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OUGD501: Context of Practice 2 (Lecture) - The Gaze and the Media

Women internalise the gaze, they see themselves as they see images around them.
according to usage and conventions which are at last being questioned but have by no means been overcome - men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselvesbeing looked at’

Hans Memling - Vanity (1485) 
  • Impossible image of herself
  • There is no way they mirror can reflect that
  • He’s apportioning a type of moral judgement to the woman that is pictured
  • Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation (front) (c.1485) Oil on oak panel, 22 x 15 cm (each wing) Musée des Beaux- Arts de Strasbourg.
  • Using the mirror at an odd angle appears in many contemporary images, we can see a shadowy outline of her face - the fact she’s preoccupied means we have permission to gaze at her. 
  • A very vouyeristic approach
ALEXANDRE CABANEL ‘Birth Of Venus’ 1863
  • We’re left as the viewer to regard the naked body uninterrupted
  • She doesn’t stop us from looking, there’s no challenge to the gaze.
Sophie Dahl for Opium
  • This version of the advert was deemed to be too adversely sexual
  • It was too sexual, it wasn’t going to pass the advertising standards,
  • So to pass this, they turned the image on it’s side, so there’s more of an emphasis on the face, and less on the body
Titian's Venus of Urbino,1538
  • The look in this woman’s face is almost a sort of flirty imitating to allow you to look at her body. 
  • The position of her left hand could be argued that she was covering herself, but it could also be perceived as quiet sexual
MANET - ‘Olympia’1863
  • There’s a difference in the woman’s gaze, as apposed to Titian’s,
  • The hand position is significant, it’s not a modest sexual gesture, it’s stopping you looking at that part of her body
  • The woman is actually a prostitute, she’s a modern woman, a modern nude.
  • Manet is celebrating the powerful female figure
Ingres ‘Le Grand Odalisque’ (1814)
  • Informed the Guerrilla girls
MANET - Bar at the Folies Bergeres, 1882
  • if you look in the top right corner, you can see Manet, it’s almost like a self portrait.
  • The reflection you can see wouldn’t exist in reality, it’s obtuse.
  Jeff Wall ‘Picture For Women’(1979)
  • The woman repeats the vacant inactive look, in woman.
  • He’s divided the image into thirds using the mirrors,
  • you can see the camera, acting as the POV like Manet
  • You can then see Wall on the right, like you can see Manet in his painting
Coward, R. (1984)
  • The camera in contemporary media has been put to use as an extension of the male gaze at women on the streets,
  • The action of the camera replicates the male gaze,
  • Normalisation of the female form
Eva Herzigova, 1994
  • Wonderbra, normalisation of the female body in the streets, 
  • This appeared as a billboard in a high density area
Coward, R. (1984)
  • The profusion of images which characterises contemporary society could be seen as an obsessive distancing of women... a form of voyeurism
  •  Peeping Tom, 1960  
  • The male body can also be objectified as it would be with women.
  • From 2007, Dolce and Gabbana 
Marilyn: William Travillas dress from The Seven Year Itch (1955)
  • 1970’s she looked at 1950s and 1940’s films using Freudion theory, to look at how films are made, with female objectification 
  • Cinema was a darkened room, it’s notable that one may look without being seem, by those on the screen and others in the audience,
  • The Voyeuristic process of females characters and the narcissistic nature of egos in characters
Artemisia Gentileschi ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ - 1620,
  • In Griselda Pollocks ‘Old Mistresses’ 
  • A more active role for females
  • She wants to reposition the role of women in art history, making their work and their voices visible
  • Pollock, G (1981)
  • Women ‘marginalised within the masculine discourses of art history’
  • This marginalisation supports the ‘hegemony of men in cultural practice, in art’
  • Women not only marginalised but supposed to be marginalised
Cindy Sherman, “Untitled Film Still # 6”, 1977-79 
  • The woman in the image is in a reclining position 
  • Barbara Kruger ‘Your Gaze Hits The Side of My Face’ (1981) 
  • Your gaze hits the side of my face
  • Why can’t we look at a female body - she challenges that
  • Sarah Lucas ‘Eating a Banana’ 1990 
  • Sarah Lucas Self Portrait with Fried Eggs 1996 
  • She challenges the gaze
Tracey Emin ‘Money Photo’ 2001
  • Challenging the criticism, almost like some sort of prostitution
Caroline Lucas MP in June 2013
  • No More Page 3 - she was asked to remove it, because it was against the dress code of the house of commons, 
  • Challenging the gaze, against the objectification of women in page 3,
  • Lucy-Ann Holmes, who founded a campaign to end the publication of topless "Page 3 Girls" in The Sun newspaper last year, told the BBC that while she had also received death threats, she had not been subject to the level of "sustained attack" experienced by Ms Criado-Perez. "I'd say it's a constant undercurrent, when women write about feminist issues or are exposed in a lot of media for speaking out about sexism they tend to get a barrage of abuse and threats," she said. (  

Criado-Perez campaigned to keep Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note 
  • Criado-Perez argued that as the Equality Act 2010 commits public institutions to end discrimination
  • She received up to 50 threats a day via Twitter including threats to rape and murder.
  • Although she reported the abuse police lost evidence and she was forced to delete her account 
  • Campaign to represent women on British currency

Social Networking is used to perpetuate the male gaze/ the gaze of the media
  • The body is broken into fragments- could be any female
  • Plays on teenagers body consciousness, potentially carrying those perceptions into adult life
 Susan Sontag (1979) ‘On Photography’
  • 'To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed’
  • The act of photographing is more than passive observing. Like sexual voyeurism, it is a way of at least tacitly, often explicitly, encouraging what is going on to keep on happening’   
  • Paparazzi shot of Princess Diana
Reality Television
  • Appears to offer us the position as the all-seeing eye- the power of the gaze 
  • Allows us a voyeuristic passive consumption of a type of reality
  • Editing means that there is no reality
  • Contestants are aware of their representation (either as TV professionals or as people who have watched the show)
The Truman Show (1988) dir Peter Weir
  • His life, Jim Carrey’s character is in reality TV
Big Brother 2011    
  • Making Voyeurism an every day activity, 
  • They can’t see us, but we can see them, we are the peeping Tom. 
Looking is not indifferent. There can never be any question of ‘just looking’. - Victor Burgin (1982)

Further reading

John Berger (1972) Ways of Seeing, Chapter3

Victor Burgin (1982) Thinking Photography

Rosalind Coward (1984) The Look

Laura Mulvey (1973) Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

Griselda Pollock (1982) Old Mistresses Susan Sontag On Photography (1977)

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