Reading List: A Sneak Peek

My birthday is fast approaching, and to make the most of it all I am asking for is books, over the last 6 months I’ve been working as an assistant for photographer Robbie Cooper but with no income – so my reading list on amazon is now miles long, my lack of funds is the main reason I haven’t written too many book related posts recently. These books are on the reading list for the MA at Kings College London I’m applying for next year and a few more that I’ve found – I can’t wait until mid may to sink my teeth into them all!

This post is just to give you guys a sneak peak of what’s to come in the book department over the next six months.

Escapism by Yi-Fu Tuan – Preface

Escapism by Yi-Fu Tuan
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Baltimore & London
1998

Black = My thoughts
Pink = Quotes
Blue = An external reference

Preface

Before I start I must make one point, when reading a book that attempts to analyse culture you must take into account the personality of the writer, every day we meet different characters we don’t agree with, the same goes for writers; just because they have been given the permission and support to publish a book does not make them right. In this case within the first 2 pages I have already made assumptions about Yi-Fu Tuan:

– He talks about how he was surprised he enjoyed Disneyland as “well educated people, among whom I count myself, are taught to dismiss the theme park as an unreal, fantasy world supported by hidden – and therefore somewhat sinister – forces.” – This gives me a sense of snobbery, someone who doesn’t let themselves enjoy an activity that is below his intelligence – for me this gives me a bad impression of the book as at the moment I see escapism through media and entertainment as a way of disengaging the brain and being submissive to pure childlike entertainment. – My opinion on this might change however.
As Tuan discusses the differences between humans and animals he talks about how he aspires to be immortal – I think you have to be quite narcissistic to actually want immortality, again just like each writer puts their own opinions throughout their book, I the reader will read it in a different way than you might.

I can always resort to imagination, which is the most readily available means of transporting the self.” — “But imagination can lead us astray – into fantasy, the unreal, the unreal, and the grotesque; and it can tempt us into first picturing, the (too often) acting out evil.” – I’ve never considered imagination as escapism, only ever digital objects – this is an overlook perhaps of my generation. Now it seems obvious the original escapism is to daydream or imagine. It’s interesting to consider the difference between imagination and fantasy and think about their negative aspects not only positive ones.

LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS – “And if the project is not food but a monument, a city, an empire, the amount of prior destruction, the exploitation of labor both animal and human, the sweat, pain, and death, add up to a picture closer to hell than heaven.” – The end point is the method of escaping (i.e. a house used to escape nature) but what has lead to it’s creation could take away from the “sanctuary” image we hold. – The escapism is lessened.

I haven’t even started yet and I’m raring to go, I don’t agree with everything Tuan has written, but that makes this all the more exciting. Stay tuned for chapter updates with quotes, thoughts and references.

The “Uncanny” – Sigmund Freud

The Uncanny (1919) – by Sigmund Freud

During my symposium Shaun Hydes recommended reading Sigmund Freud’s The “Uncanny”, unfortunately I didn’t have time or space to add it in, so I briefly looked at online summaries. However it is an area I want to take forward in my final piece, my aim is to create images that are making a comment and put the audience in a reflective position. Creating an Uncanny character/image is one way of doing this. Making the audience uncomfortable enough to question the content.

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This is my exploration into the text of The Uncanny.

Key:
Quote

Page
Reference
My notes
Areas of study I derived from the text

– Aesthetics are vital to explore in regards to uncanny. Aesthetic is usually associated with theory on beauty, but it has much more to do with with the “qualities of feeling.” p.1

– “…given him and uncanny impression.” Freud talks of uncanny as a feeling, much like anyone would talk about a good impression or a bad impression. Uncanny= feeling. p1

– Freud starts by discussing previous writings on Uncanny and the limits of incomplete research, discussing E.Jentsch’s piece “Zur Psychologie des Unheimlichen” in particular.

Intellectual Uncertainty – unable to determine the human nature/ intelligence of a character. Not quite human.

– “In telling a story, one of the most successful devices for easily creating uncanny effects is to leave the reader in uncertainty whether a particular figure in the story is a human being or an automaton;” – E.Jentsch quote used. Freud openly say that he isn’t 100% accepting of Jentsch’s ideas but points out there is truth in his writings. It just cannot be used as the ONLY reason behind the uncanny feeling, he also later goes on to explore how the dead coming back to life is not always uncanny, it depends on the relationship to reality.

Hofman “The sand man” – “unparalleled atmosphere of uncanniness” Freud now refers to uncanny as an atmosphere rather than a feeling, perhaps it is both, it cannot be defined as one thing as it is not. Freud later uses the sand man to disprove Jentsch’s ideas about something new and feared being uncanny. He points out the sand man isn’t new to the man in the story, he is very familiar  and every interaction with the sand man becomes more uncanny. So perhaps it is the recollection of a feared person that casues the uncanny in this situation.

