New Voices: postmodernism’s focus on the marginalised
How is woman represented in this image
Feminism and postmodernism have emerged as two of the most important political and cultural currents since the 1960s.Postmodern sensibility involves a shift of emphasis from epistemology to ontology, a shift from knowledge to practice, from mind to body.Issues of identity and representation are crucial to postmodernism in light of feminist thought.Postmodernism, with its emphasis on specific identities that challenged formalist beliefs in transcendental or universal art, reflects broader social critiques of hierarchies based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class.And recent cultural theory demonstrates the ways in which identity, sexuality, nationality, or ethnicity should be seen as partial, provisional and constantly in process.
Since the 1960s a strikingly visible interest in gender presentation and sexuality intersected with an explosion in the production of art that took as its subject the body as a physical entity in the construction of identity. Selfhood seems to lie at the heart of much of these art practices that engage with the body. This widespread, pervasive fascination with the body and identity is a symptom of postmodernity.
Shift from universal historiesto local and explicitly contingent histories. History and identity politics: who can write or make art? for whom? from what standpoint?Postmodern historians and philosophers question the representation of history and cultural identities: history as "what 'really' happened" (external to representation or mediation) vs. history as a "narrative of what happened" a "mediated representation" with cultural/ideological interests.Art works are likewise caught up in the problem of representation and mediation--of what, for whom, from what ideological point of view? Distrust of metanarratives (Lyotard); suspicion of ideological agendas in "Western Art" paradigms; deconstruction of traditional art media and genres. Rise of feminism and identity politics as challenge to artworld roles and functions of art.
Understand the social content and political statements of feminist art along with innovative and expressive use of materials.Understand the use of art to express gender and cultural heritage issues, as well as the experimental forms and innovative use of materials.Body, gender, and identityThe wider significance of the postmodern condition lies in the awareness ofa range of other dissonant, even dissident histories and voices - women, the colonized, minority groups, the bearers of policed sexualities.The history of feminism reveals some crucial struggles over the control of women’s bodies.
Postmodernism:1. a critique of historical narratives2. a critique of the myth of originality3. a critique of the grounds of differencegeneral art-world view is that Postmodernism has seen the fall of the linear, singular, white and masculine principles of Modernism and in its place a multiple, diverse rainbow coloured, fractually complex proliferation of practices and discourses exists. This claim is that there has been a paradigm shift is what I want to explore.
Modernism began to be seen as sympathetic to a culture which was defined (and defined itself as): “Western in its orientation, capitalist in its determining economic tendency, bourgeois in its class character, white in its racial complexion and masculine in its dominant gender.”(Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory)Linda Nochlin ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’Nochlin came to the conclusion that art is not a free, autonomous activity but rather, that the total situation of art making, both in terms of the development of the art maker and in the nature and quality of the work of art itself, occur in a social situation, are integral elements of this social structure, and are mediated and determined by specific and definable social institutions, be they art academies, systems of patronage, mythologies of the divine creator, artist as he-man or social outcast.
Postmodernism signalled the disintegration of meta narratives of class, gender, race etcThe ‘other’ of art making their presence knownOther cultures stereotyped (race, class etc)The crucial shift from an aesthetic to a societal model of the Postmodern came with the French philosopher Lyotard’s book‘The Postmodern Condition’ first published in 1979 which replaced the play of styles with a thorough cultural relativism. According to Lyotard the ‘grand or meta narratives’ that had informed Western societies since the enlightenment could no longer sustain credibility.
