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.

Freud – The Uncanny – 1919

In response to my symposium, Shaun Hydes said it might be worth looking at the Uncanny. I am not sure wether I am going to be using it because my talk already runs 11 minutes, so instead of doing an in depth analysis on the original text I will look at other people’s summaries and go from there.

David Morris’ notes

The German word “unheimlich” is considered untranslatable; our rough English equivalent, “uncanny”, is itself difficult to define. This indescribable quality is actually an integral part of our understanding of the uncanny experience, which is terrifying precisely because it can not be adequately explained. Rather than attempting a definition, most critics resort to describing the uncanny experience, usually by way of the dream-like visions of doubling and death that invariably seem to accompany it. These recurrent themes, which trigger our most primitive desires and fears, are the very hallmarks of Gothic fiction.

According to Freud’s description, the uncanny “derives its terror not from something externally alien or unknown but–on the contrary–from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it” (Morris). Freud discusses how an author can evoke an uncanny response on the part of the reader by straddling the line between reality and unreality within the fiction itself. In The Fantastic, Todorov goes to some length to distinguish his structuralist approach to this genre from a Freudian psychoanalytic approach; nonetheless, he shares many of Freud’s conclusions, especially in attributing literary terror to the collapsing of the psychic boundaries of self and other, life and death, reality and unreality.

Although Freud never mentions Gothic fiction in his essay, and Todorov partially excludes it from his, critics of the Gothic have drawn heavily upon both of them, often in conjunction with one another. Terry Castle’s article on the “other” in Radcliffe’s novels and Peter Brook’s essay on The Monk are two examples of this combined theoretical approach. Although Margaret Anne Doody does not mention Freud or Todorov specifically, her essay–which describes how Radcliffe blurs the distinction between dreams and reality within her novels–seems indebted to both of them. This emphasis on dreams is also essential to any analysis of Frankenstein, a text which is itself the product of a dream-vision and which seems to capture the very essence of the uncanny.

From this I learn that the Uncanny is something that doesn’t quite sit right, but not because it’s unusual to us, most times it is familiar but something has been added, changed or removed to make it seem strange. This is relevant to the activists work I am talking about in my project, they play with context to make sure the audience feels uncomfortable enough to question what they are seeing. I will now re-read my talk and decided wether it’s worth taking something out to add this point in.

“Girls are dancin’” by Emily Jane Wakeling

“Girls are dancin’”: shōjo culture and feminism in contemporary Japanese Art

by Emily Jane Wakeling
University of Queensland

Read the full text here http://pdf.jpf-sydney.org/newvoices/5/foreword.pdf#page=134

Key:
Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
“Quote”
Personal Note
Page Number
Other peoples References & theories

Abstract

It is relevant to read and discuss all of the abstract as it defines the project well and gives clear indication to the purpose of the text. It is broken up with my notes.

“This article explores the gender-transgressive (transgressive= offend/ violate boundaries) expressions found in shōjo culture in order to highlight the potential for feminist analysis in the prevalence of the shōjo motif in contemporary Japanese art. Shōjo culture is a fascinating cultural space, within contemporary Japanese culture, which fosters creative expressions of gender that negate or make complex hegemonic (hegemonic = dominant) categories. (In my mind this sentence translates more simply to challaging the expectations related to the depiction of women.) Departing from stereotypes of Japanese girls, this article will pay particular interest to an emerging wave of figurative contemporary art practices in which the figure of the shōjo is utilised for a new generation of feminist critique. Aoshima Chiho, Kunikata Mahomi, Takano Aya, Sawada Tomoko and Yanagi Miwa are among the current artists who feature the shōjo motif in contexts that foreground female subjectivities found paralleled in shōjo culture. These works will then be contextualised in the greater picture of current trends and themes in global contemporary feminist art.”

Although the majority of artists mentioned are painters I will read all of this text as I feel it is the most relevant text I have found to my topic, especially now it has been narrowed down to the representation of women.

Introduction

“The cultural construct of girlhood in Japan typifies the country’s typical absorption of foreign cultural influences and embracing it as uniquely “Japanese”.”

“The Japanese term “shōjo” is particularly useful to gender discussions of the Japanese girl. It is a way of referring to someone as feminine, but with a distinct suggestion of youth.” I have encountered the term Shojo before, but as a genre of manga rather than a feminist view.