– “children do not distinguish at all sharply between living and lifeless objects, and that they are especially fond of treating their dolls like live people… the idea of a “living doll” excites no fear at all; the child had no fear od its doll coming to life, it may even have desired it.p.9 – again freud is disproving the idea of Intellectual Uncertainty as the sole reason for uncanny feelings. A child would not feel that their doll coming to life would be fearful or uncanny because they desire it and often wish for it. It makes me think of Toy Story, none of the characters seem uncanny apart from the “bad toys” if something is animated to life but is “good” we might not fear it.

The Double 

– “Hoffmann is in literature the unrivalled master of conjuring up the uncanny.” p.9

– Twins, telepathy, reoccurring faces/events/places, mirrors and shadows – all types of double which Freud shows can evoke uncanny sensations. He then delves deeper into the meaning for this looking at psychology of childhood and self-observation.

– “The “double” has become a vision of terror, just as after the fall of their religion the gods took on daemonic shapes.”p.10 The Jeckyll and hyde effect, the fear of 2 personalities.

– “a feeling came over me which I can only describe as uncanny… an involuntary return to the same situation… feeling of helplessness and of something uncanny… fateful and inescapablep.11 – Freuds personal stories which evoke uncanny, the idea of the double, when something happens again and again within a short amount of time it makes us feel uneasy or uncanny, we recognise something familiar but know it is not meant to happen.

Coincidence

-” “Well, I hope he’ll have a stroke and die.” A fortnight later the old gentleman really did have a stroke. My patient though this an “uncanny” experience.p.12 Humans strive for an explanation of coincidence  some resort to supernatural explanation, religion or magic. Freud see’s this coincidence as uncanny and purely coincidence.

Involuntary repetition & repression

– “for this uncanny is in reality nothing new of foreign, but something familiar and old- established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repressionp.13 

– “Two things account for our conservatism: the strength of our original emotional reaction to it, and the insufficiency of our scientific knowledge about it.p.13 It is often said we fear wat we do not know, in essence Freud is saying this combined with emotional reaction to the object in question leads to uncanniness.

Reality and Imagination

– “an uncanny effect is often and easily produced by effacing the distinction between imagination and reality, such as when something we have regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality.p.15 When the line between reality and fantasy is blurred it provokes uncanny feelings.

Fairytales

– “We have heard that it is in the highest degree uncanny when inanimate objects – a picture or a doll – come to life… who would be so bold as to call it an uncanny moment, for instance, when Snow-White opens her eyes once more?p.16 The most powerful point I think Freud makes, it shows how hard it is to define uncanny and you cannot simply say that one act makes something uncanny. uncanny is not a fact it is a feeling and within everyone a certain combination of the themes discussed in this text are what cause uncanniness.

– “As soon as something actually happen in our lives which seems to support the old, discarded beliefs, we get a feeling of the uncanny. p17

– “Primitive beliefs are most intimately connected with infantile complexes.p.18 

Within these few pages I see a connection between the fairtytales and reality and Imagination, fairytales open with “Once upon a time in a far away land” the spectator is instantly disconnected from the story by both time and space, therefore the strange events will not effect their lives, it is too detached from reality to have an emotional effect on us.

The main topic of discussion within this text is whilst trying to define Uncanny we cannot define it. Freud taking a psychological stand point looks at examples of uncanny and what evoked the emotion within that case. Each example has to be taken individually as it could use one or multiple reasonings. The text has made me understand the uncanny a lot more and now instead of seeing a photograph and thinking something is strange about it I might have more hope at breaking down what is making it uncanny to me and possibly to others.

The society of the spectacle

‘The society of the spectacle’
Guy Debord – 1967

image

Paragraph number
Quote

My notes
Key relevant notes

I Separation Perfected

4. Images control human social relationships. “It is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.
Weltanschauung” – meaning a world view of a group/individual.

15.the spectacle is the chief product of present day society.” – consuming/ watching the performance of consumerism.

18.it is inevitable that it (the spectacle) should elevate the human sense of sight to the special place once occupied by touch; the most abstract of the senses, and the most easily deceived” – consumerism and mass media means that sight is more often deceived  less reliable than it once was.

19. So far from realising philosophy, the spectacle philosophises reality, and turns the material life of everyone into a universe of speculation.

21. “The spectacle is the bad dream of modern society in chains, expressing nothing more than its wish for sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of that sleep.” – Metaphor for consumerism, not allowing opinion movement or the basic human needs.

25. Through the spectacle cultural promises are never met. Promises aren’t realistic. Much like the American dream.

27. The spectacle allows no freedom apart from activity, which is banned in the spectacle. No freedom, must do what the spectacle says is right.

35. The more independent you are the more you are cut off. Reminds me of Corey Doctorows book ‘Little Brother’ if you try and be different or make a stand you become isolated and a target.

II The commodity as spectacle

38. The spectacle only cares about quantitive. It’s more about numbers than it is substance. No one cares what you are buying as long as you are buying something.

III Unity and devision within appearances

59. Behind the glittery surface of mass media and the spectacle are passive consumers.

60. The portrayal of the celebrity is the unachievable version of labour. Work hard, buy products and this could be you. It’s a goal for consumers which in unattainable.

