved in a PORNO- cum- Anti-corruption film.  The subject matter is very classically a Hollywood murder mystery. It involves dead bodies, murder, Hollywood parties, gun fights, fast cars, corruption in the police and Law department, and flawed (but contrasting) lawmen, all accompanied by cliched ‘Starsky and Hutch’ 70’s music.

It specifically resembles the film L.A Confidential, and both film’s star Russel Crowe (reprising his role as a tough guy cop who struggles with his temper) and Kim Basinger; but it’s not a traditional working of the murder genre, such as in Dirty Harry, or LA Confidential.

The film has elements of both the spoof (mocking imitation of someone or something, usually light and good-humored  (Dictionary.com,  2017)) and pastiche (a literary, musical, or artistic piece consisting wholly or chiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources(Dictionary.com, 2017). The atmosphere is usually relaxed and mildly comic (even in the dramatic scenes), occasionally slapstick, but there are poignant interludes, such as that following the murder of Amelia Kuttner, who the two private eyes were supposed to be protecting.

The film satirises the many clichés found in violent USA murder whodonnit’s.  Perhaps this can be thought of as a type of deconstruction of the usual discourse and tropes provided by the traditional genre.  From a constructionist point of view these traditional films are often built upon paradigmatic binary pairs, with airplay given exclusively to the dominant trope (which thus becomes a cliché).

Sometimes the film highlight’s the alternative discourse through characters; Russel Crowe’s traditional Private investigator Jackson Healy (tough, street-savvy, but down on his luck) is contrasted with the hapless unconventional Holland, who is  followed around by his teenage daughter (who solves most of the clues for both PI’s), has no sense of smell (it is suggested that his former house burnt down and killed his wife, because he could not smell the gas leak), and discovers the body of one victim by falling down a hill and landing on top of it!   The Nice Guys’ somewhat ambivalently fulfil the usual characteristic of bravery. They show courage and valour in the shootout at Holland’s house when they battle with the hitman ‘doctor’, but they act like cowards when they arrive at the top floor of the hotel and hear bullets flying in the corridor- swiftly returning to the ground floor in the lift.

Sometimes the alternative discourse is part of the narrative, and looks oddly absurd, though it ironically represents a more reliable reality. For example, in the film’s shooting scene at the party, guns often go off accidentally, and usually kill the wrong people, and when Holland finally saves the important  film canister from near the wreckage of a burning car he has to use his jacket to protect his hand after discovering the canister was very hot!

Occasionally the dominant paradigm is not deconstructed by presenting the opposite of the usual binary pair, but just mocked, and thus refuted. In the cliched 70’s hippy protest about city air quality, the protestors feign death on the steps of a government building.  Holland thinks the missing girl Emelia may be present and asks ‘which one of you’s Emilia ?’ several times. Eventually one protestor says ‘….we can’t answer -were all dead!’ and when Holland later treads on one of their hands by mistake she say’s ‘Hey that hurt!’ to which he responds ‘ I thought you were dead !’ This is slapstick humour, and makes us cynically question the whole basis  of the ‘student/young person demo’ .

Later the guys attempt to pay off a young boy who they meet near the burnt- out house where the Porno-cum-Protest’ film was made.  The usual Hollywood tip-off by a youngster would be followed by a ‘thanks mister’ or something reverential, thus emphasising the power and heroism of the cop or PI.  The Nice Guys pay the kid who has some quality information on the Porno film, but the kid’s so self-confident that he appears to think he might make it as a porn star and asks them ‘Do you wanna see my cock?’

In another incident Holland helps to lampoon the All-American Hollywood film idea of the big sister having her boyfriend over to ‘make out’ and chucking out the little sister. When Holland’s daughter’s friend say’s this has happened, he says ‘she’s such a slut’ and little sis replies ‘yes I know’, offering an alternative view of the situation.

Kim Basinger plays a very senior police official who, it transpires, is corrupt, and is behind the murders, even that of her own daughter. This is a little unusual- corrupt powerful law enforcement characters are usually male- (think ‘Where the sidewalk ends’ (1950), ‘Bad Lieutenant’ (1992) and ‘Copland’ (1997) (Taste of Cinema, 2015). This is a straight replacement of a woman in a role traditionally taken by a man eg. Replacing male with female from the male:female couplet. It may reflect a feminist discourse, but Basinger plays Judih Kuttner, whose name is too close to the well- known- expletive- slang term for the female genitals for comfort, and suggests she is a figure to be ridiculed not admired; she is after all a criminal.

