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katiela macraft designp ortfolio an essay discussing five particular texts that inform my fashion collage illustration practise 2012, see references page 17


Katie Lamacraft

2013, Bachelor Of Visual Arts University of Auckland


E

ssay one


I’m a

Cutter The following examines five texts that have influenced the development of my own fashion collage technique. These deal mainly with the treatment and objectification of feminine identity in the media and within society by individuals. Firstly, I will discuss the way I select which images to cut up, in relation to recognizing the conventions used to construct the original image. This is connected to gender as a performance and the construction of pleasure in looking. Also I will discuss the psychology of the image as a signifier and the manipulation of our perception of reality.

Erving Goffman’s Gender Commercials (1977) acts

and newspapers, contain specifically selected

are separated into groups to demonstrate specific

function in ‘actual life’, when and how advertisers

as an introduction to seven following sub-chapters,

which contain collected print advertisements. These gender focused (specifically the female gender)

advertising conventions. These conventions are Relative Size, The Feminine Touch, Function Ranking, The Family (roles and placement), The Ritualization

of Subordination and Licensed Withdrawal. In

this chapter, Goffman discusses how commercial pictures are, and are not, effective tools for social analysis. He explains that the following examples

of commercial pictures, collected from magazines

gender relevant behaviours. These ‘Genderisms’ are used to examine the way these behaviour styles

provide a slanted view thereof, and the effects of instantaneous scene production constraints of the

photographic medium. It is the ‘un-realism’ of these types of print images, which “are not perceived as peculiar and unnatural” that my work is focusing on.

Goffman’s ‘Genderisms’ are the basis of my image selection when I am trolling through magazines to source images of women for collage.


Candy Sex Fairytales, 2012, fashion by Louis Vitton image sourced from POP Magazine #26 SS 2012 I am not interested in the representation of women in

relation to men, which most of Goffman’s Genderism terms are; instead I focus on the Feminine Touch

and Licensed Withdrawal. This is because these conventions only involve the representation only of female models. The way I select parts of images with

my scalpel is also influenced by other conventions

repeated in idealised representations of women, such as generic, and exaggerated, poses and facial

by Katie Lamacraft

In Nick Mansfield’s book Subjectivity (2000), Chapter

expressions, distortion of the feminine body, as well

5 examines ideas around “Femininity: From Female

body parts which embody the previously mentioned

approach to gender, and how Feminist thinkers have

as common airbrushing and editing techniques.

I cut precisely around the edges of those specific generic conventions, to isolate and spotlight them

so thatthey can no longer blend into the image and assist with the manipulation of the female image in print media. Separated from the whole image, these cut out body parts are left with merely a weak argument in convincing us that they represent anything real. Yet, the aesthetic appeal is retained, in spite of the dismemberment.

Imaginary to Performativity”. Mansfield details the Psychoanalysis’ problems and exclusions in the

dealt with these. This chapter focuses on Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray’s responses to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault’s

treatment of the ‘feminine’ and their dissection of the gender/sex distinction. Irigaray’s recognition of the ‘feminine’ being treated as subordinate to the

‘masculine’ because it must separate itself from a masculine identity and reveal its own distinguished


identity, is contrasted with Butler’s view of gender

as a regulated but artificial system of performed acts. Artificial, in the sense that on occasion we fail to repeat them perfectly, demonstrating that they

learned and copied. Butler’s recognition of gender as a socially constructed performance, I see as being

relative to the way that print images of women are posed and choreographed.