Many systems of meaning are based on binary structures (masculine/ feminine; black/white; natural/artificial), two contrary conceptual categories that also entail or presuppose each other. One aspect of semiotic interpretation involves exposing the culturally arbitrary nature of this binary opposition and describing the deeper consequences of this structure throughout a culture. The mutual dependence of binary oppositions formed one of the starting points of Jacques Derrida's insights about deconstruction. So if a system of mutually dependent signs are culturally constructed, then they can also be de-constructed by exposing the supressed logic of them, which is frequently presented ideologically as natural, normal, or what goes without saying. The creation of binary opposition structures the way we view others. One of the oppositional terms is always privileged, controlling and dominating the other In the case of colonialism, the Oriental and the Westerner were distinguished as different from each other (i.e. the emotional, decadent Orient vs. the principled, progressive West). The critique of binary oppositions is an important part of post-feminism, post-colonialism, post-anarchism, and critical race theory, which argue that the perceived binary dichotomy between man/woman, civilized/savage, and caucasian/non-caucasian have perpetuated and legitimized Western power structures favoring "civilized" white men.The ‘other’Most commonly, another person or group of people who are defined as different or even sub-human to consolidate a group's identity. For example, the Nazi's internal cohesion depended in part on how they defined themselves against (strove to maintain distinctions from) their image of the Jews. In this sense, "The other" is the devalued half of a binary opposition when it is applied to groups of people. This realization has informed the work of a number of artists who have engaged with ‘identity politics’ this has constituted an arena less self-referential forms of art.Patriarchal tradition defines sexuality in terms of opposites: dominant/submissive; active/passive – characterising mean as aggressive, independent and analytical, and women as emotional, nurturing and intuitive. These attitudes to gender and sexuality, enshrined in the essentially patriarchal societies of the West are reflected in representations of the female body.Viability of the "semiotic square" of oppositions and differentiations in analyzing art in a social context, as we saw last week with Krauss’s expanded field, reveals that a network of relations is more complex than simple oppositional model.
JuliaKristevaTheorist Julia Kristeva argued that postmodernism reflects the beginning of a revolution that brings to an end the dominance of trancendental consciousness in the intellectual history of the West. She identified the emergence of a new paradigm, the paradigm of pomo as distinguished from mo. Throughout traditional discussions within the field of philosophy there has been an expression of values of hierarchies that assigned higher value to mind over body. At the same time it identifies man with mind and woman with body.Feminist theorist and postmodernists seek to deconstruct such binary oppositions.
The politicisation of women’s art practices in the 1970s and the development of theories about the way meaning is produced, semiology in particular, led feminists to a more complex appraisal of what came to be called ‘representation’ or ‘signification’ . That is how the representations of women are produced, the way they are understood, and the conditions in which they are situated. Clearly in this image the female body is in a position of inferiority which is also highly sexualized
Central to the early 1970s represrntation debate is this statement by John Berger: “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relations between women and herself. The surveyor of women I herself is male; the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object of vision; a sight…The ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the images of woman is design to flatter him.”John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin, London (1972)Due to the cultural assumptions of male-gendered spectatorship any representation of the female form was (and still is) connotatively loaded.The most fully developed model for the establishment of the dominant male patriarchal system was developed by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and extended by his French follower Jacques Lacan. This model places the male in the subject position and the female as the ‘other’ the object of the male’s desiring gaze. In contrast representations of the male body seem. Like language itself, universalising and ideologically transparent.Psychoanalytic accounts of the formation of gender identity posited masculinity as normative, and femininity as a kind of enigma, the other.
Whilst the long standing male/active/subject versus female/passive/object dichotomy is still one of our most fundamental templates for understanding gender. Yet the dichotomy is restrictive when considering the fluidity with which spectators, from a variety of positions, slip in and out of identifications and desires.In relation to the reconceptualisation of gender that emerged form the activism and scholarship of the 1960s and 70s theorists and artists have raised questions about the viewer’s identificatory experience in relation to what is seen. One example being that women can and do take pleasure from images of other women, and are actually encouraged to do so in the fashion system.There are new paths in women's representation that challenged the notion of "the gaze" as being purely one sided: men looking at women.
The Guerrilla Girls are a group of anonymous women activists fighting for gender and racial equality within the New York art world.In 1985, The Museum of Modern Art in New York opened an exhibition titled An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture. It was supposed to be an up-to-the minute summary of the most significant contemporary art in the world. Out of 169 artists, only 13 were women. All the artists were white, either from Europe or the US. That was bad enough, but the curator, KynastonMcShine, said any artist who wasn't in the show should rethink “his” career. And that really annoyed a lot of artists because obviously the guy was completely prejudiced.