At the end of the film the corrupt Judith escapes justice and jail. Interestingly, here the naïve Holland seems to understand that evasion of justice does happen sometimes, and helps Jackson put things in perspective (they have after all, he says, solved their first case jointly, and he has photocopied some flyers for their new joint detective agency-although Jackson is said to look unfortunately like a Mexican on them!).


Fig. 1  The Nice Guys  (2016) [movie poster] available online at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3799694/ [accessed 31st July 2017]


Black, S. The Nice Guys (2016) Warner Bros Pictures. USA.

Dictionary.com (2017) Definition of spoof [online at] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/spoof [accessed 31st July 2017]

Dictionary.com (2017) Definition of pastiche [online] at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/pastiche [accessed 31st July 2017]

Harbour, E. Taste of cinema (2015) [online] at http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2015/15-great-movies-about-police-corruption-that-are-worth-watching/ [accessed 31st July 2017]



Thoughts and reflections on the film ‘Saving Banksy’.


I watched the film Saving Banksy on NETFLIX. It’s about one individual’s attempt to save and preserve a piece of street art by Banksy. I hoped it would give me an opportunity to question the ideas within the film, reflect on several Visual Culture issues, and widen my experience of relating the visual culture course to my everyday life. Issues which I expected to emerge were those of authorship, museums, the Establishment and Postmodernism. My reflections/ questions/research about the film are shown in italics.

The summary of the film stated that ‘‘Focussing on unauthorised sellers of graffiti artist Banksy’s work, the film examines the conflicting philosophies of street art and profiteering’’ (Day, 2017).

Street artists

  • Street artists produce art which is ‘Against the Law’. If it is removed and sold at auction the artist receives no payment.
  • Banksy art sells very well at auction- making millions of dollars.
  • The names of several street artists are mentioned


How do street artists make money?

One way might be the production and selling of prints (see C-SON below). Banksy is certainly very famous so people will pay him well to write books, give interviews (anonymous).

Ben Eine

fig. 1

Fig. 1 . Street art by Ben Eine (2011)

  • This is street art ‘in situ’
  • Eine uses words and letters to make art
  • Street art offenders can get up to 8 years in prison for Graffiti!

Doze Green

  • The artist said that his art was about ‘Mayhem, craziness, the end of this world, the beginning of this world’

Is this a Postmodern statement, or a post- ‘postmodern’ statement ?

A breaking down the traditional values of Modern art or which art epoch??

The wording seems rhetorical and intelligent-can I explain it???

 Eine seems to suggest that his art is about a change, metaphorically from one era into another. Or perhaps he does not agree with traditional categories of eras/epochs in art (classical/modern, postmodern….). They are after all imprecise, inaccurate, arbitrary, and part of the discourse of establishment anyway.

In fact the statement alludes to this impreciseness –his art is both the beginning and the end… This is a common rhetorical structure, seen in phrases such as  ‘The king is dead-long live the King!’ and is probably classifiable as a chiasmus.

I think Eine’s graffiti art (and graffiti art in general)  could be best described as having elements of the postmodern- such as irony, scepticism, and universalism, and those of post-structuralists- such as a diminished importance of authorship (consider Banksy’s refusal to sign an authenticity certificate), discourses (eg. The relationship of artists to their viewing public and the establishment), and personal fame (eg. Anonymity)


Fig. 2 C-SON (no date)

  • This is street art- made into a traditional print

Blek le rat

  • started painting street art in the early 1970’s in Paris
  • still painting there today

Rats and Banksy any connection??

Le rat (real name Xavier Prou) considers the rat universal. The rat is not just the only wild animal living in pretty much all cities, but within the word rat, there lies art. I like this anagram’ (le rat quoted in the Independent, 2008). Looking at some of le rat’s stencils, and accepting his view of the importance of the rat, I feel he must have influenced Banksy’s constant use of the animal in his own art.