Mansfield discusses Butler’s argument that:

Gender is a correctly coordinated set of acts and gestures that link the subject to clearly defined parameters of healthy and normal identification. To be…feminine does not involve giving expression to a naturally involved interior truth. (Mansfield, 2000, p. 76)

Commercial pictures of women can also be viewed as a “regulated system of performances”, repeated

and disciplined in order to present the pictured behaviours as natural and authentic, and ultimately,

as true. The photographic medium, as discussed by Goffman, is limited by its static outcome, which must produce “visually accessible, instantaneous portraits of our acclaimed human nature”. My collages find a

connection between Goffman’s identification that gendered behaviours in commercial pictures cannot

be taken as directly representative of behaviour in actual life, and Butler’s belief that gender

is considered and performed, without natural

“interior essence” in everyday life. Functioning on the belief that pictured femininity and real life performed femininity are as artificially constructed

as each other; my works find parallels and contrasts between the two by breaking down the construction of these pictured performances.

In her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

(1975), Laura Mulvey discusses the way narrative cinema presents the image of a woman as a passive object to be looked at, and the gaze of the male

(character or audience) as active. This structure is as demanded by the ideology of patriarchal social order. She uses Freudian psychoanalysis to explain

the pleasure in looking at another person as an

Untitled, 2013, images sourced from Black Magazine

are not ‘natural’ or spontaneous, but choreographed,


If the image of woman is the object then the primary audience would be the male protagonist, because, according to Mulvey the audience only

sees her through his eyes, created by camera and

editing conventions, making the viewers of the film the secondary audience, through the function

of ‘ego libido’. This ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’ of the female character (who is never actually identified

by Mulvey as a character in her own right, she is only a passive image) I see as being a description

that could be transferred to fashion and advertising

images of women in print media. Print images of

women are stylised and coded in similar ways to object of sexual stimulation, ‘scopophilic instinct’, and ‘ego libido’, as the process of the audience

member forming identifications with the male

protagonist. Mainstream Hollywood cinematic

codes are employed to create a voyeuristic gaze, with the conscious aim of removing all evidence of the cameras presence, in order to prevent distancing

of the audience. In this seamless construction of voyeurism in film, there are connections to

Goffman’s descriptions of constructed scenes in commercial print images. The models photographed for print published images become the objects to be looked at, in the way the characters on screen are

in film. By applying Mulvey’s ideas of gaze to static print media, I examine the levels of scopophilia

present in print advertising and fashion. I am also

interested in the effects of the objectified image on primary and secondary audiences. My work examines who produced the image, in relation to whom it is received by. This approach to my image making also parallels Butler’s ideas of gender being

performed by an individual, for the viewing of

others. In her analysis on narrative cinema Mulvey

identifies woman as an image, and man as the barer of the look.

The determining male gaze projects its phantasy

onto the female form which is stylized accordingly… with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness. (Mulvey, 1975 p.4)

projections of women in film, although Mulvey’s analysis of narrative film does not sit perfectly in a static print genre. Unless referring to pornography

magazines, one would think that the female image would not be styled for a male gaze in print.

Fashion and beauty images of idealized women are, supposedly, created for a female audience. Why are

these images then, so objectified and sexualised in the absence of an assumed male gaze? How can a

scopophilic instinct still function if the images of women are for women? On the basis of Butler’s

“naturalised heterosexualisation of bodies”, women cannot derive sexual pleasure from watching the female gender being performed. In search of the

answer, I jump forward from 1975 to 2012, and look to someone currently present in the fashion industry, fashion editor Alice Cavanagh.


Cavanagh is the Editor of Oyster Magazine, which is an international fashion, beauty, music and pop culture title. Issue #99 (June/July 2012) is an “All

Woman”/girl power issue, made for and by women, all of the pictures and text are produced by female

contributors. Role Models is a short text at the

end of the magazine which focuses on body image issues, such as eating disorders in young people,

and discusses how much the fashion industry is to blame, and if there is anything we can realistically

do about this. Cavanagh describes fashion as “an escape, an artistic outlet, a guilty pleasure, and,

at the end of the day, a big business”. The purpose of fashion models is to sell “a dream, a lifestyle, a

pair of shoes”, and they would have no function if we all looked like them. She discusses, in reference to several famous models and popular fashion

magazines, the way a model’s success depends on her conforming to the industry’s aesthetic

requirements. This partly relies on genetics, but she

also compares these women to elite athletes in the sense that it is a model’s full time job to work hard at staying in ideal form. While Cavanagh believes

it is naïve for anyone in the fashion industry to say

that the public doesn’t compare themselves to the

inaccessible images presented by fashion, she also suggests that there should also be more focus on changing the way people process these images: I want my work to show that we need to recognize, on

a subconscious and conscious level, that models are alternate beings and stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and each other to imitate what we see.

