On the whole this paper has been extremely interesting to me. I have always been interested in the meaning, concepts and context behind visual texts in the form of branding, advertising, art and design. Especially with a background in designing the branding and marketing for businesses I have always had an understanding for the ways that visual identity can ‘speak’ to an audience. However, it isn’t until taking this paper that I have been able to properly express the importance of the visual language. In the context of designing for brands, it is as if I have been subconsciously aware of how different fonts, colours and imagery can send messages to a consumer. However, I haven’t previously been able to verbalise why this is important and how these little details can say so much. It has also taken my understanding of the visual language to a much deeper level.
One of the key concepts I have found most interesting is the idea of ideologies and how these can be portrayed through visual texts. I am very interested in history and learning about ideologies in a historical setting has greatly influenced my appreciation of the importance of context of visual texts.
What has worked for me so far in this paper has been watching extra videos and resources to supplement lectures. I have found so far that these provide more specific examples than the readings allowing me to better understand the key ideas. I have found it interesting to find resources from academic journals as they are often quite in depth. I think perhaps from now on in my essay writing I need to focus on fewer key points. This will allow me to develop my ideas providing personal insight rather than trying to cover a lot of content on a shallow level.
I definitely have a new appreciation for a paper like this especially in combination with psychology as a natural science. I have always played close attention to the detail in my work however now I understand the importance of these details for reasons other than aesthetics.
Kahlo, Frida. The Broken Column. Oil on masonite. Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City.
Frida Kahlo’s self portrait, The Broken Column is a reflection of her reality. The painted self-portrait depicts Kahlo standing naked in a barren landscape. Kahlo’s flesh is split down the middle of her torso to reveal a shattered column in place of her spine. A brace holds her body together. Her skin is pierced with needles. Tears fall onto her cheeks although her facial expression and body language remain stoic.
While Kahlo’s work has been associated with surrealism, she denies that her work fits this category. She claims that surrealism is about a fantasy world while her work merely depicts her reality. At age 18, in a near fatal bus crash Kahlo was impaled by a metal rod leading to chronic pain. At the time of painting this self-portrait, Kahlo continued to undergo surgeries in unsuccessful attempts to relieve her from her pain. Kahlo’s self portrait as an artist with disabilities aims to represent her suffering. Other disabled artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec do not explicitly reveal their indifference (Mirzoeff 48) whereas for Kahlo her work is about revealing her subjective reality and constant suffering.
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World. London: Pelican, 2015. Print.
This process helped focus my essay direction as it has redirected the main ideas I want to focus on. Previously I had been thinking I would go in more of a historical narrative direction. However, I feel like this is a bit overdone. This task helped me to think about representation of identity in a greater sense than just how self portraiture changed over time. I am very interested in the ideas surrounding how we see ourselves vs how we represent ourselves (or how we want to be seen) vs how we are seen by others.
This process helped me to understand the importance of developing contextual knowledge and intertextual relationships between visual text. I think what this task showed me was that the best way to do this is by reading a lot about background material surrounding different visual texts and searching for artists whose work explores these ideas.
I think these ideas that I am focusing on now are very relevant to my studio one (art place). My final work has developed from the idea of my mihimihi. Therefore it is in part exploring my identity. However, it has crossed my mind that my work would probably not be so obviously read by someone else as a representation of identity. I think in this way it relates to the idea of how we see ourselves vs how we are seen by other people. It is also of relevance to my art place as I have come across various artists such as Pawel Althamer whose sculpture ‘Self-Portrait as a Business Man’ greatly interested me. In many of my collages for my final piece I have obscured the faces of the subjects present, leaving only the superficial aspects, clothes, hair style, accessories, background etc visible. For me this is about being a ‘no one’ in a new city where no one knows anything about you. Their only impression about who you are as a person will be based off of your superficial appearances. It is this things, the clothes you wear, the bags and tools you carry etc that give them an idea about who you are. This related to Althamer’s sculpture as it showed the superficiality of other people’s idea of your ‘identity’ based on the way they read you as a visual text. It is therefore inevitable that there will be disparities between how you see yourself and how others see you.
Althamer, Powell. Self-Portrait as a Business Man. Jacket, trousers, dress shirt, silk tie, shoes, socks, underpants, passport, plastic cover, leather briefcase, printed papers and other materials. Tate, Liverpool.
Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. “Images, Power and Politics”. Practices Of Looking : An Introduction To Visual Culture.: New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.9-48. Print.
A point I found was interesting was the likening of the way we view the image of the children and women’s faces to the way they are viewing the scene (Cartwright, Marita 11). Perhaps for the same reason we are so drawn to crime shows, and why there are traffic jams surrounding accidents, we get a strange kind of pleasure from witnessing scenes of horror and distress. It is this moment which is captured on the children’s faces. Combined with the distress present on the face of the women, we react strongly to the image. Our brains are wired to recognise distress or fear in other people’s faces as it sets off a ‘fear’ reaction as it can signal nearby danger. We realise as the viewer we are not in danger however we still react with a kind of thrill to the distress in the photograph, just as the children do from seeing the crime scene.