  • Narrator- he’s strange and he’s clever, and his hidden identity adds to his fame
  • April 2010- Banksy went to San Francisco
  • Among his SF pieces…is


Fig. 3 This is where I draw the line (2014)

  • Banksy’s rat is iconic
  • ‘This is where I draw the line’ the Banksy artwork piece connected with this film.
  • Quotes-
  • I like that it has a message to it’ MOTP about a San Fran Banksy
  • ‘The people whom run our cities don’t understand graffiti because they think nothing has a right to exist unless it makes a profit’ Banksy.
  • ‘That’s a Banksy? That’s not graffiti then- he’s a respected artist’
  • The wall owner gave permission for this piece, but it’s still illegal.
  • Banksy’s San Fran paintings were disappearing one by one as the city painted over them
  • One art collector in SF wanted to save some of them and put them in a museum, because he thought they were important art and should be saved for posterity.
  • What’s the best way to remove the painting ? Experts are brought in ….
  • After removal collector hopes it will be transferred to a gallery /museum for public display

Why is the work illegal?

It seems rational that if street art is painted on someone else’s property then this should be illegal. However does the same hold true for municipal buildings owned by ‘us all’? Surely the public should have a say in whether these art works are removed. The administration of this would probably be time-consuming, but much more democratic. It would also go some way to counterbalancing the power of the state which people see in their lives. This binary opposition of State v individual is at work in the response of a council’s reaction to street art, and a Deconstruction of this discourse will highlight the underlying imbalance within it- giving people the right to their say.

What is being denied/damaged?

If the owner of the building consents then the only thing being damaged is a person’s right not to see the image.  Of course if we see an image this may take several forms…. covered imprecisely by words such as seeing, observing, looking, gazing.  If I see the image and don’t want to engage with it I don’t have to. But let those who want to look more deeply, to examine, think about, and become excited by it, have the opportunity to do so. Some might argue that one cannot help be affected by the image- but is this not also true of the huge amount of advertising which we have to tolerate without our permission in our daily modern lives? Once again a deconstruction of the discourse, or a Marxist analysis, would state that the right of the street artist to affect our lives should be encouraged, redressing the balance away from the power of advertising.

Do we have to preserve art in order to benefit from it?

No. Looking at certain definitions of art may help to answer this. They include the ‘aesthetic value’ definition. Banksy’s art has value for many people, shown by some of the quotes I have included in this piece. This cannot be taken away by whether it is preserved or not. Another common definition is the ‘Institutional theory of art’ which holds that if an individual, or an institution think something is art then it is- and it follows naturally that they will benefit from this. Again there is no mention of preservation (Pooke and Newall, p.4-5).

Walter Benjamin wrote that although there is always something more authentic about an original artwork, a mechanical reproduction can reactivate the image and make it more powerful and democratic than the original. In this respect preserving the Banksy (for example in a museum) may encourage fewer people to benefit from it, than if the original was destroyed (Benjamin, 1999:  p. 74).

Does expertise required to remove and reassemble the work make it art de facto, even if the artist does not endorse the transferred painting?

Yes. Although a tenant of Modernist discourses, I do not believe evidence of specific authorship is necessary for an object to be considered ‘art’. The Philosopher Lucy Lippard included the technical accomplishment of the production of the art work in her defence of the controversial ‘Piss Christ’, by Andre Serrano, which some saw as obscene and blasphemous. She argues that the ‘skill, training, thought and careful preparation’ shown in the work puts the work in an artistic context equivalent to a notable master like Goya (Freeland, 2003).

What happened after the painting  was transferred

  • SF MOMA approached the collector
  • The collector doesn’t want to SELL it, but wants to DONATE it so it can be kept on Public display

The curator of the SF MOMA said:

  • Banksy’s pieces are complex
  • it’s a 3 tone stencil
  • it will focus the MOMA on what its policies are for collecting ….
  • MOMA want Banksy’s permission to use the art
  • MOMA want Banksy’s signature on a certificate …before they’ll accept the piece
  • Banksy did authenticate the work by a statement on his website, but would not produce a certificate of authenticity
  • Museum says NO to offer
  • some discomfort with the filming of the documentary as a MOMA official stopped the filming halfway through

What does the MOMA outcome tell us about their policies for collecting and showing art?