Untitled, 2012, images sourced from Fashion Quarterly


Cavanagh recognises that it is women who put this

women, but indirectly for a scopophilic male gaze. I

Is it possible that we care about how we look

scopophilic representation of women in magazines.

pressure on each other to conform to Western ideals of what is physically attractive.

because of what other women think? Because, to be honest, I don’t think men care about women’s bodies as much as women do. (Cavanagh, 2012, p.145)

So, it would seem that the binary-oppositional split present in the compulsory heterosexuality of gender performativity, mirrors the split in primary and

secondary audiences of idealized images of women in print. Women do not necessarily derive erotic pleasure from looking at idealized images of other

women, instead “we consider models with equal amounts fascination and resentment.”, according to Cavanagh. The male gaze projected from within the

camera of narrative cinema, is mirrored in modern

fashion print images. A primary female audience then perceives these coded and stylised images of

women as a projection of ideal modes of gender performativity, meant for the secondary audience of

the opposite sex. There is a flipside to scopophilia in that there is a pleasure in being looked at as a

sexual object, the primal instinct of needing to be sexually preferred by others. It seems that there

is a secondary secondary audience, in that women

perform femininity to be seen by each other as well,

for peer affirmation of solidarity with others of the same gender, and in turn separating the feminine

from the masculine. My collages piece together

parts of images which picture the stylisation of

the image of woman, directly for the eyes of other

re-present fashion images of women and pull apart

what are considered common and normal modes of Pictures is an essay written by Douglas Crimp for an exhibition that he curated in 1977 which featured the work of Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie

Levine, Robert Longo and Phillip Smith in Artists Space New York. Crimp notes the move these artists

make away from conventions of modernist art.

Collectively the artists in Pictures raise issues of the psychology of the image and use art forms concerned with representation, which inherently have the ability

to replicate the world around us, in order to discuss the structure of signification. I see a connection here

to Goffman’s examination of conventions used as signifiers in commercial images, as well as Butler’s

recognition of stylised performance as the dominant

signifier of gender. Crimp discusses the way our world is so overwhelmed and governed by pictures that “firsthand experience begins to retreat, to

seem more and more trivial”, that they no longer interpret reality, but they have ‘commandeered’ it.

Crimp expresses the importance of being able to understand the picture itself so as to determine how

a picture becomes a signifying construction of its own accord. I aim to arrange my images so that they

cannot be mistaken for something signifying its own existence in ‘real life’, and therefore to emphasise

the artificiality of representations of women in glamourised fashion media.


Goffman uses the terms ‘real life’ and ‘actual life’ repeatedly through out his book Gender

Advertisements, circulating in a kind of the-chickenand-the-egg relationship with commercial images,

in the sense that it is difficult to tell which imitates the other in certain instances. Cavanagh fears that,

at least in the fashion world, reality has begun to imitate art, as models get thinner, eating disorders

among youth increase. Mansfield also discusses our perception of what is natural, using several opposing

Untitled, 2012, images sourced from various fashion titles I am most interested in Crimp’s idea that images do not interpret reality, instead they commandeer it. And we generally fall for it, in the case of commercial

images. The verb ‘commandeer’ suggests an active hijacking of our perception of reality. The image

here is no longer a passive object, as previously discussed in relation to Laura Mulvey’s writing. I am interested in how this relates to idealised

and objectified images of women in commercial pictures in the public sphere and how these have

come to dominate our experience, or perception, of the feminine gender.

theorists to discuss which components of what we know as the Sex/Gender Distinction are naturally

determined or socially and culturally constructed.

