Embodied Vision!

Embodied Vision: Who knew?

Amelia Jones is definitely one of my heroes. I think this article is quite provocative. Just a few queries:
1. How do the self-portraits of Sherman, Wilke, et.al. differ in their invocation of death from Renaissance memento mori?
2. In Jones’ new mode of interpretation, what does she mean by “relinquishing our power as viewing subjects and reveling in our own otherness?”
3. In what way is a photograph a death?
4. Is spectatorial engagement what we do when we go to museums and look at art? Seriously, what does she mean by this type of charged gaze?
5. What is Lacan’s understanding of the photograph and what role does the viewer play in this interpretation?
6. When Craig Owens speaks about the subject of a photograph posing “as an object in order to be a subject” (cited on 959), weren’t you reminded of Berger’s “Fiction of the Pose?”
7. How does Barthes’ punctum function in viewing self-portraits?
8. What does Merleau-Ponty mean by the embodied viewer?
9. What is the paradox of the self-portrait (972) and do you agree?


13 responses

  1. Hello all, I just want to apologize ahead of time for such a short post. As we all know, its midterms time, yay (can you sense my sarcasm)! Anyways, back to the art.

    I have to agree with you Dr. Sadler that this article is quite intriguing. The pictures depicting death struck me and I couldn’t help but notice the parallels with the vantias still life. In these photos we see “dead people” or as we are supposed to assume, which provides a sense of morbidity or as she describes it, fetishism. So in a weird way, photos enacting “death” signify photography as death, by stilling time and displaying a moment that can never occur again.

    I can’t wait to hear what everyone else has to say about the article in class tomorrow!

  2. I was really intrigued by this article and her take on photographic portrait as having a paradox. There is ultimately something within all of us that wants this “otherness” to appear through the photographic process. I think this is something really odd yet so true. It makes me think of a candid, or capturing a moment between moments where the subject is showing something about themselves a viewer would not usually see or recognize as a fleeting moment of emotion or thought. This is an aspect that a photographic portrait tries to capture so that the essence of the “otherness” can be trapped and displayed as a rare occurrence.

  3. I am going to find this article quite useful for most of my research this semester, and I am excited about getting to use it! I appreciate that Jones addresses self-portrait photography, considering much of our readings claim photography as the death-knell to portraiture, not as a tool or subsect. Is photography the death of portraiture just because it is a more democratic medium than painting (and how elitist is that view, anyway!)?

    In terms of what Merleau-Ponty is saying, we as viewers engaging with portraits are not only looking at the sitter/subject, but we are being looked at as well. The photograph serves as a double field of vision, like a double mirror, where our gaze gets reflected back to us. We can identify with sitters in photographs so easily because of how authentic the image seems. Photos present this could-be false “truth” by nature, image as “fact” when it is simply representation. When we look at these photographic self-portraits, we aren’t just seeing the artist in her (his) setup as relatable, but also getting implicated in the very act of seeing…If we take the photo itself as a field of engagement, then we get embodied in this way…

    Jones echoes Simons when she talks about photography as death and brings up a double fetish present in Cindy Sherman’s untitled film stills from 1980, that old castration anxiety rearing its ugly head again (pun not intended)

    i think I lost Jones when she discusses her personal response to Sherman’s performances, on page 959, she speaks so harshly:
    “As I attach to them, they make me wince in my implicitly constituted superiority vis-a-vis their excessive glued-on prosthetic mixed metaphors of glamour gone awry. I connect to Sherman only obliquely and with some shame, imagining her sneakily placing herself on a plane above those she performs through this particular rhetoric of flamboyantly pathetic posing and attire.”

    I am still pondering this “punctum” thing ( I realize it’s probably Latin but eh.) From my current understanding, a punctum is a detail, a ‘hole’ in this figurative screen occupying much of Jones’ argument about viewer engagement, reciprocal gaze and embodiment…

  4. Reblogged this on Methods with ASC and commented:
    We are focusing on self-portraiture in ART 330 (The Art of Portraiture), reading Amelia Jones’ “The ‘Eternal Return:’ Self-Portrait Photography as a Technology of Embodiment,” first published in Signs, vol 27, no 4 in the summer of 2002. Jones discusses the creation of photographic self-portraits as performative images about racial, sexual, and gender identity. I will include this information in my process research 😀

  5. I enjoyed this article very much although sometimes her use of vocabulary was hard to navigate. We can view the photograph as death because the photograph, although seeming to represent actual reality, is only a memory and image of the absent. As Roland Barthes states in his book “Camera Lucida” he believes that “I am neither subject nor object but a subject who feels he is becoming an object; I then experience as micro-version of death…I am truly becoming a specter” (954). A picture is an image that displays the object as lifeless. While this is a rather morbid way to read photographs I’ve always thought Barthes description was interesting. Today, I think we use photographs as documentation. We share images of ourselves, places and friends on social media and rather than viewing these as death masks I think they offer some life. However, once an image is shot from a camera it is never present or occurring again. The only memory of them is the photograph itself.

