The Eternal Return!

I loved this article and have so many questions that I would like to discuss.  One issue that I would like your feedback on is whether or not you think these ideas pertain to photography only.  I have published an article utilizing the notion of punctum and the reception of the Well of Moses; in other words, I find the concept of representation’s ability to both preserve and kill an image simultaneously, to serve as a screen, a fetish, a source of punctum and studium, and site of performativity —viable in painting and sculpture as well as in photography.  (I am not speaking here of the subtle refinements that Jones contributes to the definition of self-portraiture—which are amazing!).  What do you think about the weighty role given to the viewer?  The notion of embodiment —discuss!  In footnote 22 Jones invokes O’Dell’s theory re: the photographic document of the performance as a link between the body of the performer and the body of the viewer.  In my work on the Entombment sculptures, I write about them as embodiments of the suffering of the community witnessing the death of Christ.  They perform this moment in time, so that the worshiper may project him or herself into the narrative, engendering a type of catharsis.  Does that sound plausible?  On page 971, how do the self-portraits of Sherman, Wilke, Ashton Harris, and Aguilar differ in their invocation of death from Renaissance memento mori?  Doesn’t Jones’ statement on page 972 re: art’s capacity to embrace the other and the radical benefits thereof make you want to sing an aria to the whole discipline?


5 responses

  1. First of all, Claude Cahun, love of my life! what a badass. and Barthes. what a great article.

    Let’s discuss the technology of embodiment

    Constructing an identity and subjectivity through production of photographs; also a topic I want to discuss

    can we revel in our own otherness? I always assumed that would be uncomfortable.

    It is so tempting to psychoanalyze the theories of dismemberment, etc. in the Sherman section. I also want to discuss Sherman and the idea of withholding in relation to fetishizing and the camera allowing access to a person. Isn’t it a tease? Also, wasn’t is Susan Sontag who compared the camera to a penis?

    I liked the idea of the punctum as a sort of mode of transportation for the viewer to identify with the artist’s self portrait.

    Once again, can we escape the male gaze, even when a female artist is the subject and creator of the portrait? In the end, she suggests that her new way of seeing is theoretically an answer to the problem of the male gaze.

    I need discussion of this quote: Rather, the performative reiteration points to what Butler calls the “failure of … performativity to finally and fully establish the identity to which it refers,” and the tendency, noted above, for the reiterated performance of the feminine to turn into an enactment of the lack that constitutes masculinity (1993, 188).18

    I’m feeling this identifying with the photograph theory to be falling down a hole of mise-en-abyme. I think the author is arguing that by associating with the photograph, the viewer can become the “Other” woah… I feel like its drawing me in and then calling me an outsider.

    I thought this quote was just beautiful: “For the first time … I appear to myself completely turned inside out under my own eyes. … [F]or the first time, through the other body, I see that, in its coupling with the flesh of the world, the body contributes more than it receives, adding to the world that I see the treasure necessary for what the other body sees. For the first time, the body no longer couples itself up with the world, it clasps another body, applying [itself to it] carefully with its whole extension” ([1964] 1968, 143–44).

    I thought it was interesting that Benjamin’s auras never came into play. hmm…

    The ending, where the author discusses death and photography, is interesting in comparison to Barthes’ discussion of the punctum of time. Again, I wonder why she didn’t mention it.

  2. I second Lola, Claude Cahun! Yes.

    “Through an exaggerated performativity, which makes it clear that we can never “know” the subject behind or in the image, these works expose the apparently seamless conflation of intentionality with meaningful visible appearance in the self-portrait as an illusion.” (951)

    Hannah Wilke’s Intra-Venus series always moves me. It’s so jarring when you compare it to her work from the 70s.

    “In this way, these pictures suggest that it is through the pose (and thus through representation, which necessarily predicates a freezing of bodily motion) that the death of the subject dealt by the photographic shot— its fetishizing power—is enacted.” (955)

    Great choice, Ellie! Looking forward to discussing this tomorrow.

  3. What is a self-portrait?
    Do you accept Jones’ definition? Any additions? Changes?
    Who is in a self-portrait? Does the artist have to be physically in the image, or can she be embodied another way?
    How can one be achieved?
    What is the relevance of medium? That is to say, what is the difference between a painted self-portrait and a photographic self-portrait?

    I’ll be using this question as my starting point for the discussion. Please come with some thoughts about this.

    P.s. I’m excited about tomorrow! I read this last semester and was blown away. I can’t wait to process it with y’all.

  4. Ellie, this was a fantastic article! Thanks for choosing it.

    “If Wilke’s, Sherman’s, Aguilar’s, and Harris’s photographic self‐portraits are brought to life through my engagement of them—if they become as much about me as they are about each subject depicted—then I would have to say that Harris’s body (which, perhaps because I know him personally as well, cries out to me melodramatically as the sometimes diva “Lyle”) draws out my own sense of sexual and racial normativity but marks it, making it strange…Harris establishes my normativity as otherness.”

    What a fascinating concept! As Lola said, as the viewer you are made the “other”, something I had not really concerned. In my other class (Baroque and Rococo art) we are discussing Dutch are as a predecessor to the legitimization of photography as an art form. However, the Dutch pieces, generally, ignore the existence of the viewer. I think that these photographs engage the viewer in some ways, but also, in others, ignore their existence, or, perhaps more interestingly, attempt to alter the terms in which they are being viewed.

    Cannot wait to discuss this in class!

  5. Many of you have touched on this tricky bit about embodied vision…Merleau-Ponty’s theory is fascinating in this regard, for he suggests there is no other kind of vision. Becoming the other —do we lose the self? Is the death that occurs to the image contagious, as it were? Hmmmm!

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