William Lovitt has outlined what Heidegger describes as ‘Enframing’ (afore mentioned in ‘Seminar Discussion 01′) as “a challenging claim” that “assembles and orders… summons forth… forever restructuring anew”. (Lovitt 1977, p. 19). Similarly, Don Ihde argues the importance of media technologies in context of culture:
“This awareness is part of the communications technologies, particularly the image technologies… which daily bring us exotic cultures and makes clear the conflicts between cultures.” (Ihde 1993, p. 114).
Referring to “visual networking” such as television, cinema, etc. (Ihde 1993, p. 114) Ihde draws to our attention the role of modern technologies to connect us with different cultures and sustain our awareness of those cultures. Considering these arguments, it is possible to view media art as a platform for reshaping or ‘enframing’ current perceptions of identity in context of contemporary culture. More specifically, recent studies (Railton and Watson 2011) have described identity as intrinsic to culture:
“One of the most important tenets of postmodern and poststructural theories is the notion that the self is not an essential self rooted in genetic make-up or formed in early psychological development, but, rather, a discursively constructed self produced and maintained through the workings of a multiplicity of cultural institutions and practices.” ( Railton and Watson 2011, p. 20).
In other words, because the self is a ‘discursive’ self, identity is dependent on external facts, a “specific social, cultural, and historical situation” (Railton and Watson 2011, p. 20) rather than within ones self, subjectively or internally. With this in mind, I have decided to explore the idea of creating a sculpture that is self-conscious of the role of discourse/culture/ideology as a kind of mask constructed before ones true internal/subjective identity. Below is an illustration of the initial processes of my thoughts in terms of my creative practice project (click the image to enlarge it).
The above image demonstrates a cultural identity placed to the left of the central object and a subjective identity placed to the right of the central object. My idea is to create a sculpture in the form of a mask to represent a ‘masked’ identity or a contsructed/discursive identity, and the object to the left of the mask will represent the way in which society interprets ones masked identity in context of culture. The object to the right of the mask will symbolise ones ‘Real’ or ‘true’ self, not obscured by perceptions that are derived from cultural beliefs of ideologies. At the moment, the idea is that both left and right objects will be attached to the central mask and will be rotated by a kind of motor that will create the illusion (symbolically) of the mask transforming the cultural perceptions to the ‘Real’.
According to Railton and Watson (2011), popular media has the ability to shape the way in which society can perceive women and female identity:
“Recurring images of women in popular media have some influence on how people think of women in real life… these images of women are either simply either positive or negative, good or bad, progressive or reactionary… it is possible to know which is which and, by implication to adjudicate on the respective politics of the image by measuring it against external reality, that is to say, the way real women are, or could/should be, in the real world.” (Railton and Watson 2011, p. 18 – 19)
Considering this argument, I have made the decision to specifically investigate representations of femininity that could embody my sculpture. As such, I have will create my sculpture on the premise that it will continue to represent femininity through images previously outlined in my first contemporary culture blog entry (‘contemporary culture 01′) such as the venetian mask. In terms of attaching the left and right components of the sculpture I will explore the ways in which I can incorporate words/language and their connotations with specific ‘normative’ ideologies. Ihde (1993) has described the role of language, like certain technologies, as transformational:
“Time and space technologies are deep and broad technologies, technologies which transformed entire cultural perspectives upon the world. But equally transformative in this deep sense, was writing which was an early language technology. Like tme and space technologies, writing, too, had a long and evolving history.” (Ihde 1993, p. 58).
Here, Ihde argues language’s vast influence on cultural perspectives. It is with this view that I will incorporate language into my design in order to, in the words of Heidegger, ‘Enframe’ cultural perspectives.
With the view that language can be displayed as art, Bolter and Gromala (2005) have illustrated ways in which writing can be displayed from an aesthetic point of view, stating that “digital technology can help to reawaken our interest in the visual appearance of words.” (Bolter and Gromala 2005, p. 166). This study explores the project named “Excretia”, which allows language and writing to morph in sync with the human body, as demonstrated below.
(Bolter and Gromala 2005, p. 167)
(Bolter and Gromala 2005, p. 167)
(Bolter and Gromala 2005, p. 168)
In context of postmodern times, Bolter and Gromala describe the effects of “Excretia” on the author:
“Like earlier forms of writing, Excretia is a reflective interface that reveals the author to himself – again, not a perfect or single reflection, but a myriad of refracting planes in the transpositions and changing angles of the letter forms. Excretia reflects a different part of the author’s self.” (Bolter and Gromala 2005, p. 168).
As opposed to simply ‘reflecting’ the author, Excretia ‘refracts’ its image back to the author, a self-conscious display of media art as mirrors of multiplicity. With this in mind, I will investigate incorporating a display of words in context of female identity into my project.
A recent text (Storey 2009) has explained the work of Judith Butler, describing cultures place in the construction of gender categories:
“According to Butler’s argument, gender is not the expression of biological sex, it is performatively constructed in culture… In other words, gender identities consist of the accumulation of what is outside (i.e. in culture) in the belief that they are an expression of what is inside(i.e. in nature).” (Storey 2009, p. 161).
