Representation ‘Representations, it was argued, instead of coming after reality, in an imitation of it, now precede and construct reality. Our “real” emotions imitate those we see on film and read about in pulp romances; our “real” desires are structured for us by advertising images; the “real” of our politics is prefabricated by television news and Hollywood scenarios of leadership; our “real” selves are congeries and repetition of all these images, strung together by narratives not of our own making.” Art since 1900 - modernism, antimodernism postmodernism Pg. 47
The Society of the Spectacle (196) Guy Debord• In his seminal text, Debord describes a society where a fundamental, catastrophic shift has occurred from material concreteness and use value to exchange value and the world of appearances.• For Debord “the whole of life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation” (thesis 1)• All relationships are mediated by image, with people defined by their status as frozen passive observers of what the spectacle has to offer. The power of the spectacle in western culture rests in its command of an illusory unity of social life grounded in mere appearance.
“At some point following World War Two anew kind of society began to emerge(variously described as post industrialsociety, multinational capitalism, consumersociety, media society and so forth). Newtypes of consumption; plannedobsolescence; an ever more rapid rhythmof fashion and styling changes; thepenetration of advertising, television andmedia generally to a hitherto unparalleleddegree throughout society; thereplacement of the old tension betweencity and country, center and province, bythe suburb and by universalstandardization; the growth of the greatnetworks of superhighways and the arrivalautomobile culture – these are some of thefeatures which would mark a radical breakwith that older prewar society”
‘When I was concentrating on this kind of cultural analysisin the 1950’s I was sometimes told by good Marxist friends that it was a diversion from the central economic struggle.Now every trade union and political leader cries The media, the media. Raymond Williams
“Advertisements are sellingus something else besidesconsumer goods: in providingus with a structure in whichwe, and those goods, areinterchangeable, they areselling us ourselves.”Judith WilliamsonDecoding Advertisements
“underneath each picture there is always another picture.”Douglas Crimp
Judy Chicago “the Dinner Party” 1976Alice Neel The Pregnant Woman1971 oil on canvas 40 x 60 in.
“a group of women art professionals waging a war of words and imagesagainst the sexism and racism of the art world”Lucy Lippard “The Pink Glass Swan pg. 255
“At that time feminism had become a dirty word. Our idea was to make itsexy, to make it funny” -Guerrilla Girls in Suzi Gablik “Conversations before the end of time” pg. 211
“you don’t have to have a penis to be a genius”.
• “avant gardists tended to regard paint and brushes as forms of kryptonite”.
•Walter Benjamin’s essay “The work of art in the age ofmechanical reproduction” ( 1936)•In the essay Benjamin argued that the ‘aura’ of the originalartwork is lost as a result of the impact of photographysability to infinitely reproduce images. Far from beingsomething to mourn, artists could exploit this opening,producing art works which could be potentially infinitelyreproduced and disseminated. This was an excellent optionin terms of producing a more democratic form of art capableof reaching a far larger mass of people, as well as potentiallygreatly increasing the political and social impact of such art.•For women artists this undercutting of many of the cherishedcentral ideas of western (male) art - originality andauthenticity, was especially attractive as it avoided thebaggage of being unfavorable compared to, and dismissed inrelation to the ‘geniuses’ of the canon.•Photographys centrality and history within the very mediumsof mass entertainment also of course made it an excellent,potentially invisible carrier of counter cultural sentiment. Itcould be seamlessly injected into the very spaces of culture itwished to critique.
• “Richard Prince focused on the conventions of advertising and fashion images for what they reveal about subjective modelling. At stake in this patterning of images, Prince implies, is the patterning of identities, of identities as images, which are now shaped by media representations far more than any other cultural, form.”• The Simulacra Image in “Art since 1900”
• “It is precisely at the legislative frontier between what can be represented and what cannot that the postmodernist operations being staged - not in order to transcend representation, but in order to expose that system of power that authorizes certain representations while blocking, prohibiting or invalidating others.“• Craig Owens
•“Who speaks?Who is silent?Who is seen? Who is absent? Onboth an emotional and aneconomic level images and texthave the power to make us rich orpoor. “•Barbara Kruger
• The American writer Hal Foster described this work as representing a shift from the artist being a producer of objects to a manipulator of signs, with the viewer an active reader of messages rather than a passive contemplator of the aesthetic.
“The use of thepronoun really cutsthrough the grease on acertain level. It’s a veryeconomic and forthrightinvitation to a spectatorto enter the discursiveand pictorial space ofthat object.”Barbara KrugerQuote in Brandon TaylorArt Today. Pg. 99
“is fundamentally predicated upon asense of its own moral security andrightness, as against the inequalityand oppression it attributes to thedominant culture… There is adisquieting sense in which suchwork remains unconcerned by itsown status within the enrichedproduct range of contemporaryculture. The culture it addressescarries on – and carries ongenerating materials susceptible toradical criticism. The problem ariseswhen that which is marginal withrespect to social values generally,accedes to a kind of power of itsown in its own relatively restrictedinstitutional compass”.Paul WoodModernism in Dispute
“When I was in school I was gettingdisgusted with the attitude of art beingso religious or sacred, so I wanted tomake something that people couldrelate to without having to read a bookabout it ﬁrst. So that anybody off thestreet could appreciate it, even if theycouldn’t fully understand it; they couldstill get something out of it. That’s thereason why I wanted to imitatesomething out of the culture, and alsomake fun of the culture as I was doingit:”Cindy ShermanQuoted in State of the Art edited by Sandy Nairne
“this false search for the real her is exactly what the work is about ..theattempt to find the real Cindy Sherman is so unfulfillable, just as it is foranyone, but what is so interesting is the obsessive drive to find thatidentity.”Judith Williamson
The centred subject - the modern manThe sovereign self - the subject is defined as an ‘inner space’. Thisinner space contains the consciousness, a repository of feelings,memories and needs. It is the I or ego. It is bounded, masterful andindependent. It has a core essence which in art, finds exteriorexpression and manifestation in artworks. It is cohesive.This sovereign self is the source of all action. It is perceived as freeas it decides its own goals. It engages in an ongoing process of selfreflection, monitoring its own thoughts in an ongoing internalmonologue.This subject is self sufficient and distinct form everything outside ofitself, including its own body. To be a subject is to be capable ofmaking rational, objective decisions regarding the self - being ableto make your situation or your body. This process leads to selffulfillment .