MOMA’s attitudes display the ‘traditional’ artistic discourse associated with classical ‘academies’ and museums. They required the Banksy piece to be authenticated as being a Banksy beyond doubt, before they would display it in their galleries.

This concentration on ‘the original’ and on authorship has also dominated the discourse of modernism. Later post-structuralist thinkers like John Berger and Roland Barthes espoused ideas that diminished the importance of these attributes when considering art. Berger for example 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). Barthes in his ‘Death of the author’ states that ‘the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the author’.

The Art dealer: Stephan Keszler

  • He’s a dealer of Banksy’s paintings
  • He sells Banksy for millions of $
  • ‘better to take from the wall than be white painted over’ (Keszler)
  • ‘the street painting is for fun, for the people, for adrenaline….’ (Ben Eine)
  • Banksy has condemned the sale of his public works


  • MIAMI Wynwood: ‘MIAMI Wynwood is a big art wank !…‘ 
  • Lots of energy, youth
  • Lots of street artists, no payments, everything is painted over at the end, and its next to ‘high end’ galleries like Art Miami (art Miami)

Art Miami:

  • High end gallery/exhibition
  • Art Miami show is loved by dealers and art connoiseurs says Keszler
  • ‘the rat’ was prepped to go to the Art MIAMI exhibition (run by Keszler)
  • The rat was put in the show but not for sale.
  • Banksy condemns the show ‘most of the art that makes money is Bullshit’
  • Keszler said it could go to a museum afterwards (which the collector wanted)

Palestine trip by Banksy 2005

  • 2 week trip
  • Lots of paintings, 2 of these turned up in MIAMI
  • All the street artists seem against Keszler’s exhibition of Banksy’s
  • What happened to Keszler’s Banksys?
  • ‘Out of bed rat’, ‘Wet dog’, ‘Stop and search’- all sold at auctions.

Different views of the graffiti artists about Banksy’s paintings

’Its shit to take one down’

‘Some want to rethink the ideas…’

‘It’s part of history’’

‘If you can save art…do it’

‘What’s the moral to the story? Ben nine ‘greed didn’t win the good guys did’

Closing credits

  • Rap theme accompanied the closing sequence
  • Ben Eine was met by David Cameron when he became prime Minister in 2010
  • The Rat went on tour because the collector could not find a museum to take it……

Is it significant that a rap tune accompanied the closing sequence?

Rap seems to me to have elements of the post-structural about it. It is associated with Black culture, urban and ‘unpolished’ street life, anti-establishment thoughts and words (inc. swear words) and a sense of being an ‘outsider’s’ artform.  All these attributes make it a strong symbol of post-structuralism ,  espousing the same sort of  principles as street art.


Fig 1. Street Art London street art by Ben Eine (2011) [photo] online at  http://streetartlondon.co.uk/artists/eine/ [accessed 19th July 2017]

Fig. 2 Green, D. DARK SON TRINITY: C-SON (no date) [giclee print] online at https://www.dozegreen.com/products/copy-of-archival-prints-dark-son-trinity-c-son [accessed 19th July 2017]

Fig. 3kickstarter a Sanfracisco Banksy in situ (2014) [photograph] online at http://uk.complex.com/style/2014/06/a-kickstarter-project-aims-to-save-the-banksy-mural-in-san-francisco [accessed 19th July 2017]


Barthes, R. ( no date) The Death of the Author  [online] at http://www.ubu.com/aspen/aspen5and6/threeEssays.html#barthes [accessed 29th may 2017].

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

Day, C. (2017) Saving Banksy [Netflix Film] Directed by Colin day. Parade Deck Films. USA.

Freeland, C. (2003) Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Pooke, G. and Newall, D. (2008) Art History. Abingdon. Routledge.

Prou, S. (2008) ‘Blek le Rat: Getting Through Walls’ cited in The Independent (2008)  Blek le Rat: This is not a Banksy  [online at]  http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/blek-le-rat-this-is-not-a-banksy-811130.html [accessed 29th may 2017].