Butler’s above theorisation of gender identity is exactly that which I wish to inform my project, the left component of my sculpture representing culture, and the right hand component of my sculpture representing nature. However, Butler’s work is focused on the female body rather than semiotics, as outlined in an interview with Liz Kotz (Artforum):
“This is related to the idea that discourse creates subject positions for your self to occupy—linguistic structures construct the self. The structure or discourse of gender for Butler, however, is bodily and nonverbal.” (Kotz 2013)
In order to investigate Butler’s concept, however, I will explore ways in which the divide between subjectivity and objectivity can be applied in context of feminist theory. Julia Kristeva has studied semiotics in context of feminism in her well known work Semeiotikè (1969). Barbera Godard describes the research of Kristeva:
“Kristeva gives considerable attention to how the feminine works invisibly through culture. She theorizes the “semiotic” as the “pre-symbolic” site of the maternal which persists as trace within the symbolic in an alternate form of meaning-making she terms “signifiance” (1984). Subsequently, she theorized a number of subject positions characterized by their incomplete separation of subject from object, with dispositions giving more place to the “semiotic,”… Borderline states, they constitute sites of abnormality or “horror.” As “negativity,” they may function as sites of transferential processes for the authors or readers of the texts… Kristeva nonetheless positions women as the ineffable vanishing point and invisible prop supporting a masculinized norm of meaning and subjectivity.” (Godard)
Here, Godard illustrates Kristeva’s argument that patriarchal order dictates language and its connotations. In order to represent this through words/language I have experimented with that which can be associated with cultural discourse (left) and subjective identity (right), displayed below (click image to enlarge it).
These words at present could be considered somewhat arbitrary; I have for the moment selected limited phrases to represent my own thought process. When making this project happen I will research specific terms that can be backed by credited texts.
In her famous text The Second Sex (1949), Simone de Beauvoir outlines a distinction between subjectivity and objectivity:
“The tremendous advance accomplished by psychoanalysis over psychophysiology lies in the view that no factor becomes involved in the psychic life without having taken on human significance; it is not the body-object described by biologists that actually exists, but the body as lived by the subject. Woman is a female to the extent that she feels herself as such.” (Beauvoir 1949).
It is this notion of true identity, that the woman “feels herself as such” (Beauvoir 1949) that I aim for the mask to transform (in a sense) in terms of speculative culture (i.e. perhaps one day the simple act of wearing a mask could transform the mask of ideologically dictated identity).
It is important to acknowledge that Butler writes on Beauvoir’s work. Moreover, it is important to acknowledge Butler’s argument that because of culture it is much more complex than simply a single divide between what is understood as ‘male’ or ‘female’, as Storey explains:
“Butler argues that gender works in much the same way as performative language. As she explains… one of the first performative speech acts we all encounter is the pronouncement ‘It’s a girl’ or ‘It’s a boy’. Each pronouncement comes with rules and regulations, which we are expected to follow and obey… Various discourses… will all combine to ensure our conformity to ‘performativity as cultural ritual, as the reiteration of cultural norms’.” (Storey 2009, p.161 – 162).
Here, Storey illustrates Butler’s argument that language constructs a gender divide from the moment we are born. Furthermore, Butler illustrates gender as culturally constructed in terms of language which she deems “phallogocentric”:
“If genders are in some sense chosen, then what do we make of gender as a received cultural construction? It is usual these days to conceive of gender as passively determined, constructed by a personified system of patriarchy or phallogocentric language which precedes and determines the subject itself.” (Butler 1986)
In other words, Butler argues that patriarchal order not only shapes discourse and its connotations but it also determines the way in which the subject understands their own identity. With all of this in mind, I have produced another digital representation of my initial idea in order to represent the divide between psychology and culture in order to suggest that the mask should – symbolically – correct this misrepresentation of female identity in society. (below; click image to enlarge it.)
To put it another way, my intention is for the mask to represent a reversal of normatively; that is, wearing a mask would not force the subject to act a performative identity, but to unapt the performative identity and be able to simply BE their real self without connotation. The images on the right represent Beauvoir’s idea of biology or nature, and the images on the left represent Butler’s theory about language and association. In the physical sculpture my idea is to screen language through an LED display using Arduino.
Beauvoir, Simone de. (1949) ‘The Second Sex.’ [Marxists.Org] Available from: http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/ch02.htm [Accessed on 20 November 2013]
Bolter, David and Gromala, Diane. (2005) Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency. London: The MIT Press.
Butler, Judith. (1986) ‘Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex.’ Yale French Studies. 72:35 – 49. [The European Graduate School] Available from: http://www.egs.edu/faculty/judith-butler/articles/sex-and-gender-in-simone-de-beauvoirs/ [Accessed 20 November 2013]
Ihde, Don. (1993) Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction. New York: Paragon House.
Kotz, Liz. (Accessed 2013) Artforum: Judith Butler and Performativity for Beginners. Interview, unpublished.
Lovitt, William (1977) Martin Heigedder: The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. London: Harper Perennial.
Railton, Diane and Watson, Paul (2011) Music Video and the Politics of Representation. UK: Edinburgh University Press.
Storey, John (2009) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. Fifth Edition. London: Pearson and Longman.