Interrogations into issues of gender, race, and sexuality motivated uncompromising explorations.This example is a direct response to art and art politics which marginalised women practitioners and manipulated the body of woman in representation
One the fundamental concepts that has been contested in the postmodern politics of the body is the Marxist idea of ‘totality’ that had been reflected in modernism’s investment in the ‘ideal object’ and its desire for a coherent subject. During the modernist period artists and philosophers in the West were becoming aware of the alienation that had been caused by the growth of industrialisation. Modern artists sought to satisfy aspirations to unity to end their alientation. One might, from this point of view, maintain that modernity was marked by the will towards totalisation embodied in the notion of the struggle to overcome the disintigrative effects, social and political, inscribed in modern experience. However since the 1960s when a multiplicity of marginalised gender, social, and ethnic identities were making themselves felt, it became clear that the simplistic mode of thought upon which the West’s unitary subject was based could no longer be sustained.
The representation of the body has always been shaped by crisis of political and cultural identity. Concerns about gender and sexuality are reflected in representations of the body and the body politic, specifically the marginaliseation of the female body in Western art and culture. The historical mapping of the body into high and low areas has been determined by the politics of gender, the female body has been designated as being dominated. It is low organic matter counterposed with the high male head.As I have already outlined, there has long been a politics concerning the way in which women are represented. A number of female artists’ practice was informed by feminist thinking. Artists recognised the potency of using their own bodies to create art, obviously the use of ones own female body is inevitable
Cindy Sherman demonstrates the power of transformation to impact notions of identity in her photographic series Untitled Film Stills. They have been much discussed as virtual emblems of postmodernism’s concern with theories of representation, specifically representations of women.Sherman’s images are not an invitation to look behind or through the representation for the ‘real’ Sherman, but rather they are an exploitation of this impulse to drive a wedge between the unified and authentic inner self and the postmodern sense of an irrevocably fragmented and culturally constituted subjectivity.
Sherman shows that to represent the self is to reproduce an already given type.
Looking beyond postmodern preoccupations it is clear that this was not the first historical moment in which issues of gender and sexuality held particular prominence. Not only do aspects of European art production between the two world wars (notably Dada and Surrealism) resemble certain features of pomo art but some of the psychoanalytic roots of pomo gender theory date back as far as the late 1920s. In the late 1940s merleau-ponty and Jean Paul Satre discussed the body and its experiences as a reaction agianst the previous mentalist tradition on philosophy. The psychoanalyst Joan Riviere first argued in 1929 when she introduced the concept of femininity as masquerade exploring the masks of femininity and the scripts women adopt in her essay Womanliness as Masquerade.This is echoed in Simone de Beauvoir;s dictum…
Later writers such as Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida rejected the Cartesian mind-body dualism that resonated in Decartes dictum “I think therefore I am” that expressed the view that our identity is to be characterised through thought, and instead they focused attention on bodily experiences.
Furthemore a subsequent continuum appeared in the 1960s with the phenomena of ‘sexual liberation’ that manifested itself in cultural production and resonates in contemporary art.It is not by coincidence that the concept concept of the self as something to construct, reconstruct and deconstuct came under scrutiny around the late 1960s. It was a time when the borders between self and others were under interrogation. The women’s liberation front, the civil rights movement and the campaign for gay and lesbian rights were in various stages of formation and all introduced burning questions about social, ethnic and sexual idenitity.
After World War Two, a broad movement against racist institutions and stereotypes developed in many Western societies. Civil rights organisations in the United States protested against negative stereotypes of African-Americans and against institutional racism and discrimination. The 1960s and 1970s introduced popular images of black emancipation - 'black pride', 'black is beautiful', 'black power', 'black solidarity'. Derogatory images of black people were gradually pushed back and, along with a stronger presence of black people in media, more positive and 'normal' images appeared. Black people were no longer simply represented as servants, entertainers or sportsmen, but also as figures of beauty, elegance, soul and authority.
