Issues of identity are crucial to postmodernism• What is the ‘self’?•How is it formed, does it emerge?•What is ‘identity’?• How is it formed?•How does the self inform identity?•How does identity influence the ‘self’?
Subjectivity and Identity – The male gaze“Art has inserted itself inWestern culture as a wayof thinking about certainissues, particularlyindividuality, identity, andspace.”Ernst van Alphen, Art in Mind: HowContemporary Images ShapeThought, Chicago: The Universityof Chicago Press, 2005.
Subjectivity and Identity – The male gaze Postmodernism rejects naturalism (realism) Postmodernism rewrites naturalism and exposes it as naturalized
Postmodernism as a theoretical approach to understanding identity constructionAll identities, whether based on class, gender or ethnicity are socialconstructions. And there is no doubt that identity-construction is increasinglydependent on images.
Cindy Sherman and themediation of subjectivityin postmodern culture For many postmodernists we live in the society of the image, primarily concerned with the production and consumption of mere ‘simulacra’ Cindy Sherman Untitled (As Marilyn Monroe) 1982
“…with that pure random play of signifiers which wecall postmodernism, which no longer producesmonumental works of the modernist type, butceaselessly reshuffles the fragmentation of pre-existent texts, the building blocks of older culturaland social production…”Jameson, Postmodernism in the Video Text (1987)
Marks ofIdentityIn the 1960s and 1970s anumber of different thinkersstarted to question thevalidity of the humanSubject. Jenny Holzer Abuse of power comes as no surprise (1983)
Barbara Kruger"Untitled (I shop,therefore I am)” (1987)
Parody and Pastiche• Parody aims to mock an original in a critical way• The postmodern theorist Frederic Jameson states that ‘The art of parodydepends on the tension between the known original and its parody twin.’• A parody must transform the original, altering it to give new meaningand in the process create a new work• Pastiche is merely a stylistic mask• Pastiche is prominent in popular culture•Fredric Jameson has examined the functions of postmodern pastiche. Hedescribes pastiche as ‘the random cannibalisation of all the styles of thepast, the play of stylistic allusion
In 1969, thepostmodern architectRobert Venturipublished a bookcalled Learning fromLas Vegas. Rather thancriticising the city heargued that architectsshould study itbecause it isrepresentative of thepostmodern age.
Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity
Sherman’s photographs explore female identity, representation and transformation yet if we ask the question “Who is Sherman?” her photographs reveal nothing of her subjectivity. This is because her photographs are about no one in particular but about the constructed nature of identity and images of ‘theLois Lane in the 1950s television real’ and popular culture.program Superman Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #21
In this postmodern culture of television,advertising and media manipulation,Sherman is exploring how “reality itselfhas become a manufactured image” andhow the self has thus lost depth, beingsimply a “shallow artefact of culturalproduction,” with self- discovery and selfemancipation becoming only a delusion.
CINDY SHERMAN (Untitled Film Still #13)(Untitled Film Still #7) (Untitled Film Still #3),
Malleable/constructed and multiple identitiesPostmodernism doesnt lament the idea of fragmentation orincoherence, but rather celebrates that.Postmodern historians and philosophers question therepresentation of history and cultural identitiesSense of fragmentation and de-centered self; multiple,conflicting identitiesHyper-reality, image saturation, simulacra seem more powerfulthan the "real"; images and texts with no prior "original". "Asseen on TV” is more powerful than unmediated experience
Not only have subjectsbecome shallowimages that are copiesof copies, but we havealso become subjectsof consumerism, nolonger individuals buttargets forconsumption.Duane HansonSupermarket Shopper (1970)
Duane Hanson said: ‘I like thephysical burdens this womancarries. She is weighted down byall of her shopping bags andpurchases, and she has becomealmost a bag herself. She carriesphysical burdens – the burdens oflife, of everyday living. Butinitially, it’s quite a funnysculpture’.Duane HansonYoung Shopper (1973)
"Advertising becomesinformation when thereis no longer anything tochoose from, when therecognition of brandnames has taken theplace of choice."(Adorno, 1991, 73)
Kruger’s work provokes a critique of “the relations between commercial design and the way a culture designs peoples lives”Barbara KrugerUntitled (Your Body is aBattleground) (1989)
Power is embedded in the signs and icons of culture, media, adverti sement. Kruger supplies the resistance.Barbara KrugerUntitled (You Are Not Yourself)1981
Both Kruger and Baudrillard also discuss consumption and commodification in their work. Baudrillard states, "Today consumption...defines precisely the stage where the commodity is immediately produced as a sign, as a sign value, and where signs (culture) are produced as commoditiesBarbara Kruger"Untitled (When I hear the world culture, I takeout my checkbook)"1985
Much of Paul McCarthys works took the glitz and glam of Hollywood and the western consumer society and brought out the darker side of it. The idea for Caribbean Pirates came from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and the Disney Land attraction. The difference being that the movies and Disney Land attraction are about fun and entertainment. McCarthy takes it to the extreme of gore and obscenity.Paul McCarthyCaribbean Pirates 2001-2005
Fredric Jameson’s concept of "pastiche”According to Jameson we approach "the past through stylisticconnotation, conveying pastness by the glossy qualities of the image,by the attributes of fashion" Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #54, 1980
The notion that an individual might gain a sense of authenticity andconnection with the self in and through the body is profoundly disturbed bythe unstable appropriations and ideological representations of the bodythroughout the history of Western culture, and within an increasinglymediatized and technologically driven world.
ReferencesFarrell, Frank B. “Subjectivity, Realism, And Postmodernism- TheRecovery of the World,” Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,1994.Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of LateCapitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991.Venturi, Robert. Learning from Las Vegas, 1969Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism in the Video Text (1987)