Visual Narratives Narratives Disturbed


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  • Wittgenstein’s example…
  • Today I’m going to look at some postmodern theories, theories that help us to explore the possibility of narrative being very complex. So much so that they can’t easily be captured or frozen. And where you try and dissect a narrative, to cut it up your might kind of loose something quite important – something that’s obviously going to be really hard – if not somewhat impossible – to describe.So what I want to leave you with, is an impression of narrative as something quite fluid and dymanic. I want to give you a feeling for why and how narratives will continue to be a source of interest that resist simplification. And here I think there’ a really good chance for us, as visual practitioners to get our own back. Wittgenstein resorted to a visual example in order to explain language and its limits, and in fact his text remains full of visual metaphors. He talks about language being connected to actions and games in the real world. Things are pointed to… Thinking carefully about the theories we’ve looks at so far, I hope you can see – using this analogy – how this is going to work.
  • (See Gibson)
  • There was a profound political aspect to this process too. As Andrew Gibson has observed there is an ideology behind traditional Narratology, behind its aim for definitive knowledge, which is linked to control. Take for example Roland Barthes’ call to arms in Structural Analysis of Narratives: “is it not stucturalism’s constant aim to master the infinity of utterances by describing the language of which they are products and from which they can be generated.” (Barthes 1977, p. 80)
  • Android
  • Cyborg. Cyberpunk. All these genres might be said to be contaminated in some way. Sci-fi, graphic novels, pulp fiction have, fantasy, have had a long struggle to become legitimate forms of narrative.
  • New York Times (March)
  • Cowboys and Indians…
  • Wittgenstein’s example…
  • Visual Narratives Narratives Disturbed

    1. 1. Narratives Disturbed<br />Visual Narrative<br />
    2. 2.
    3. 3.
    4. 4. !<br />
    5. 5. Strauss – BINARY OPPOSITIONS<br />Levels<br />Propp – SPHERES of action<br />Barthes - Tabulated<br />Greimas – semiotic squares<br />frames<br />
    6. 6. “For the traditional critic, the most profound hidden design in a narrative was its unity”, writes Mark Currie, and “in the critical quest for unity there was a desire to present a narrative as a coherent and stable project. In the view of the poststructuralist critic, this was just a way of reducing the complexity … of a narrative”. (Currie 1998, p. 3)<br />“Narratological space has seldom been disturbed by blurrings, troubling ambivalences or multiplications. In it boundaries are clearly defined and categories clearly distinguished.” (Gibson 1996, p. 7)<br />
    7. 7. Dark<br />Light<br />
    8. 8. Bad<br />Good<br />
    9. 9. Primitive<br />Civilised<br />
    10. 10. Spiritual<br />Scientific<br />
    11. 11. Dead<br />Living<br />
    12. 12. Dead<br />Living<br />
    13. 13. Machine<br />Human<br />
    14. 14. Machine<br />Human<br />
    15. 15. hybrids<br />“Why calling Barack Obama a &quot;black&quot; man resurrects an age old racist institution particular to the United States and defeats the purpose of a post-racial politics”<br />(Harwood 2008)<br />
    16. 16. hybrids<br />“Many people still stick to a one-race label, even if they are of mixed descent, researchers say, sometimes because of strong identification with one racial group, and occasionally because of a conscious effort not to dilute the numbers of the group they most identify with.”<br />(Navvaro 2008)<br />
    17. 17. Narratives Disturbed<br />Visual Narrative<br />
    18. 18. Narratives Disturbed<br />hybrids<br />Unsettling assumptions about narrative (becoming…)<br />Multiplicity (becoming…)<br />Simulation<br />Rupturing (metafiction)<br />
    19. 19. “If I were forced to use a single word to characterize a narrative organization of data, that word would be ‘causality’. Creating time and place in narrative is not as important as constructing a possible logic for the events that occur.” (Branigan1992, pp. 216-7 )<br />
    20. 20. unsettling assumptions about narrative<br />The films of David Lynch seem to contradict most ideas we have about causality:<br />Linearity: We usually picture the progression of a narrative as a single straight line running from the start to the finish. (“All narrative consists of a discourse which integrates a sequence of events of human interest into the unity of a single plot.” (Bremond 1980, p. 63) )<br />Often in Lynch’s movies, however, a character interacts with a future or past version of themselves. For example…<br />