69. Each product you buy is a shortcut to total consumption.

 

Snapshot poetics

In exploring the vernacular of cheap cameras/ snapshot images I decided it would be beneficial to read ‘Snapshot Poetics’,  a collection of photographs taken by Aleen Ginsberg between 1953 and 1991. Although I am not making snapshots per se, I do want to use the visual styling of snapshots in order to add a sense of reality to my dictional story images, with the hope this styling will make the project relatable to my audience. So i’m reading this book with one question in mind. Is it the candid nature that make these images so intimate and true to life?

image

 

The images tell the story of one of the first rebellious subcultures in America, the beat generation. After the horror of WWII and the cold war Ginsberg and other creatives took to writing poems about the hopeless culture they lived in. After a while the became nomadic, refusing to be part of American culture they were always on the move. The images in this book are taken by one of the founders of the beat generation and poem writer Ginsberg, this book is a collection of the beat generations travels.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5

 

There is something beautiful about the snapshot, perhaps it’s because we all have our own set we can easily relate to other peoples. I am stil in the generation that used film cameras as a child, perhaps this memory isn’t there for the younger generation, I suppose it has been replaces by the camera phone used to snap those unplanned moments. One thing I really ant to utilise in this project is the grain of the film, there is something comforting about it, adding warmth and familiarity to the images. Using digital we get noise and it is regarded as a negative thing, but is embraced when using film.

Photo Art: The New World of Photography

Photo Art: The New World of Photography

Edited by Uta Grosenick & Thomas Seelig

photo (2)

I consider my photography Art, but this doesn’t have clear boundaries. I am looking at the photo as art to so how I can be influenced in my work and what makes a photo Art. This book seemed the perfect place to go to see some photo art and hopefully get some inspiration.

©Valerie Belin

Belin’s work inspires me through it’s aesthetic nature, the lifeless faces and use of lighting make the models appear to be made of plastic.

©Rut Blees Luxemburg

Rut Blees Luxemburg’s images use the strange nature of twilight much like the photographer I have been looking at, the colours and light are beauitfuly and carefully composed.

©Izima Kaoru

Despite only finding 3 relevant photographers it was worth carrying that giant book for this one. Kaoru’s work is stunning, it has elements of Cindy Sherman and Mariko Mori, who create characters and places them in a story to make a comment on an issue in society. I will explore her work in more depth in a futur post once I have read up on her work and read interviews.

Little Brother – Corey Doctorow

Yesterday I finished Cory Doctorow’s book little brother. My mind is going crazy with conspiracy about privacy and proud of the little guys result. Wether it be coincidence or not I also saw an episode of “Person Of Interest” for the first time on the same day. Spooky. Both texts are about how post 9/11 American government covered its cities in surveillance, with face recognition, tracking every movement in order to highlight terrorists. Both stories spiral off in totally different directions after this but it seems strange I was fluxed with all this “conspiracy” (I use the term loosely) within such a short amount of time. Or maybe I’ve seen it before but until reading Doctorow’s book I just didn’t care enough. I’ve heard the government are watching us, but I’ve never taken a moment to stop and think about it before. Technology can be used to take away our privacy, but it can also be used to empower us. That’s what i love about Doctorow’s book. You can be anyone, but as long as you have access to the internet you can teach yourself all the coding in the world, and suddenly have great power/influence, something which has never been available before. here are some of my notes from the book. I recommend it to EVERYONE it’s key to understand these things as they will soon be a reality (hopefully not) but some would argue they already are.

  1. Actually enjoy travelling on trains 🙂 let the reading commence #corydoctorow #littlebrotherbooknotes http://instagr.am/p/VrwgnRFDQg/
  2. “We googled you, you know. You’ve posted a lot of very ugly stuff on the public Internet.” #littlebrotherbooknotes #corydoctorow p.49
  3. “I was tapped. Everyone might be tapped. The world had changed forever.” #corydoctorow #littlebrotherbooknotes p.86
  4. “Never underestimate the determination of a kid who is time-rich and cash-poor.” #corydoctorow #littlebrotherbooknotes p.87
  5. “This is why I loved technology: if you used it right, it could give you power and privacy.” #corydoctorow #littlebrotherbooknotes p.88
  6. “If you’re not fighting them, you’re helping them… they’ll turn the country into a prison if we let them.” #littlebrotherbooknotes p.127
  7. “The surveillance in Britain makes America look like amateur hour.” #littlebrotherbooknotes #corydoctorow p.142
  8. “That’s called “transitive trust” – trust that moves across the web of our relationships.” #littlebrotherbooknotes #corydoctorow p.153
  9. #littlebrotherbooknotes #corydoctorow p.180 the Declaration of Independence. Mans right to “abolish” government if it becomes destructive.
  10. “> Don’t get caught. Stay free. Stay paranoid. > Dr Eeevil.” #littlebrotherbooknotes #corydoctorow p.204