Assignment Five reworked.

I’ve said all I want to say about PowerPoint presentations. My tutor suggested some changes to the presentation. I have decided to stop all the animations and transitions and make it a static presentation. I have written up my text (it was in manuscript format in my note book – so at least it will be readable now, whether it will, be comprehensible will be for others to decide

Assignment five 2 reworked

The link the original is here

 

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The Feminine Sublime

“To investigate the feminine sublime is not to embark upon a search for an autonomous female voice, realm of experience or language, although these categories may be valuable as a dimension of the strategic interventions of feminist practice. What is specifically feminine about the feminine sublime is not an assertion of innate sexual difference, but a radical rearticulation of the role gender plays in producing the history of discourse on the sublime and the formulation of an alternative position with respect to excess and the possibilities of its figuration.” The introductory sentences to Barbara Claire Freeman’s short essay on ‘The Feminine Sublime’ 1995.

These two sentences provided me with the twin insights into both the sublime and another aspect of feminism that I hadn’t expected but which illuminated so much of what I have been thinking about for some time. My own search into the meaning of the sublime has been helped by both the research and by the conversations I continue to have with fellow students on a regular basis. These images here are what I have called ‘pretty pictures’; lacking in substance and perspective, the sole intent was to ‘capture’ a sense of the scape of the land that provided an awesome response; controlling the media – film emulsion through development and then printing,  exposure – via the zone system, composition etc etc and then sales via exhibitions and commissions. In the digital era a negative might take a week to prepare before printing. Most of the images were captured on film, the whole process now feels like an act of virile expressionism – I certainly had to be fit enough to carry the ‘kit’ up some of these slopes and compose/wait for the light to adhere to certain constraints. I am still questioning the purpose of it all.

The sublime is of course a construct, “the awful, the lofty and the splendid” as Kant (1) described the three types of sublimity, but these constructs, including that of The Creator are all gendered perspectives – the notion of a landscape photographer/artist/painter is Male – see http://www.stathatos.net/pages/conditional_presence.html, what place is there for a Female? Most if not all the texts on the sublime are from that singular viewpoint, Longinus, Burke, Kant &c. Contemporary Sublime seems also to offer that same ‘maleness’ the Dusseldorf school being pre-eminent in supplying text after text of the awestruck male, Struth, Epstein, Burtynsky et al all striving to implant that same emotive response to the sublime (some maybe just by the size of their imagery leave alone what it is they are imaging).

Motionless and sterile, these images were all created without a sense of purpose other than demonstration of craft, clearly set in the mould of ‘modernists’ whose credo was set two generations ago. It is the image of one who wanted to express the biggest and the best, a singularly gendered stance that rejects an ‘other’. Freeman doesn’t suggest an answer but a discourse, and like Berger (Ways of Seeing) a generation earlier, doesn’t offer an answer. Berger’s stance is of course correct – what self respecting feminist would accept a solution from the ‘other’? Freeman offers a typical feminist response; discourse and engagement rather than hegemony and brute force.

(1) Introductory essay by Simon Morley ‘The Sublime’ pub’ Whitechapel Gallery 2010

Feminist artist Judy Chicago

I am a particular admirer of Judy Chicago – I went to an exhibition ‘study day‘ a while back and was moved by the work. And in this video she describes, amongst other things, the risks she took to challenge the prevailing hegemony through the late 1960’s and 1970’s. I have had many discussions, particularly with fellow students on the subject of beauty and I look forward to having more, but Chicago’s use of beauty and colour in the discourse around the position of women in art and society is a very interesting tactic, there is no doubt in my mind that a lot of her work is very beautiful, highly crafted and very subversive.

The Gaze

The more I look the less I see; perhaps this is the nature of research? The more I see the more it reveals of the depth there is in the subject that I have yet to illuminate. The notion of feminism as an idea expressed though art, and maybe more specifically through a visual art medium has more hurdles, pot-holes and potential cul-de-sacs than any other subject I have considered. And these impediments in the flow of travel of knowledge have many roots, my own gender of course will provide a crucial limitation. The level of conversation entered into by women into this subject has been surprisingly (and to my mind, woefully so) limited. I have tried to engage with over a hundred women, all of whom I thought might have something to say on the subject of feminism, let alone feminist art and have had very few conversations.

The Way Home  reprinted by kind permission of the artist Tom Hunter

The Way Home
reprinted by kind permission of the artist Tom Hunter

One area with very little engagement was the area of ‘Gaze’. Berger covers it in ‘Ways of Seeing’ by writing “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” suggesting that from the Renaissance women have been portrayed as idealised visions, something that Laura Mulvey discusses further in ‘Visual pleasure and narrative cinema’. However I found very little on the concept of the female gaze. Male gaze, in a patriarchal society, has had a privileged position, but the  idea of it’s counterpart in women seemed only to present itself, to any great extent, in lesbian texts – that of Tee Corinne for example and others – which was also concerned with the female form. I was therefore interested to discover Karolin Klüppel whose work seems to address this notion head on.