    21. 21. unsettling assumptions about narrative<br />In the Lost Highway….<br />“DICK LAURANT IS DEAD”<br />
    22. 22. unsettling assumptions about narrative<br />Identity: Most narratives clearly construct the identity of a character. They do not simply allow us to understand the sex, race or occupation (etc.), but also their concerns, desires and motivations. (“The permanence of the distribution of a small number of roles… is not simply fortuitous: we have seen that the number of actants [i.e. character types] was determined by the … conditions of the perception of signification.” (Greimas 1983, p. 77))<br />In a Lynch film again, however, such assumptions are usually confounded…<br />
    23. 23. unsettling assumptions about narrative<br />It is not unusual for one character to suddenly become another without any explanation as to why. Neither are there any clear answers as to how the first character relates to the second. As viewers we can no longer say exactly what the identity of a character is but must instead think about what the character has now become or in the process of becoming. (See the Lost Highway, Inland Empire, and Mulholland Drive)<br />Lynch also blurs the boundaries of a character’s identity by not drawing lines between the ‘reality’ of the story world and the dreams, memories or perceptions of the characters within in it.<br />
    24. 24. unsettling assumptions about narrative<br />Additionally, Lynch will also occasionally use the same actor / actress in more than one role. This further complicates our attempt to establish an understanding of a character’s identity. As viewers we are left instead with a series of questions: Is this character meant to be the same person? How do the other character’s relate to him or her – do they recognise that this is the same person?<br />
    25. 25. unsettling assumptions about narrative<br />
    26. 26. Multiplicities<br />
    27. 27. The term multiplicity is associated with philosopher Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: its basic definition is ‘a large number or variety’. On one hand we can make sense of a multiplicity, it can be organized, it can be divided up - like the specific players of a football team. But on the other hand it is much more sensual, unconscious, about feelings - like the action and interaction of football players during a game. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p.36) In this way it forms a tension between what we can understand and what we can’t.<br />
    28. 28. Martin Creed (2006) 370 Balls. In Museum of Modern Art, Edinburgh.<br />
    29. 29. Antony Gormley (1993) European Field<br />
    30. 30. Matrix Reloaded<br />
    31. 31. MULTIPLICITY<br />INDIVIDUAL<br />
    32. 32. Rembrandt (1669) Self Portrait<br />In Rembrandt’s great portraits we feel face to face with real people, we sense their warmth, their need for sympathy and also their loneliness and suffering. Those keen eyes that we know so well … must have been able to look straight into the human heart. I realize that such an expression may sound sentimental, but I know no other way of describing the almost uncanny knowledge Rembrandt appears to have had of what the Greeks called the ‘working of the soul’. (Gombrich 1950, p. 423)<br />
    33. 33. “The architecture of the city ceases even to frame the life of the street, and the carefully constructed urban spaces of earlier masters of urban views gives way to a controlled chaos.” ( Brettell 1992,p. xxiv )<br />
    34. 34. Another philosopher who used the term multiplicity was Michel Serres, he writes: “We are fascinated by the unit; only a unity seems rational to us. We scorn the senses, because their information reaches us in bursts. We scorn the groupings of the world… For us they seem to enjoy a of the status of Being only when they are subsumed beneath a unity… A cartload of bricks isn’t a house.” (Serres 1995, p. 2)<br />
    35. 35. Becoming…<br />Cornelia Parker (1991) Cold Dark Matter<br />
    36. 36. Charles Stagg photographed by Scot Eslinger (2005) Bottle Houses<br /><br />
    37. 37. Grandma Prisby’s Bottle Village (1956 – 80)<br />
    38. 38. Mr. Imagination [photo by Ron Gordon]<br />In: Cerny, C and Seriff (eds.) , S. Recycled Re-seen: Folk Art from the Global Scrap Heap (1996) New York, Museum of International Folk Art, p. 51.<br />