Pat Passlof: only one F (in Turpsbanana)

This BLOG is a response to an article in Turpsbanana issue 17, Pat Passlof: only one F (Reed, 2017)  featuring the artist Pat Passlof (1928-2011). The painter David Reed had visited the artist in her studio in New York,  had viewed some of her latest canvases and discussed her work.  Passlof was a dancer in her younger years, and her paintings remind Reed of jumping figures, full of animation and energy. The author describes her work as using complex exotic colours, having layers and glazes, and moving in between abstraction and figuration; not quite abstract expressionism, but using a combination of the abstract, figurative, historical references, and popular culture.

Passlof had written to her students “The best paintings are discovered – like continents and rivers – unexpectedly – in the working and from the working” (Passlof (n.d) quoted in Green, 2017), and Green draws parallels between her work and her teacher Willem de Kooning.  More interesting for me,  he says that her work is prescient and has close relations to many contemporary artists living and working in New York today. One such artist, Cecily Brown is a favourite of mine, and I have discussed her work before in Practice of painting 1.

I therefore decided to have a look at a couple of  works by Passlof, and one by Cecily Brown, and talk about them, concentrating on my personal response.

Fig. 1 Untitled 2010-11

passlof untitled 2010-11

My first response to the painting in Fig. 1 is that I really like this work; it’s pleasantly balanced, and has enough ambiguity and texture to interest me. It feels just right, and has a calm beauty about it. It feeds my imagination because it’s semi-abstract and I wonder about who the figures are,  are they men, women, children? And the figure on the viewer’s top right looks like a cupid or angel. And is it inside or outside? Or both? Overwhelmingly, the painting feels benign and calm, but also a little sad.

What was the artist trying to convey?  I don’t know, but it could be a bathing scene along the lines of Cezanne’s The Grand Bathers (1900-1906), but more gentle and detached . Or these may be children, separated from the earth, perhaps children who are no longer alive?  The feeling is one of these figures searching for something; something about themselves.

Fig 2. Untitled (circa 1950’s)

untitled circa 1950's Pasloff

Fig. 2  is more violent, harsh, unstable, and frightening- in a sort of parodic way- like The Wicker Man  – a film which feels ‘unreal’  throughout, but is shockingly dark and malevolent; and calculated. Viewing this painting is certainly not a restful pleasant experience.

 The colours and tonal values are contrasting much more, and my imagination sees a malignant clown, colourful exuberant costumes,  gnashing teeth, and a fight between strange creatures, but in a treacly atmosphere which prevents any escape. All that is a allowed is constant small sniping injuries; a war of attrition, and hatred. It reminds me of some of the Grotesque faces sketched by Leanardo de Vinci. Perhaps these are half human monsters.

If the picture were on a wall in my house it would unsettle me and upset me a little. I think it’s designed to shock or to reflect violence or unpleasant things. I ‘d prefer the first on my wall!

Fig. 3 Shadow Burn (2005-6)


Fig. 3  is more expressionistic and painterly, and quite abstract. It has a lot of energy as if the artist is trying to shock us – transmitted by heavy paint, diverse mark-making, fracture lines and planes of colour and tone. It seems like the artist really wants to shock us. She is confident, and impertinent – she knows her own mind, and is someone who’s not afraid to argue with us.

Though semi-abstract, I see a landscape, buildings, a body of water-it may be the country or the seaside. Now I feel there is a figure on the viewer’s left, probably a man, and he is being confronted by the scene,  as if it’s a place or a memory that he needs to enter, to learn and to understand, and to move on from, through some trauma. The feeling here is one of memory, shaky psychological or dreamlike states; and complexity; and a desire to resolve something. It looks like a disjointed, abstracted, kaleidoscopic scene, which may dissolve at any second into a sweaty wakefulness, or a feeling of falling and vulnerability.

What do I feel links the artists?

  • Semi-abstraction
  • Very painterly and gestural
  • Superficial confidence- with vulnerabilities close to the surface
  • An other-world-liness
  • A tendency to live within their heads, and be dominated by psychological phenomena
  • Emotional restlessness, and searching


Fig.1 Passlof, P (2010-11) Untitled (oil on canvas) available online at http://www.thoughtsthatcureradically.com/2011/11/pat-passlof-recent-paintings-2005-2011.html (accessed 4th April 2017).

Fig. 2 Passlof, P (circa 1950’s) Untitled (oil on paper) available online at  https://www.ehgallery.com/pat-passlof (accessed 4th April 2017).