Sonia Boyce in From Tarzan to Rambo, 1987 investigated the twin themes of racial identity and racism.
As an African-American who is able to pass as ‘white’ Adrian Piper makes work which reveals the social and institutional prejudices that surface when she divulges her racially mixed identity. The purpose of the work is to pointedly express the racial stereotyping that exisits.Adrian PiperFrom 1972-1976, Adrian Piper created an alter-ego, the Mythic Being, who became the basis of a pioneering series of performances and photo-based works. Piper—a light-skinned woman of mixed racial heritage—transformed herself into the Mythic Being by donning an Afro wig, sunglasses and mustache and adopting behavior conventionally identified as masculine. In the process, she transformed the conceptual art practices common in the period, infusing them with strong personal and political content.
TheoristErrington argues that the construction of the primitive in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (and the kinds of objects chosen to exemplify it) must be understood as a product of discourses of progress—from the nineteenth-century European narrative of technological progress, to the twentieth-century narrative of modernism, to the late- twentieth-century narrative of the triumph of the free market.
Grace JonesFor the performances Haring hand painted Jones’ body in his characteristically stylised hieroglyphic white designs, inspired by the body paintings of the African Masai. Jones also adorned her body with an elaborate sculptural assemblage.Jones's performances embodied a negotiation of two of the most crucial issues during that period: art in relation to popular culture and modernist conceptions of ‘Primitivism’ reinterpreted by modernism's black female ‘Other’. According to Haring, (who had studied semiotics) Jones was a signifier for everything he admired in the global crossroads of postmodern New York. Through the painting, adornment, and importantly through her performance, Jones played with iconic signs of the ‘primitive’, and transformed these signifiers and her body into a site of power.
According to Said, the West has created a dichotomy, between the reality of the East and the romantic notion of the "Orient. The Middle East and Asia are viewed with prejudice and racism. They are backward and unaware of their own history and culture. To fill this void, the West has created a culture, history, and future promise for them. On this framework rests not only the study of the Orient, but also the political imperialism of Europe in the East.In 1978 Edward Said’s published his book Orientalism.Here he identifies that Orientalism in one form or another dates from at least the eighteenth century, and then resurfaced prominently in early modern art with the efforts of Gauguin, Picasso, and Expressionists everywhere who endeavoured to enact forms of exoticism and primitivism as routes to a more authentic Western consciousness – a search that provided only further stereotypes of the white mind’s desire to escape itself in fantasies of the oriental, the native, and the natural.The notion of universality is a European invention. As asserted by Edward Said, Europe had only considered its own culture and its peculiar expressions as universal in contrast with the so-called indigenous cultures, considered as regional phenomena. Since the 19th century, art and culture were comprehended through a euro-centric point of view, while the claim for universality made this eurocentricity unconscious for most people.In the 1980s museums were criticised for their displays have a Eurocentric bias i.e. they did not acknowledge the work, symbolism meaning outside of western culture. Such criticism rode on the coat tails of Orientalism, the 1978 book by Edward Said that marked the beginnings of postcolonial studies. Postcolonialism is a set of theories in philosophy, film, political sciences and literature that deal with the cultural legacy of colonial rule. Postcolonialism deals with cultural identity in colonised societies: the dilemmas of developing a national identity after colonial rule; the ways in which writers articulate and celebrate that identity (often reclaiming it from and maintaining strong connections with the coloniser); the ways in which the knowledge of the colonised (subordinated) people has been generated and used to serve the coloniser's interests; and the ways in which the coloniser's literature has justified colonialism via images of the colonised as a perpetually inferior people, society and culture.Said is best known for describing and critiquing "Orientalism", which he perceived as a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the East. In Orientalism (1978), Said described the "subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture.” He argued that a long tradition of false and romanticized images of Asia and the Middle East in Western culture had served as an implicit justification for Europe and America's colonial and imperial ambitions. Orientalism has had a significant impact on the fields of literary theory, cultural studies and human geography. Said contended that Europe had dominated Asia politically so completely for so long that even the most outwardly objective Western texts on the East were permeated with a bias that even most Western scholars could not recognise. His contention was not only that the West has conquered the East politically but also that Western scholars have appropriated the exploration and interpretation of the Orient’s languages, history and culture for themselves. They have written Asia’s past and constructed its modern identities from a perspective that takes Europe as the norm, from which the "exotic", "inscrutable" Orient deviates.Said concludes that Western writings about the Orient depict it as an irrational, weak, feminised "Other", contrasted with the rational, strong, masculine West, a contrast he suggests derives from the need to create "difference" between West and East that can be attributed to immutable "essences" in the Oriental make-up.
