Archive for December, 2010

David Macey describes the postmodern era as; ‘The transition from modernity to postmodernity..is usually assumed to be governed by some form of social or economic change’  (Macey pg.308)

Modernity offered society an economical progression, the development of industrys and technology to the emancipation of human kind. Just as the Enlightenment, the period of modernity is a grand narrative. A period that attempted to enforce a universal knowledge. For Lyotard grand narratives such as the Enlightenment are being abolished by post modern scepticism.

This scepticism Lyotard talks off is evident in Walter Benjamins The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Benjamin illustrates a change in perception of art in a modern era where he illustrates a mass culture art, reproduction is used to churn out art work. This suggests a movement away from the later elitist high art where ‘artfullness’ was appreciated. Post modern forms of art instead intent to critique the modern, or use archive to reproduce earlier images. This reproduction was evident in this years Frieze Art Fair.

This piece of art work exhibited at Frieze uses the traditional geometric shapes of an islamic carpet to recreate a western skyscraper emerging from the pattern. What differentiates modern art is a sense of its uniqueness or authenticity through its experimentation. Postmodern forms of art offer an intertextuality of mediums and a reflection on the modern, such as pop art. Pop art employs the images of popular culture to create a bricolage. Postmodern art has a tendency to relate back to the modern, which could question the era as a fundamental break. Did it fail to produce an original shift in art?

In an era of postmodernity are perceptions of progress are continually changing, it attempts to critique the modern development yet is in fact a grand narrative itself.


Macey.D. 2000. Dictionary of Critical Theory.

http://www.wired.co.uk/photos/wired-places/2010-10/15/frieze-art-fair-2010#!image-number=15. Accessed 20.12.10.


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Sigmund Freud describes psychoanalysis in three manners. The first is the idea of the unconscious, secondly a treatment of neurotic disorder and lastly a broad reasoning of scientific discipline.

Psychoanalysis is evident in early Hitchcock films. Hitchcock uses the theme to portray a love story in Spellbound (1945), the objections shown through the narrative is to create balance and restore mental illness.

Our story deals with psychoanalysis, the method by which modern science treats the emotional problems of the sane. The analyst seeks only to induce the patient to talk about his hidden problems, to open the locked doors of his mind. Once the complexes that have been disturbing the patient are uncovered and interpreted, the illness and confusion disappear…and the evils of unreason are driven from the human soul.’ (spellbound, Hitchcock.)

Spellbound explores themes central to Freudian concepts. One of these is the Oedipus Complex, this theory explains a childs sexual attraction towards his mother and jealously towards the father. Spellbound portrays this through suppressed desire and guilt of the protagonist.

‘the debate between psychoanalysis has been long and often acrimonious. Although it begins with the discussions of the so-called phallic stage of development that took place in the 1920’s and 30’2 it took on a new importance in the 1970’s as question of gender and its reproduction came to the fore and as feminists such as Juliet Mitchell reacted against the anti-psychanalytic stance taken by many of the early spokeswomen for women’s liberation.’ ( Macey. pg.316)

Juliet Mitchell uses psychoanalysis to describe a liberation of penis envy. Penis envy is a freudian concept that a girl recognises her absence of a pensis as a lack. undoubtedly much feminist criticism has evolved around the theory. Mitchell explains that this theory is the root cause to women having a lack of inferiority in society.

Hitchcock’s films often include the concepts of the gaze. A term used by both Sartre and Lacan. In Hitchcock’s film an audience is invited to take a male gaze upon the leading ladies, the women are constructed as objects of desire. Lacan describes the gaze in his theory of the mirror phase where the subject gazes at the object and senses it gazing back, the subject lured into the image of the object. This subject is equally relatable in contemporary media, women are constructed as an object to portray an ideal image for the male to take his gaze. In Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema she uses psychoanalytical framework to depict a gender relationship. She argues that hollywood cinema positions audiences in a male point of view, while they relate to the male protagonist they gaze at a female subject of desire.

‘The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness…Mainstream film neatly combined spectacle and narrative.’ (Mulvey)

In Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) the audience are positioned in the point of view of Scottie, the lead protagonist. The camera gazes on Madeline yet we never see Scottie from the position of Madeline.




Macey.D.2001.Dictionary of Critical theory.

Mulvey.L. 1975.Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema.

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The post-enlightenment era abolished public executions and torture however Michel Foucault observes an establishment of the panapticsm ..’In which Foucault sees power as not a matter of repression but of the constant surveillance of a population.’ ( Macey. Pg.134)

In my previous blog i mentioned The Truman show in its relation to postmodern film. Here i can make a connection with Foucault’s concept of the panapticsm. Truman’s life is constantly being observed on television while in panapticsm people’s private lives are being put on public display as a form of punishment, to teach them the correct behaviour. In contrast Truman is not aware he is being watched, untill the final scene which is the link between the film and Foucault’s theory.

‘Also, since Truman is the only inmate here (those whom he interacts with being involved with the surveillance process), the power relation proves dependent on those who exercise it (everyone except for Truman). Were even one person to discontinue their manipulation of Truman, the Panopticon could not continue to exist because Truman would then realize that he had been a prisoner without knowing it, and simply chose to walk away.’

‘Baudrillard now argues that, in the era of postmodernity, signs are replaced by simulacra, and the real by hyperreality..’ (Macey)

Jean Baudrillard suggests that in this era of postmodernity is full or nostalgia for a ‘era of signification’. He attempts to explain his theory of real by illustrating the hyperreality of Disneyland. A constructed ideal place where illusion becomes reality. Baudrillard suggests that Disneyland is presented in this way to make us believe the rest of America is real.


Macey.D.2000. Dictionary of Critical Theory.

http://literaryculturaltheory.blogspot.com/2008/02/panoticism-and-truman-show.html. Accessed 10/12/10

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The transition to post modernity has highlighted a significant feeling of an approaching ‘end’. In daily life we are faced with this idea. The progress made during the period of modernity is being reversed, an advance of technology is back firing. So much so we expected it to end the world in Y2K. This dystopic approach is evident in media.

After Grahams lecture i sat down to watch The enigma of Kasper Hauser by Werner Herzog.  I could not help but notice a critic of postmodern thought in the narrative in terms of Graham’s explanation of ‘the end’.   Herzog  tells the story of a foundling that has been apart from all human contact and is released, with just a letter and prayer-book, in Nurnberg city square. While the community teach him and tame him he develops a critic to the ideas forced upon him. Kasper is told not to tell his story if he does not know the end. ‘ ….’ I saw this as a direct critic of postmodern thought, after all why should a story have an ‘end’? In one scene Kasper is tested at a game of logic.

This scene appears to mimic that of a modern civilisations thoughts, it could be seen as a reflection of the logic of capitalism and universal knowledge.

Although herzogs film is much earlier I can make a comparison between The enigma of Kasper Hauser and The Truman Show. This hyperreal film addresses in a number of ways the issues faced in a postmodern era. Using .. It critics our perception of the real. The enigma of Kasper Hauser does similar by undermining a civilisations beliefs of religion and ideology.

A legitimation crisis questions the knowledge that a government produces to the masses. Lyotard illustrates that in an era where the computer and technology is imperative the question of knowledge is more a question of government control. In this fear of technology are we as a postmodern civilisation attempting to go back to the past?

The postmodern retreat to fundamentalist religion certainly suggests this.


youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J79P5-OpQfY. accessed 9/12/10

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