“The shōjo is ‘free and arrogant, unlike meek and dutiful musume [daughter] or pure and innocent otome [maiden]’. “Daughter” and “maiden” both suggest the presence of a male authority in determining the girl’s identity, while the concept of shōjo has neither of these connections” – A woman who is considered independent.

Shōjo motif in contemporary art

“What differentiates them from others is their use of the shōjo motif in reference to the gender-transgressive expressions found in shōjo culture.”

“Aida identifies the sexualisation of shōjo in contemporary Japanese culture and makes comment through an exaggeration of his powerful position as a man and “pervert”.” – To my surprise this text does talk about Aida Makoto. Mainly discussing his artwork the text talks about how he uses his position as a man to make a social commentary on the representation of women. Almost ironically via adopting the iconic schoolgirl uniform and imagery we see so much in anime.

“Specifically, these artists use the shōjo motif to reference elements of shōjo culture that focus on her subjectivity over the male gaze.”

“They go beyond the sexual objectification of shōjo, as seen in the work of Araki, or ironically presented by Aida, to make reference to the creative uses of the fantastic, girlish aesthetics or gender-transgressive concepts found in shōjo culture.”

“Yanagi presents young women—specifically, the shōjo—as a status far removed from social conventions such as marriage and child-rearing”

“Minami (2000) imagines her older self as the eccentric owner of a Disney-style theme park being tended to by carers.” see photo left.
 “Yuka (2000) enjoys a ride on a sidecar speeding across the Golden Gate Bridge.” see photo left
“Feminist critic Ueno Chizuko notes that most of the shōjo subjects just imagine an extension of themselves ‘as they are now’ because ‘several of the grandmothers appear as cheerfully active and carefree as they are today’.38 ‘As products of Japan’s affluent society, these women refuse to relinquish the privileges afforded them as children, even as they approach their thirties. So children they will remain, into old age’.” – This analysis needs to be followed up!

38 Ibid., p. 61.

Feminism and Contemporary Art

“Yanagi considers her art practice to be different to artists who come from a Western background because ‘my knowledge of the origins and history of what is referred to as Western fine art, and of modernism, was grafted later on to a base of novel, movie and manga subculture’.41” Again this quote need following up. What else has Yanagi written about her interaction with manga and how it influenced her.

41 Yanagi in ARTiT, ‘Interview with Yanagi Miwa’, p. 56.

Gender in Shōjo Culture

“Kawaii style, mentioned briefly above, has been analysed as a female-centred rejection of adulthood. 51 Laura Miller presented cases of girls using photographic technologies, specifically the print-club sticker booths, to resist stereotypes. 52 Both refernces worth following up on as well. Laura Miller’s view on print-club could be helpful within my context section, heling me define this culture in a way that can be understood within minutes.

51 Kinsella, ‘Cuties in Japan’.
52 Miller, ‘Bad Girl Photography

“Shōjo manga is an especially rich subject to draw out girls’ expressions of gender transgression. To illustrate with an example, The Rose of Versailles—possibly the most iconic shōjo manga—was called a “revolutionary romance” by Deborah Shamoon. This manga would be worth a read, just to gain a better understanding of Shojo and see if I can find any similarities between the photographers I am looking at and this iconic manga.

This article has been really helpful. Towards the end it turned out to be looking at the photographers as practioners rather than what their work is trying to say. That it a key area to explore but I don’t want to end up creating a similar exploration into the artists  cultural background and reasons for creating work. I am more concerned with what they are trying to say with their work, are they trying to provoke change? but I have a long list of texts to look at. What I think this text is trying to say is the artists discussed within it are Shojo themselves they are part of this new breed of women, ans whilst that is vital to the understanding of their work it’s not what my topic aims to conclude on.

To read now:

51 Kinsella, ‘Cuties in Japan’.
52 Miller, ‘Bad Girl Photography
41 Yanagi in ARTiT, ‘Interview with Yanagi Miwa’, p. 56.
38 Ibid., p. 61.

JeongMee Yoon

JeongMee Yoon’s ongoing series ‘The Pink & Blue project’ explores gender association within children and how we can be manipulated by consumerism.