Ontario, reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Ontario, reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Hunter, in his work, has often re-presented what are deemed to ‘high-art’ paintings and situated them amongst the ‘people’, those of the Hackney area where he lives, the strip clubs, pubs and has suggested that for many men -those that do not go to galleries or have access to the ready cash to commission works of art for ‘private viewing’ – the only way to see a woman, to gaze at a women, is to frequent these places. The ‘places’ of course continue to perpetuate the to position of women as subjects of Male gaze (and more),  Klüppel replaces the woman with the man and flips the objectifier to the object.

Pirus: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Pirus: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Klüppel doesn’t flinch with the notion of female gaze “…also another aspect, taking place outside oft the visual dimension of her work: contrary to the traditional depiction of the female nude, which was produced in the history of art mostly by the male artist, and is mainly the male gaze exposed the viewer, stands in this case behind this sexualized male image as a creator a woman.” from her website.

Leda, Paul Delvaux - Tate

Leda, Paul Delvaux – Tate

Arlet: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

Arlet: reprinted by the kind permission of the artist Karolin Klüppel

These are objects presented as much for the delight of the viewer as ever Cranach’s images of ‘Eve’ disporting her genitalia for the onanistic pleasure of it’s commissioner. We are invited to consider these as objects of pleasure (the series was I think part of her final years project of her degree), I think the irony works in a different way to Hunter’s because of the ‘flipped’ roles, as she says on the press release for the work: “.. Her photographs do not only question the familiar structures of perception and stereotypes, but also succeeds an ironic revaluation and updating of certain motifs, which are transported into the present and with the distance to tradition she captures, in an amusing manner, the nature of the human condition of the presence.

In 2013 she was awarded a residency in India and discovered a remote community where the society is structured matrilineally and has produced a body of work called ‘Mädchenland’ The artist has decided to provide me some text to underpin that work which I suspect could well be an interesting context to support it, I am looking forward to that.

 

Feminism

The fifth assignment calls for a ‘PowerPoint’ presentation on any of the genre’s in the course, I have taken a little time to decide on what subject, but have come down on Feminism. I have been interested to explore this genre for some time and perhaps because perversely, most of what I have heard has been rather negative to the notion of feminism and feminist art – a term that itself apparently has connotations to the opposite extreme for some.

However I feel a slight antipathy for the means of communication.

I distinctly remember my first presentation, to somewhat over 100 electronic engineers that I felt, despite being able to call myself one and the same, knew more about the subject – Cmos and bipolar mixed signal silicon design – than I. However I felt that I had had a good grounding in performance for prior to that first presentation I had been designing integrated circuits in Texas Instruments; a company sure of it’s place as the premier supplier of integrated circuits worldwide and steeped in the machismo of late 1970’s and early ’80’s corporate, so clear about it’s destiny that any thought of allowing a female voice above that of Operator (machine) would have been a sure sign of weakness. Weakness, or any evidence of it, wasn’t tolerated in anyone who thought of climbing the ladder. Bravado, machismo and bullshit were the order of the day and the development of the ‘presentation’ was one of the measures by which the size of your balls were tested. Every three months came the P&L review and all the lead engineers, together with their teams, presented to the MD. The start of the proceedings usually began at least a month prior to the event, the ‘back-up’ slides (on acetate) would start to be sketched out and junior engineers would be given the task to print them out, draw them, research for them. The actual presentation would be limited to about twenty slides, usually less – however the back-up slides could be unlimited and it was the back-ups that reflected the virility of the presenter. It wasn’t unusual to see anything up to five hundred supplementary slides. You want an answer – it will be there.

Without Software these presentations would often not hang together aesthetically, similar data would be required but it would be delivered in a range of colours/styles and often (if not always) in manuscript form. The entry into the automated office of personal computers, most notably Apples, allowed the introduction of what later became PowerPoint to provide that standard, the ‘gold’ standard, well to all intents and purposes the only presentation software which has found its way from California in the late 80’s to probably most companies with an ambition to ‘communicate’. The ppt. is a male dominated sport. The ppt. ‘jockeys’ are both revered and reviled almost in equal measure from one department to another; the size of the file is one of the defining characteristics of the medium as much as the slide count and the image source material, the presentation animation, the feature set, the transitions, the template. I suspect the I will need to have ‘impact’, but maybe I’ll try and soften the piece and provide more of a pinkish tone.