I watched John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’. This related to all of the visual texts I plan on discussing in my essay. It talked about the importance of context in reproductions of paintings which relates to Dürer, Kahlo and Warhol as these have all been reproduced countless times. I also really enjoyed his point on the ‘mystification’ of art. I thought this was interesting as I found it incredibly easy to comprehend and analyse Kardashian’s selfie. This I believe was because I am familiar with Kim Kardashian as a celebrity and I am familiar with the platform Instagram. However, if the context were changed and a similar image were hanging in a museum by an artist with a subject I was less familiar with, I would doubt my understanding of the art. This linked together the two main ideas I took from the clip: the importance of context of reproductions of paintings and the mystification of art.
Kim Kardashian’s naked mirror selfie posted to photo sharing app, Instagram, was posted five weeks ago. It was made by Kardashian to be shared to her 66.8 million instagram followers. At face value, it’s production depends on a camera phone and a mirror. However, deeper analyis reveals that this exact image would not be possible without hair and makeup, a strict diet and exercise plan and questionable good lighting. There is a suspicious discrepancy in the lighting half way along the bathroom floor which could reveal an additional lighting set up put in place for the selfie. All of this production leads us to believe that this selfie was spur of the moment and instantaneous. It is an illusion. It’s transmission depends on access to the app, instagram through devices such as smart phones and tablets.
The mirror selfie features Kim Kardashian, naked in a luxurious looking bathroom. Solid black rectangles censor the image in order to conform to Instagram’s nudity rules. Kardashian is framed on the right side of the image by a gilded frame which is part of the mirror. The selfie was captioned: ‘When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL’. While not part of a traditional ‘series’ a similar topless selfie also featuring model and actress was posted a month later captioned: ‘When we’re like…we both have nothing to wear LOL @emrata’. In both images the viewers eye is drawn to the figure or figures present. The vantage point of the image is as if you are looking into the mirror.
The different components of the image, the figure, the marble floor, the gilded frame, the bath, the fresh towels and what is potentially a tv screen on the wall are all status symbols. They depict wealth and power. Essentially they are all contributing factors to the image and identity that Kardashian and most likely her PR team want to display.
Many selfies taken in private and then shared have a voyeuristic quality as they are a glimpse into a private moment. This selfie particularly so due to the nudity of the figure as well as the location of a bathroom, a private environment. This is a way of growing interest in Kardashian and attracting attention. In viewing this private moment, the audience feels somewhat more familiar with Kardashian. It makes her seem more ‘real’. This can make an audience engage more actively with the image through ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ on her instagram. This is a tactical way of growing her following. In doing so she increases her financial worth, an underlying motive and purpose of creation of the selfie.
Dürer, Albrecht. Self-Portrait. Oil on wood panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Albrecht is known to be one of the first prolific self portrait artists. With this self portrait estimated to have been created in the year 1500 it is a very old and significant portrait. The painting is significant as it mimics earlier representations of Christ. This relates to my essay question as it relates to Dürer’s ideas of identity and how he viewed and therefore portrayed himself in his self portrait.
Kahlo, Frida. The Broken Column. Oil on masonite. Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City.
I chose Frida Kahlo’s The Broken Column as another piece as her use of surrealism (argued by Kahlo as her reality rather than surrealism) represents her identity. Unlike other forms of self portrait, in particular the selfie, it focuses less on exterior appearances and more on what the artist wants to express about their own subjective reality and identity. As Kahlo suffered from illnesses and disability this image also relates to the idea of a minority confronting dominant identities.
Warhol, Andy. Self-portrait. Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on nine canvases. Museum of Modern Art, New York.
This self portrait by Andy Warhol is interesting because it explores the idea of the artist as a celebrity. This relates to Dürer who essentially poses himself in the image of Christ as well as Mirzoeff’s examples of Velásquez and Vigée-Lebrun. It shows the way that artist’s have portrayed themselves historically as a person of significance comparing them to the ‘celebrity’ of the time whether they are a religious, royal or celebrity figure.
Kardashian, Kim. When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/BCpQBQROS5l/
Kim Kardashian is a pivotal figure in modern day society. She thrives off of the increasingly visual world that we live in. At the very least she is a celebrity and at most she is a figure that is worshipped or at least followed by 66.8 million. In this case, rather than the artist mimicking the celebrity, the celebrity is the artist. To me this selfie is interesting as I believe that as much consideration went into the production of this photograph than in previous examples. Hair and makeup, an extensive workout and diet, questionable lighting and a wide angle showing a glamourous bathroom portray status symbols that add to the Kardashian identity.
To me, the video which best described visual literacy was the Toledo Museum of Art video. It combined a range of different people’s definitions of what visual literacy means. It was generalised in a good way as it showed the bigger idea rather than focusing on specific examples. Basically it showed that the basis of visual literacy is knowing and communicating. At two minutes and forty six seconds it was succinct while incorporating many different perspectives. It taught me about how critical thinking is about engagement and taking the time to process what we are seeing. It talked about the flow of vision to cognition. As I always like to see the broader picture, this was a very satisfying video which nicely explained the fundamental ideas of visual literacy. I would definitely recommend this video to a family or friend if I were explaining what my Communications in Creative Cultures class was all about. In contrast, the video ‘Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Visual Literacy’ was very thought provoking. It was interesting to see a specific individual’s interpretation of visual literacy and from the specific background of film making. I found that this video pinpointed the importance of visual literacy in film making. It was more interesting to me with a background knowledge of critical thinking and visual texts than I think it would be to someone who hadn’t been introduced to these concepts.