Fig. 3 Brown , C (2005-6) Shadow Burn, (Oil on linen) online at https://www.gagosian.com/artists/cecily-brown/selected-works (accessed 4th April 2017).


Cezanne, P (1900-1906) The Large Bathers (Oil on canvas) available online  at   http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/104464.html?mulR=4988  (accessed 4th April 2017).

Reed, D (2017) Pat Passlof : only one F available online at: http://turpsbanana.com/issue-pdfs/17/issue-17-preview.pdf  (accessed 4th April 2017).

The Wicker Man (1973), (film) dir. Robin Hardy. UK, British Lion Film Corporation.




On aspects of my Learning in Part One.


  1. Project-Modernist art; 
  • A complex argument, but very enjoyable to read and respond to.


  • I began the discipline of making some notes on words or phrases which were unfamiliar to me


  • Words or phrases of special importance- these were listed as asked in the manual. It will be a good idea to think of these for each project- it will help me get to the nub of the argument, and allow me to summarise more efficiently. This applies to the ‘What are the authors main arguments?’ section too.


  • Difficult sentences: This was interesting, as it involved sentences which I found 2hard to grasp, and those on which I did not altogether agree with the author.


  • Who does he mention and what is his opinion of them? This question allowed me to think about the context of the argument, and whether the author used them to reinforce his argument.


  • I really enjoy watching films, but I have never thought deeply about them. It was therefore really interesting to relate my previous experience of film to some of the visual concepts here- especially from the horror genre which is one of my favourites- and which I often have to defend from those who consider it ‘mindless rubbish’ !

2.Project-Fetishising the object of your eye

  • The texts were a little more complex than the first text.


  • Some of the concepts were very difficult to understand. Later my tutor reassured me that to understand everything is not the goal here. This is an introductory survey of historical texts to introduce ideas, concepts, and context, and to give me a flavour of what was going on during these times.


  1. Project-Base and Superstructure 
  • This was one of the more straightforward texts to understand, perhaps because it was available on a website, and the website was keen to recruit anyone who had happened upon it and was interested in Marxism? This raises an interesting question – what advantages and disadvantages are there in using highly complex language and sentence structure to discuss ideas?


  • This was an enjoyable project which introduced me to both Marxism, and it’s use in the analysis of the media. Like many of the projects on this course, I enjoyed it because it was very relevant to the big issues of my life and the present age. The questions which I formed as I was reading the text allowed me to pre-empt those questions which I answered at the end of the Project.


  • At this point I began to use the Harvard referencing system for citation, bibliography, and illustrations. I am becoming more familiar with this but I still have a few uncertainties about particular aspects:


Ø  An incidence where there are three authors (someone quotes author 1 who has quoted author 2)

Ø  I sometimes make mistakes in the information/word order, or the style of text in references.

Ø  Sometimes I’m uncertain what the best author should be- for example in the case of web pages

Ø  Sometimes I cannot find the date of a webpage from which I took information.

I hope that as I progress my skill will increase and these uncertainties will be ironed out.


  1. Use of sources

At this point I made a conscious effort to improve my use of sources and my style of argument (see  BLOG posts i. ‘an exercise to improve my use of academic sources’ and ii. ‘response to tutor feedback on part one’).  I also realised that I needed to be a little more concise in my note taking, and to reduce the time spent on my projects.

My style has definitely improved over the course of part one, and also my use of sources (for example I am now saving every online source as a document, and I do not take notes whilst in that source document- it is easy for summary to subtly become plagiarism if one does). I have also worked hard to try and incorporate original thoughts into my writing. This seems challenging, but as the guide suggests, this may be because we may have expectations for the word original which are too high (Harvard College Writing Program, 2016). Improving my style and use of sources has to be a work in progress, and in particular I would like to improve my integration of sources, and begin to explicitly evaluate each source I use.

A major concern is that I am still making each project excessively long. This has to be addressed now!


  1. Project-Idealism and interpellation

 This text was quite a difficult one, but very interesting. In addition to discussion of Althusser’s text, I found it interesting to discuss the aspects of ideology within racism and colonialism using three excellent and powerful texts from the course reader.