I need to check whether I film myself delivering the prevention, or whether the presentation will be delivered from a file embedded in a blog-post, either way the missing ingredient is an audience. A presentation is best served to someone – an audience, there would be no point in the ‘back-ups’ if there were no-one to question/query. Slides are static devices, despite the introduction of animations of various sorts, slides are digital – on or off – the progression of the narrative on the slide will inexorably roll-on until it ‘flips’ to the next one and without an audience to interrupt it’s flow and develop the narrative it is essentially, a dumb waiter whether adorned with video or audio. I need to check this with my tutor and then just get on with it.

I have found the research into feminism quite contrary. My initial forays at the beginning of the course yielded very little engagement, most women I spoke to had either discounted it’s value to them or condemned them (the feminists) as either out of date or meaningless. The recent discussions I have had with other artists have developed my thoughts, but it has been my personal research, books, articles that have started to shape a fuller understanding both about the nature of feminism – which I suspect I had a natural affinity for (though it now appears rather roughly hewn), about the nature of feminist art. I have trod very carefully into this genre, for I have no doubt that I am institutionally sexist, that despite my being surrounded by women seemingly all my life and instinctively feeling a great deal of empathy for their cause, my perspective is coloured by a society that is as structurally sexist today (and some may say more so) that it was a generation or two ago. That the twenty first century’s opportunity base for women in the west is being challenged in a way that the first second and third wave feminists could not have foreseen. The the expressions of artists wanting  to explore this phenomena of status equivalence are finding it both more and more difficult to become heard and less and less easy to combat economically structured barriers to that engagement. The odds seem stacked against them, but the more I research the more I feel the need for them to be heard becomes greater.

Richard Hamilton at the Tate Modern

No entry

No entry

Overwhelming in many ways this huge retrospective provides as many excursions as there are rooms, and there are a lot of rooms! The exhibition catalogue is around 350 pages of images (including many not on show), sketches and essays which will provide a resource for some time to come. To take in all that was there would be a vainglorious exercise, if not impossible for one with so limited a vocabulary. What I will concentrate on is how I see Hamilton’s view of gender and the ‘other’ (female) as identity.

This image stopped me short. In it I recognise myself; I saw the institutionalised image of my desire – I wonder whether it was how Hamilton saw himself. The title ‘Fashion-plate study (a) self-portrait’ 1969 suggests that maybe he did but I haven’t found any direct reference to it as yet in the accompanying tome. I see the image of what I should expect from a societal perspective, from a female; a projection of how a beautiful sexually available female is represented: big lips, blond hair, suggestive wink, staring dilated pupil, ‘made-up and bare shouldered – she’s mine, should I desire. And of course as an object d’arts I can – just pay the man!

And here we have the ‘object’ stripped down to the bare essentials, the breasts are physical projections (providing the shadow detail on the image), she is displaying for the spectator, no expression to be concerned with, representative arms that are unlikely to fend away, stiletto shoes, stockings and the reflective glass connecting the viewer to the object. “Pin-up’ 1961 entering into the decade that suggested if you could remember it you weren’t there, the decade when sex began when for most it was still an illusion and was until the mid seventies (but that’s a different story). This image for me is a salutary lesson in the representation of the female, it seems to castigate the male for what it has done to the ‘other’ in diminishing it’s identity to a series of objects connected to perform a singular function. And talking of singular functions:

I seem to see another representation of the female, entitled ‘$he’ 1958-61, maybe this one is slightly more nuanced in that not only can she screw you but she can cook too, real dimensiality! A lot of his work around this period connected the female form to a presence within the domestic environment or to the boudoir. Looking at this through twenty twenty hindsight it appears to this viewer that Hamilton wasn’t wilfully mis-representing the female by subjugating them rather he was pointing out the frailties of the male perspective in that time, and then re-facing the present I wonder how far we have come? The Harry Callahan show that I took in on the same day as this certainly had the female in a passive role and those photographs were made in a similar period in history as these by Hamilton. The tube-ride to Marylebone had a number of men reading tabloids, the ‘page three Stunner’ is still there I noticed, the bill boards on the escalators have more explicitly sexually available women to gaze at as I rise at forty five degrees to the summit.

Un des effets des eaux de Miers

Un des effets des eaux de Miers

But I still remain confused at my reaction to this, or rather three images. This first, a study really, the title referring to an old British traditional view of the the foreign ‘other’ – don’t drink the water! has a recently formed steaming excreta purportedly on a piece of Jeyes toilet paper. Well ok.

But then this:

The study is introduced to the upper image. Is this irony? A study of confidence or a depiction of vulnerability?

It is further used in this:

‘Sunset 1975’. Well I can agree that most sunset pictures are (scatalogical references omitted) tedious and very regular in the photographers canon, but if that association is made then what association for the former images of the two young, attractive women. Not sure Richard, it’s a bit tricky Dickie for me, unless it is an equalising image? Trousers can, skirts can’t……

There were many very interesting rooms at this show; it asked a lot of questions of me as well as of the art on the walls, and on the floor. I have a very strong feeling that I shall come back to the catalogue again and again.