    Do we believe that photography is the death of portraiture after reading this article?

    • Yes, photographs do deliver a death sentence but at the same time preserve life via memory. I think Merleau-Ponty adds a great deal to the picture (ahem) in his discussion of embodied vision. That the gaze is contingent on the other (as well as the body!) complicates the experience of portraiture in an intriguing manner.

  6. This article ties in greatly to both this course and the visual culture class I am in, as we have discussed the effects of photography and the mass circulation of images as well. It’s amazing how much ideology and cultural context are wrapped up in how we look at these photographs, and how they are analyzed. I like this idea of spectatorial engagement, and I think I at least do it when I become engaged with art in museums. Personal identity as the viewer changes the image, and a western view of Wilke’s piece charges it with the religious ideology, giving it life, but that will not be the case for every viewer. Photography has brought forth conversations about portraiture that were in many ways unavailable before, such as the idealization vs reality debate, and yet I think photography is definitely still able to create an idealized portrait. I like to hope that photography is not the death of portraiture, and that the two can continue to use each other to be inspired and push the boundaries of what we think portraiture is capable of.
    What is Lacan’s understanding of the photograph and what role does the viewer play in this interpretation? From the reading, Lacan says that “the subject is always already photographed in the purview of the gaze; the photograph is a screen, the site where subject and object, self and other, intertwine to produce intersubjective meaning.” I definitely agree with what Lacan is stating here, that photographs are the result from the gaze, and there were many iterations of a similar image that happened, but were never captured. Photographs are able to capture that which were find most important in life, that are in need of cataloging, for personal use, or to make a statement on larger issues too.

    In what ways can photography influence/inspire portraiture, and vice versa?

    • I agree with you Stokes concerning the importance of this article not only for this course, but for its implications for a number of other disciplines—the idea that the performance of self is not self-sustaining or unidirectional, but is always contingent on otherness is such a radical and important concept. This contingency coupled with the Merleau-Ponty’s ideas about embodied vision and the subjectivity of experiential seeing that leads Jones to offer a template for politicizing ourselves from both fear and prejudice —-is nothing short of inspiring.

  7. 3) As we have discussed before, photographs can be seen as being a death. However when reading the article specifically about Sherman and Cahun, it feels as if our interaction with their works makes it come alive to us.

    A photograph is a death in a way because it is the capture of a fleeting moment. A photograph in a way acts as momento-mori. It reminds us that we all age over time and at one point we will die. It is sign of “loss and absence” (953). Photographs show us how impossible it is to maintain or retrieve a moment of the past. It will not show us an image of an individual as she or he “really is” or “was”. Barthes states that photographs “shows a subject becoming an object” (954). This reminds me of the article that we read about women. It stated that women were objects and compared them to still lives. In a way, I think that this is done indirectly in certain photographs.

  8. I’m not sure what you mean when you say that photos do not show us an image of an individual as she really was or is—-are you referring here to the “fiction of the pose?” Or the idea that the photo, like the painted portrait, is an interpretation of the photographer, and, in collaboration with the sitter and viewer, an impression is created of the sitter? I am very eager to discuss this article because I feel it has profound implications for portraiture and beyond! I agree with your last statement that a degree of objectification occurs in much portraiture.

  9. 3. I don’t specifically know how to answer this question yet as I have some queries about meanings within this passage of the text, however I did want to touch briefly on how interesting I found the idea of “double fetishism.” It, to me, harkens to things we’ve both seen in class (the young girl posed from a beauty pageant for example), and things found in every day life. I found it incredibly interesting that simultaneously the purity/genitalia-less (classically) female body, a form that doesn’t inherently possess a sexuality of its own, is almost immediately seen as sexual. Such as the mentioned piece of Sherman’s “Untitled #153” which is incredibly grotesque in its own way, the artist having depicted herself as a corpse. However, I think its fascinating that, since the piece doesn’t act to actively give off a sense of fear regarding the castration of male viewers, it almost gives her sexless body, well, sex. It both invites and rejects the male gaze in this way, as it acts both as memento mori and as and inanimate sex(less) object. The whole duality of it is what I find really interesting.

    I guess my question for the class would be, what did you think of this concept? Do you agree that by creating a female form lacking outwardly in genitalia it lends to this duality? If not, what do you propose instead?

  10. Very interesting idea Rory and a difficult one! I think I would take the fifth on this, which in my realm means invoking Merleau-Ponty. If the gaze is embodied, the gaze will objectify and “subject-ify” all images—-“coupling with the flesh of the world.” In this way true vision passes beyond visibility into subjectivity, and that is where this duality rears its head.

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