    39. 39. The allegorical impulse<br />“Let us say for the moment that allegory occurs whenever one text is doubled by another” (Owens 1980, p.53)<br />Allegory is a traditionally a story of poem that can be interpreted to reveal a moral or political message. “In allegorical structure, then, one text is read through another, however fragmentary, intermittent, or chaotic their relationship may be… .” (ibid p. 54)<br />In art this process is reflected in the work of artists who make work by reproducing that of others; “the manipulations to which these artists subject such images work to empty them of their resonance, their significance, their authoritative claim to meaning.” (ibid)<br />
    40. 40. Sherrie Levine (1981) After Walker Evans<br />
    41. 41. It is a revelation to compare Menard’s Don Quixote with Cervantes’s. The latter, for example, wrote (part one, chapter nine):<br />“… truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future’s counsellor.”<br />Written in the seventeenth century, written by the ‘lay genius’ Cervantes, this enumeration is a mere rhetorical praise of history. Menard, on the other, writes:<br />“… truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future’s counsellor.”<br />History, the mother of truth: the idea is astounding. Menard, a contemporary of William James, does not define history as an inquiry into reality but as its origin. Historical truth, for him, is not what has happened; it is what we judge to have happened. The final phrases – exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future’s counsellor – are brazenly pragmatic.<br />The contrast in style is so vivid. The archaic style of Menard – quite foreign, after all – suffers from a certain affectation. Not so that of his forerunner, who handles with ease the current Spanish of his time. (Borges 2000, p. 69)<br />
    42. 42. Pierre Huyghe (1999) The Third Memory<br />
    43. 43. Simulation<br />science link<br />
    44. 44. Simulation<br />“Simulation threatens the difference between ‘true’ and ‘false’, between ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’” (Baudrillard 1988 [1983], p.171)<br />One analogy Baudrillard draws to explain simulation is: if someone is simply feigning to be ill they can go to bed and pretend. If someone is simulating illness however, they actually produce in themselves some of the symptoms – i.e. psychosomatics.<br />We might consider ‘Truth’ as being a kind of Meta-narrative. Postmodernism was particularly sceptical of disciplines or institutions which would claim to be presenting the truth - such a history, or museums – as if it were definitive and eternal. Simulation is a particularly powerful way to disturb such authority.<br />
    45. 45. simulation<br />Museum of Jurassic Technology<br />
    46. 46. Louise Hopkins (2001) Europe and the Middle East<br />
    47. 47. Rupturing<br />Rupturing describes the process of a narrator revealing themselves within a narrative. The terms Meta-fiction or theoretical fiction are used to describe a type of ‘self conscious’ narrative which often uses rupturing and other processes to foreground fiction: i.e. a film of making a film such as A Cock and Bull Story (2005) or Stranger than Fiction (2006)<br />Brian Talbot (2007) Alice in Sunderland<br />
    48. 48.
    49. 49.
    50. 50.
    51. 51.
    52. 52. References<br />Baudrillard, Jean (1988 [1983]) Selected Writings. Polity Press.<br />Branigan, Edward (1992) Narrative Comprehension and Film. London, Routeledge.<br />Bremond, Claude (1996 [1980]) The Logic of Narrative Possibilities in Onega, Susan and Jose A G Landa (eds) Narratology. Essex, Pearson Education Limited.<br />Brettel, Richard (1992) The Impressionist and the City: Pissaro’s Series Paintings. London, Royal Academy.<br />Currie, Mark (1998) postmodern narrative theory . Basingstoke, Macmillan Press.<br />Deleuze, Giles and Felix Guatarri<br />Gibson, Andrew (1996) Towards a postmodern theory of narrative. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.<br />Gombrich, EH (1995) The Story of Art. London Phaidon.<br />Greimas, A J (1996 [1983]) Reflections on Actantial Models, in Onega, Susan and Jose A G Landa (eds) Narratology. Essex, Pearson Education Limited.<br />Harwood, M (2008) Obama and Mixed Race in America. At [accessed 01/12/2009]<br />Navarro, M (2008) Who are we? New Dialogue on Mixed Race. New York Times, March 31st. At [accessed 01/12/2009]]<br />Owens, Craig (1980) The Allegorical Impulse. In Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture. London, University of California Press.<br />Serres, Michael (2004) Genesis. USA, University of Michigan Press.<br />Waugh, Patricia (2003) Metafiction: The Theory of Self Conscious Fiction. London, Routeledge.<br />Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2003 [1953]) Philosophical Investigations. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing Ltd.<br />