• The decentred disputes the Postmodernism widely self notion of the bounded, sovereign self.• In the work of various seminal postmodern writers such as Michel Foucault,Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes, these ideas of an essential, ‘eternal’ bounded self are undermined and critiqued.• In such work the self is seen as fluid and dependent for its sense of self on its context.• It has limited powers of autonomous choice• It has multiple centres with diverse perspectives - there is on one real me. We inhabit instead a series of masks - identity is ‘performed’ -it is a masquerade.• The self and our identity is constructed
“Slavoj Zizek has argued thatdeconstructive criticism has oftenmisunderstood an Hegelian notionof identity as being impossible;deconstruction always leads to adeferral of identity. For Zizek it isthis very impossibility of a closedsubjectivity that is the very name ofidentity itself. He would describe arealisation of the contingency of selfin time and space asconsciousness, that is somethingthat can never be grasped and thatis continually slipping away.”Paula Smithard“Grabbing the Phallus by the Balls”Everything magazine
“Early feminist readings ofSherman’s photos drewenthusiastic attention to ways inwhich they revealed woman ascultural construct, a pawn ofmedia inventiveness; even todaySherman is held up as a pioneerinvestigator into the femininemasque. Yet the artist herselfhas consistently resisted thatinterpretation.”Brandon TaylorArt of TodayPg. 95
“Ironically, in overlooking the question offemale pleasure, critical texts that privilegefeminist appropriation art for its refusal ofthe desiring male gaze have maintainedthe boundaries of masculine critical andviewing authority even as they haveworked to celebrate practices that critiqueit”Amelia Jones
“Whatever happened to the old1970’s idea of the revolutionarypower of women’s laughter?Who would want a revolutionthat didn’t allow for dancing inthe first place? And what couldmake the over swollen dick ofculture shrivel faster thanwomen’s well timed laughter?”Aimme Rankin
“The point is that we are withinthe culture of postmodernism tothe point where its facilerepudiation is as impossible asany equally facile celebration ofit is complacent and corrupt.Ideological judgement onpostmodernism todaynecessarily implies, one wouldthink, a judgement on ourselvesas well as on the artefacts inquestion.”Fredric jameson‘The Politics of theory:IdeologicalPositionsIn the Postmodernism Debate’,New German Critique, 33 (Fall, 1984), p.63
Cindy Sherman• Staged, glossy, seductive photographic images of herself in a variety of stereotypical, mass media representations of woman. Sherman is always at pains to point out that her photographs are not self portraits.• For many writers, especially feminist critics, her work reveals how femininity is a masquerade - how femininity is performed, with women drawing on a range of available cultural produced representations of femininity.• In a more abstract sense her work ties in with postmodernist critiques of modernist notions of the self. In postmodern theory the self is conceived of, not as a unitary, bounded, autonomous entity but as fluid and dependent on context. In postmodern theory our selves are always in a process of being made and made over .• Sherman’s work is often humorous, playful, with the artist displaying a palatable enjoyment and pleasure in the process of ‘trying on someone elses cloths’. There is a lack of moral righteousness in the work, rather a paradoxical pleasure is expressed.
•“As we view images and witnesstheir mutability it becomesapparent that truth is a construct,and that identity is fragmentedacross many truths’. Anunderstanding of this frees up theindividual from the constant searchfor the fixity of the ideal self andallows an enjoyment of the self asprocess and becoming.”•Jo Spence
“Class and education…as a working class artist I feel I have an obligation to offer something back to my own group; to help other women and men to seek and find the resources they need for an art education which suits their particular class/ethnic/racial/sexual needs (something I never located within higher education). My work within education has always been class identified and linked to a political consciousness, but it was not until the late 1980’s that the question of my class unconsciousness became relevant .I then movedrapidly away from social or socialist realism and began to develop the conceptof the psychic realism with Rosy Martin, taking techniques from psychotherapy and merging them with photography into a Theatre of the self. Such work remains grounded in humorous, ironic, and paradoxical cultural forms withwhich I grew up as a working class child, playing with puns and contradictions as it represents subjectivity in process. Here I am beginning to unravel the knots of the psychic, social, economic and ideological processes which have constructed the ‘me’ who struggles in and out o consciousness. A large component of this work has begun to devolve around shame, to make visiblemy apparent shifting between classes, masquerading as someone else, my selfsilencing and my intermittently repressed rage which often manifested itself as sarcasm…” Jo Spence “Class Confusion and Cultural Solidarity” printed Fan magazine in 1991.