Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Gaze

What motivates us to hurt?

What motivates us to watch those getting hurt?

Psychoanalysis - the analysis of the options and controls we chose in life. 

Looking at the panopticon design it has the capacity to control 'knowledge' - the knowledge of ourselves in the world. The disciplining power of looking internalises behaviour rendering us more productive yet also more docile. 

Psychoanalysis positions the role of sexuality, especially in our infancy. It is also about how we treat and examine other objects. 

Laura Mulvey - 'Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema'.

Laura believed that Hollywood films are sexists because they represent 'the gaze' as powerful and male. The heroes are typically male and lead the plot. A woman would be portrayed as 'sexual' objects to be looked at.

Freudian Theories of Psychoanalysis 1.

  • Scopophilia - The pleasure of looking at others bodies as objects. Instinctual desire to look - curiosity of others bodies emerges in childhood.
' the extreme [scopohilia] can become fixated into perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other'. Mulvey

Freudian Theories of Psychoanalysis 2.
  • Narcissistic Identification - for Mulvey spectators identify with the male hero in narrative films. 

Freudian Theories of Psychoanalysis 3.
  • Jacques Lacan - the mirror stage. 
Projected notion of the 'ideal ego' seen in the image reflected in a mirror.
A child's own body is less perfect that what they see in their reflection. 
Film - like the mirror - produces a fascination in the image that can itself, induce a loss of ego. In our increasing identification with a projected ego our own sense of ego becomes lost. The actors on screen become objectified. 

Woman as image / man as a bearer of the look

  ‘In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact  [. . .] they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.’ 

'The male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification  [...]  he controls the film fantasy and also emerges as the representative of power in a further sense: as the bearer of the look of the spectator...'

'By means of identification with the male actor through participation in his power, the spectator can indirectly possess her too [the female actor] '.

Extending Mulvey's Theory - SUTURE

Spectators look through the eyes of the actors in the film
We are able to follow 'their' gaze without feeling guilty
Suture can be broken eg. when an actor speaks out to us - the audience.
When broken, the audience become aware of their own gaze. 
There is then the possibility to make the spectator feel guilty.

Suture often forces empathy. We have an empathetic relationship with the lead protagonist. Suture is broken when we are reminded that the gaze is constructed. 

Forms of Gaze
1. The spectators gaze - gaze of a viewer at an image
This is the most common form of gaze. It is you looking at me... but I can also see you looking at others... this is called...
2. Intra-diegetic gaze - a gaze of one depicted person at another within the image. When I look around me now I don't just see you looking at me. I also see you looking at others.
This can be used for particular effect...

Le Viol ( The Rape) - Degas

The gaze 'intra-diegetic' it is a character in the image that gazes at the subject. 

Crop the man out and it is a completely different composition. The title is about rape and having a innocent looking girl sat alone in a bedroom forces a sense of guilt upon the viewer. You feel like maybe it is you who has upset her.

Le Viol exhibits the 'power' of the male gaze. It doesn't suggest that we obtain the gaze, but rather that we recognise its power. 

The intra-diegetic gaze is used for a particular affect. We may feel disgusted and upset about the image but we don't feel any actual guilt or that we are the perpetrators. 


We attach negative connotations with 'contradiction' ... should we?
As a mechanism contradiction is a key proponent of how cinemas, advertising and computer games work. When the inherent contradiction is challenged or subverted it creates confusion. 

For example...

The contradiction of scopophilia and narcissistic objectification are challenged in the advert.

Males are normally seen as the power in images however here the male has be subjectified. 

3. Extra-diegetic gaze - this is the direct addressing to the viewer/ the gaze of a person in an image looking out at us. It is avoided in cinemas but common in advertising and TV newsreaders. 

The use of the extra-diegetic gaze is more affecting than the intra-diegetic gaze in this instance.
Intra-diegetic gazes defer our guilt – someone else is hurting that person

Extra-diegetic gazes enhances our guilt – we are complicit

Different forms of ‘gaze’ evoke different structures of power;
We can objectify (scopophilia) AND identify (narcissistic identification);
Cinema, advertising, computer games thrive upon ‘contradiction’ [but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!];
Visual culture employs different forms of the gaze to evoke structures of patriarchy;
Psychoanalysis seeks to evaluate and identify the architecture and symptoms of the gaze.

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