For my dissertation I am analysing the digitalization of the gaze through time due to social media, and the changes that are present with the way women perceive themselves and others.
Chapter 1, starts off with Jacques Lacan, a French Psychoanalyst (1901-1981), who created the theory of the gaze which was explored in 1964. It can be described as an anxious state of mind stemming from the self-awareness that anyone can be seen and looked at as “the eye objectifies” (Foster, 1983, p 70). This theory was influenced by the mirror stage of psychological development in 1936, meaning the first time a child looks into a mirror and recognises that they have an external appearance of which can be viewed by others. This invites the notion of the gaze.
Christian Metz was a French film theorist (1931-1993) who introduced psychoanalysis into film theory. He believed the cinema to be “other mirror” (Metz, 1982, p 4) as the cinema shows you an unrealistic reality much like how a mirror does. He developed his theories from Jacques Lacan. For this part of my dissertation I have read The Imaginary Signifier which allowed me to get a basis of Metz theories.
Chapter 2, enters the male gaze stage with Laura Mulvey. Mulvey is a British film theorist from the 70s and created the theory the male gaze and explores the representation of women being sexually objectified in the cinema; especially evident in Hollywood cinema. This is what I explored within L5 of my degree and is the theory I always enjoy exploring and often come back too. She became widely acknowledged for her essay “Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema” in 1973 which inspired female artists to challenge this theory within their artwork. Hal Foster was a strong critic of Mulvey with his essay Return of the Real. And follow onto researching Barbara Kruger & Cindy Sherman.
Next comes Sigmund Freud who believed the sense of being looked back at affected people in the same as castration anxiety. Lacan also believed this and adopted the feelings of castration anxiety and developed them within the irreversible gaze, this is important to note because Laura Mulvey too has used Freud’s theories of castration anxiety when exploring the male gaze, which is questionable due to Freud theories of the male being superior. He created the theories Penis Envy and Scopophilia. Where women are seen less than men because they do not have a penis.
15/03/21: My dissertation has helped fuel my passion to explore the male gaze within my current practice and how power and the gaze effect us women. As this was the basis of what I researched last year within L5, it’s been very influential to revisit it for my dissertation and practice as it’s opened ideas for me to refers back to the male gaze.
Chapter 3, I focus on building my argument about how social media has created a warped version of the gaze and how it has arguably created an inverted self surveillance for women and adapted them to become a self-surveyor of their own body compared to what they see on the social media screen. With this comes the paranoid paradox and censorship with the body.
First, Michel Foucault (1936-1984) was a French historian and philosopher who believes that the gaze can be used as an apparatus for power. His writings on surveillance are extremely relevant when discussing the works of the digital gaze especially as he wasn’t around to witness social media. The panopticon gaze is used in prisons, where the structure is circular allowing the guard to see all the prisoners who have “nowhere to hide” (Jay, 1993, p228). As we are living on social media, we are only feeding it further and creating a more in-depth version with the digitalization of our own self surveillance.
Charlotte Jansen, is a writer of Girl on Girl and talks about the female gaze. The female gaze hasn’t had time to develop and be properly researched so I have created my own theory. “Photography has played an important role in women’s emancipation and liberation” (Jansen, 2017). Jansen here refers to many contemporary artists as painting was understood by feminist artists as problematic due to hierarchal patriarchal traditions in the artworld – photography was a new material for women to use in their own way. However, we as women use social media in both a negative way – this is reflected in Jansen writings as we see idealised images of others and turn to our own negatively. Jansen choses artists to interview who celebrate the female gaze instead.
I have read Downcast Eyes by Martin Jay, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff and The Social Photo by Nathan Jurgenson. I have also watched Connected ep1 Surveillance and The Social Dilemma. These shows surround the issues with social media and the effects on us as humans.
This is where I have used my research and created my work towards this involvement of how social media impacts the female gaze approach to the body. However, I am unsure if the social media aspect comes off within my practice. Does it come across visually like how I want it too?
Reflection 11/03/21: As this worked for my dissertation well, I hoped it would work for my practice too but it didn’t as explored previous – however I have taken the female gaze aspect with regards to how we perceive ourselves under the male gaze and this comes across with regards to my current practice, To Bite, Just a Nibble or Two.