In short, Primitivism in 20th Century Art, coupled so-called tribal artifacts with modern works in order to show a correlation between the two. The status of tribal artifacts has been forced to shift and deviate from their original classification as remnants of an ancient past with anthropological definitions, to those with more modern, aesthetic definitions.This instigated a shift in considerations of the notion of fine arts aspeculiarly Western activity and asserted that it is no longer the only acceptable standard. In today’s postmodern art world, artistic centers are not limited to certain Western capitals but are instead dispersed in a multiplicity of centers around the world.
Looking at the historical precedents for the relation of western art to the rest of the world.Tracing the roots of cultural appropriationPicasso’s appropriation of the African mask is one example of hybrid forms of expression that beg, borrow and steal from elsewhere. In doing so they raise the question about the significance of power relations in doing so.
Magicians of the Earth (Magiciens de la terre) was an exhibition at the Pompidiou Centre in Paris in 1989 curated by Jean-Hubert Martin and was intended to counteract ethnocentric practices within the contemporary art world and confront problems presented by several exhibitions that perpetuated a colonialist mentality, the most recent being the show having been, “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Many critics condemned the “Primitivism” show, as it fell into a similar Modernist trap of providing only a pure aesthetization of the work of native cultures. “Primitivism” stated that it was only interested in displaying tribal works that influenced Modern artists and studying how this phenomenon functioned within the Modernist discourse. Many of the tribal works were presented vis-a-vis Modernist works when little or no historical evidence of these works drawing inspiration from specific “Primitive” works or, in some cases, even a “Primitive” idiom.
The notion of universality is a European invention. As asserted by Edward Said, Europe had only considered its own culture and its peculiar expressions as universal in contrast with the so-called indigenous cultures, considered as regional phenomena. Since the 19th century, art and culture were comprehended through a euro-centric point of view, while the claim for universality made this eurocentricity unconscious for most people.
More than being a case of the ‘simple repression of one group of people by another, power is implicit in the way we come to ‘know’ the world. For this reason postmodernism, bound up with an ‘incredulity’ towards Grand Narratives and ‘truths’ is incredibly hard to define. To be marginalised is to be held apart from the ‘centres’ of knowledge production and representation. Multiculturalism, Feminism, And Queer theory are, for those reasons, very important aspects of the de-centralising process defined as postmodernism. Moreover, they might be seen to be only prominent examples in a much broader field of marginalisation
Week 4 Postmodernism in Art: An Introduction: New Voices: postmodernism’s focus on the marginalised
Postmodernism in Art: an introduction<br />New Voices: postmodernism’s focus on the marginalised<br />
Judy Chicago. Red Flag 1971<br />Gustav Courbet<br />The Origin of the World<br />L'Origine du monde(1866<br />
Crises in the Representation of History <br />Shift from universal histories to local and explicitly contingent histories. <br />History and identity politics: who can write or make art? for whom? from what standpoint?<br />Postmodern historians and philosophers question the representation of history and cultural identities: history as "what 'really' happened" (external to representation or mediation) vs. history as a "narrative of what happened" a "mediated representation" with cultural/ideological interests.<br />
REPRESENTATION IS <br />NOT NEUTRAL;<br />IT IS AN ACT OF <br />POWER <br />IN OUR CULTURE.<br />Craig Owens, 1992<br />
Postmodernism:1. a critique of historical narratives2. a critique of the myth of originality3. a critique of the grounds of difference<br />