My current work, The Pink and Blue Projects are the topic of my thesis. This project explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism.

The Pink and Blue Projects were initiated by my five-year-old daughter, who loves the color pink so much that she wanted to wear only pink clothes and play with only pink toys and objects. I discovered that my daughter’s case was not unusual. In the United States, South Korea and elsewhere, most young girls love pink clothing, accessories and toys. This phenomenon is widespread among children of various ethnic groups regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the color pink in order to look feminine.

– www.jeongmeeyoon.com/aw_pinkblue.htm

Whilst the idea that each gender of child is almost obsessive with one colour is a really interesting idea, the thing that engages me with JeongMee Yoon’s work is the idea of popular culture and consumerism, within each of the girls image we see barbies, hello kitty and the boys we see thomas the tank engine and superman it shocks me how consumerism effects children. From a young age we are exposed to branding and advertising and it’s becomes second nature to want what the TV tells us is good. Popular culture icons are part of our life from a young age and these images represent the variety of cultures and ages and that need everything fast and in mass like popular culture today, it is sickly, and over the top. The children placed in the middle of their belongings represents how they are almost trapped by there belongings.

www.jeongmeeyoon.com

Identity

I’ve been looking at close up photography and the idea of texture and the unseen fibres. I have done work that tackled this idea before, not intentionally but it did.

This project was based on identity and conspiracy, i tried to capture all the information the government have on us. I did this project in 2008/2009.

©Daisy Ware-Jarrett
©Daisy Ware-Jarrett
©Daisy Ware-Jarrett
©Daisy Ware-Jarrett

I achieved this texture and contrast using a scanner, maybe this is something to develop on. I could scan in sections of the fabric and then apply an image of the prism on top via photoshop.

Roland Barthes – ‘Camera Lucida’

I purchased Roland Barthes book ‘Camera Lucida’ about 2 years ago, when I was feeling like I needed to know more about photography. I read it, well I say i did but most of it went straight over my head. This essay project is the perfect time to re-read the book and hopefully this time get a greater understanding of what Barthes was saying. I have found many people online during searches regarding self-representation online advising me to read this book as although it was published in 1980 is still relevant to Photography today. I will spend tonight and tomorrow reading the whole book and will constantly update this post with useful quotes, chapters, images and anything else that could apply to social media.

  • “The various distributions we impose upon it (photography) are in fact either empirical (professional/amateurs), or rhetorical (Landscapes/Objects/Portraits/Nudes), or else aesthetic (Realism/Pictorialism)” – chapter 2 – I’m interested in the Rhetorical idea, a profile picture is essentially a Portrait, this confused me to start with so when i found the rhetorical also meant to impress or persuade I realised that this is true of Display Pictures, they are almost like n advertisement of ourselves we put forward in order to impress people or persuade them to be friends with us.
  • “I am not a photographer, not even an amateur photographer: too impatient for that: I must see right away what I have produced”
to be continued…

Face to Facebook – smiling in the eternal party

This is a theory published by two men, Paolo Cirio a media artist and Alessandro Ludovico a media critic. These men very cleaverly design software that exploits online media instituions. They manage to find holes in the terms and conditions of big institutions such as Google Amazon and Facebook and then build software that gains them access to millions of peoples “public information”. After lots of analysing they use their findings in theories. The newest on is called “Face to Facebook” and the key part of their theories I am interested in is this…

“First, the profiles sublimate the owners’ (real) social actions and references through their virtual presences. Second, they synthesize their effectiveness in representing real people through a specific element: the profile picture. This picture, an important Facebook interface, more often than not shows a face, and a smiling one at that. Our face is our most private space and simultaneously the most exposed one. How many people are allowed to touch our face, for example?
And generally speaking, the face is also one of the major points of reference we have in the world.

There are even “special” regions of the human brain, such as the fusiform face area (FFA), which may have become specialized at facial recognition [3]. Faces are now so exposed that they do not remain private, but are thrust into the public domain and shared (they can even be “tagged” by other people). So any virtual identity (composed of a face picture and some related data) can be stolen and become part of another identity, through a simple re-contextualization of the same data. “

Amazing analysis by these two, explore how intimate our faces are but yet we offer it for the world to see. You can read the rest of the theory here