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



Response to tutor feedback on Part One


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning Logs

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

Suggested reading/viewing

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


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



Initial on-line meeting with my Visual Culture Studies tutor

Yesterday I had a very useful first meeting with Peter Haveland, my new tutor, and here are my thoughts on the meeting.

I was able to technically arrange and participate in the hang-out, which will enable me to take part in group hang-outs for visual culture from now on.

I learned that the old oca webmail oca-uk.com does not work, and that I must use the new address oca.ac.uk. This should help me with the difficulties I ve had accessing my e mails and entering the OCA site.

I have now clarified with Peter that I have a deadline of September 2017 to finish my current module.

I mentioned to Peter that I’d found the required texts quite difficult to read. Peter reassured me that they were quite difficult articles, but that it was not necessary to understand the whole of every piece. This is a level 1 course and it is sufficient to gain a broad understanding of the historical and political context which the articles were written in.

I also mentioned that I’d written rather a lot for most of my projects so far, including quite structured answers to the blog questions, and that I’d probably need to cut down the amount of written response, given that I have a deadline of next September. Peter looked at my wordpress blog and agreed that there was a lot of content, but said that it had all seemed to make sense, and that would have been a valuable experience.  He also said that there were very few projects and assignments which needed an essay style response, and that many of the assignments could be done by scanning and annotating an image or images. I definitely do need to stick to my assignment deadlines though, and will need to complete my projects more efficiently.

I told Peter that I needed to submit my Painting 1 coursework after Christmas, and would need to take a few weeks off in order to do so. I also need to reorganise and make changes to my Painting 1 learning log. Peter said it was important that I took time to make a good submission, and that it was ok to take time off to do this- and it should still be possible to complete my current module on time.

I discussed that my Painting module had not gone to plan and that I had needed an extension in order to complete it. Also my tutor had had to be rather critical, and I had struggled to produce good quality work. This had been a disappointment, but had also left me feeling a little that I did not know the difference between good and bad quality paintings. It had also become apparent that I no longer thought of myself as simply wanting to paint and be a painter, but that I’d begun to discover other areas where I was enjoying being creative (including my visual studies course which has been extremely interesting and stimulating so far). It was therefore possible that I might rethink my degree pathway following my Painting 1 experience. Peter said that a discussion of these things would be a valuable addition to my learning log for the painting module.

I told Peter that I intended to take part in a Visual Culture weekly hang-out with other students, because it would help me engage with other students, and also help clarify my learning so far on the module.


Reflections on Learning : Visual Studies course                                          

8th Dec 2016


Over the last two months I have been undertaking work on my Visual studies course. This has consisted of plenty of background reading.  I have begun to read articles in ‘Art in Theory 1900-2000, and ‘ Visual Culture: a reader ‘.  The first book has helped me gain a perspective on the politics, philosophy, historical factors which were shaping modern art and the debates around it. The latter book has been especially enjoyable. It has helped me realise that visual culture is concerned with topics such as sexism, racism, colonialism, signs and language, ideology and politics, and much more! This is the first time I have really begun to learn and understand these issues. During the reading I have been attempting to develop a more rigorous reading technique. This has involved

·        Increasing my vocabulary by learning the meaning of newly encountered words

·        Making plenty of annotations on the page to help me to work through and understand the complex ideas

·        Make comments about the articles themselves eg. their quality, characteristics (wordy v concise, clear v abstruse) etc.

·        Identify arguments about specific issues and various quotes which may be useful during my writing.

·        Identify any learning processes which I have developed

·        Noting any connections with ideas in other chapters/books

 I have been enjoying completing the projects by summarising texts, reflecting on the issues, and answering questions in my BLOG. I have begun to develop a way of summarising the text which allows my voice to be heard as well as that of the author. This has entailed summarising and signposting the authors words and ideas, adding relevant ideas from other authors (with correct citation and referencing), and introducing my own ideas and commentary into the same text. I hope it has become clear which ideas are my own. 

One aspect of my studies which I have neglected is the researching of other sources of ideas on Visual Culture, other than the required texts. Regular reading of these sources of information will enable me to get a better understanding of contemporary issues in visual culture.

 I have therefore decided to look at some of the suggested sources. I will attempt to use these regularly to complement my learning and project work throughout the course.