Representation: Who is represented?<br />Modernism began to be seen as sympathetic to a culture which was defined (and defined itself as): “Western in its orientation, capitalist in its determining economic tendency, bourgeois in its class character, white in its racial complexion and masculine in its dominant gender.”<br />(Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory)<br />
Binary oppositionsrational – irrational/emotionalwhite – blackmale – femaleheterosexual – homosexualorder – chaosWest – EastOccident - Orientcentre – margintown – countrycowboys – Indiansmiddle class - working class South – North nature – culture rational - irrational<br />Postmodernism challenges the logic of binary oppositions<br />
Psychoanalysis<br /><ul><li>Discusses the gaze and the way the gaze subjugates the person looked at and by whom
Seen in the work of Freud, Lacan and later Mulvey</li></li></ul><li>Allen Jones (1968) Chair<br />The politicisation of women’s art practices in the 1970s and the development of theories about the way meaning is produced, semiology in particular, led feminists to a more complex appraisal of what came to be called ‘representation’ or ‘signification’ . That is how the representations of women are produced, the way they are understood, and the conditions in which they are situated. <br />
“Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relations between women and herself. The surveyor of women I herself is male; the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object of vision; a sight…The ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the images of woman is design to flatter him.”<br />John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin, London (1972)<br />
Changing Concepts of the gaze<br />Considering the fluidity with which spectators, from a variety of positions, slip in and out of identifications and desires<br />
Guerrilla Girls a group of female artists founded in NYC in the 1980s. This group appear in gorilla masks and attempt to expose the inequalities within the art world.<br />
Portrait of the Artist with her Mother, Selma Butter (So Help Me Hannah series), 1978-81.<br />
CINDY SHERMAN, ‘Untitled Film Stills, 1978<br />
Cindy Sherman<br />Untitled Film Still #54<br />Sherman shows that to represent the self is to reproduce an already given type.<br />
“One is not born a woman, but, rather becomes one.”<br />Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1973)<br />RroseSélavy (Marcel Duchamp)<br />1921<br />Photograph by Man Ray<br />
Barbara KrugerUntitled (I shop therefore I am)1987<br />
Representing the ‘Other’ and ‘Authentic’<br />
After World War Two, a broad movement against racist institutions and stereotypes developed in many Western societies. Civil rights organisations in the United States protested against negative stereotypes of African-Americans and against institutional racism and discrimination<br />
Sonia Boyce, From Tarzan to Rambo: English Born `Native' Considers her Relationship to the Constructed/Self Image and her Roots in Reconstruction , 1987<br />
“ As Europeans increasingly came to think of themselves during the nineteenth centuries as essentially and characteristically secular, rational, civilised, and technologically advanced, they almost necessarily generated an imagined Other that was savage, ignorant, and uncivilised”<br />Errington 1998 p16<br />
The “discovery” of primitive art by Picasso and Co. around the turn of the 20th century<br />
Picasso, Sitting Nude, 1908Mask from Baule in Ivory Coast<br />
Anonymous artist, South Africa + Picasso, Woman with Joined Hands<br />
Whistler, Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge (1872-77) and Hiroshige, Kyo Bridgec.1855<br />
Conclusion: Power and Exclusion<br />More than being a case of the ‘simple repression of one group of people by another, power is implicit in the way we come to ‘know’ the world. For this reason postmodernism, bound up with an ‘incredulity’ towards Grand Narratives and ‘truths’ is incredibly hard to define. To be marginalised is to be held apart from the ‘centres’ of knowledge production and representation. Multiculturalism, Feminism, And Queer theory are, for those reasons, very important aspects of the de-centralising process defined as postmodernism. Moreover, they might be seen to be only prominent examples in a much broader field of marginalisation.<br />