Crimp writes of Jack Goldstein’s work that “we only experience reality through the pictures we make

of it,” which if applied to commercial or fashion images is a very frightening statement indeed. Nor you or I would like to think that our reality is only

experienced through images designed for the sole purpose of selling to us.

Cavanagh encourages Oyster readers to consciously remove themselves from experiencing images

produced by the fashion world. She describes the work that goes into a high-fashion editorial shoot

and compares this to pre-photographic decades in fashion:


The hair, the makeup, the stylist, the lighting, the photographer, the post-production – colour grading, art direction, Photoshop… In truth the end result is an illusion, a fantasy. It is not an everyday accessible image, even for the aforementioned genetically blessed – and many editors would argue, it’s not meant to be. Before real-life models, fashion magazines featured illustrations of women…much like art throughout the ages…these women were not real – they were to be admired sure, but not imitated. (Cavanagh, 2012, p.145) This ‘illusion’ relates also to Goffman’s earlier recognition of the reality of the purpose of commercial images, how they rely on “advertisers’

views of how women can be profitably pictured…”

and “…idealised characters, using idealised facilities

to realise ideal ends…”. My work aims to change the way we do not necessarily perceive commercial

images as being idealised or fantasised on a subconscious level. The illusion created contains too many indicators that serve the signification of reality, as opposed to obviously stating ‘this is make believe’. Cavanagh expresses the importance of knowing that

models are “alternate beings”, they are the exception,

and the typical Western woman is very different.

The difference between the historic drawings of fashion models and modern day photographed and

airbrushed models, is that a drawing presents itself as a drawing. It is not real, but we see it as only a

man-made representation of something that lives in our reality. Fake, edited images of ‘alternate beings’ who look like real women (very skinny women, but real living, breathing, two legs, two arms female

humans at that) are constructed in similar ways to narrative film, in terms of the seamless disguising of the construction of a fantasised image.

My collages taken from fashion images want to take apart these alternate beings that pretend

to be actual women, and reconstruct them so they can no longer pretend to be something that exists in actual life. I hope that by reconstructing

the representational codes of the image, I can

reconstruct the innate psychology of the image. By

presenting dissected pieces of idealised femininity, as opposed to a whole image of a woman, arranged in an alien-like form (alien in the sense that it’s

configuratoin no longer represents that of any living thing existing on our planet), I compare print image construction to science fiction characters

and Surrealism. The emphasis is on distorting

what I see as already distorted, except the aim is to make the distortion obvious, as opposed to digital glamour editing techniques which are designed to go undetected. While I agree that more readers

of fashion magazines need to make a conscious effort to prevent themselves from having their perception of reality commandeered by idealised images of women, I also believe that fashion needs to change the way they present their images if they want the public to change the way they process

them. That is where my collage techniques step in. My reconstruction of a fashion spread taken out of POP magazine does not destroy the aesthetic beauty

of the image of woman, and therefore retains the scopophilic aspect of fashion print media. In terms

of fashion’s advertising function, the viewer can still

see the garments, and curiosity is increased; the reader is less likely to flick through at speed because

I have made the images so that they can only be perceived as ‘peculiar and unnatural’.


1

Cavanagh, A. (2012, June/July). Role Models. Oyster (99), 144,145.

Crimp, D. (1977). Pictures. 2005: reprint: X-Tra

Contemporary Art Quarterly, 8(1), 17-30.

Goffman, E. (1976). Gender Commercials. Gender

Advertisements (pp. 24-27). New York,

United States of America: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc.

Mansfield, N. (2000). 5. Femininity: From Female

Imaginary to Performativity. Subjectivity (pp. 66-78.) New York, United States of America: NYU Press.

Mulvey, L. (1975). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen 16(3), 6-18 (1-10).

Retrieved from http://imlportfolio

usceductcs505mulveyVisualPleasure NarrativeCinema.pdf.

(Accessed September 23, 2012.)

R

eferences



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