Understanding Visual Culture- Part 1- Fetishising the object of your eye

For this exercise we had to think about the ways in which we look and the customs, manners and taboos surrounding looking. We were then given 5 questions to answer.

1) How does what you have read help your understanding of why and how we look at things in a ritualised way- for instance going to an art gallery?

I think that people look at things like art galleries in a ritualised way as they have a need to explore the world. It also allows them to gain a better understanding, interact, devour, empathise and identify with what is on display. I feel like going to places such as stately homes, aquariums and zoos have the same effect as you can look at things that you would not necessarily see in day-to-day life. People go to such places as it allows them to feel satisfied, by devouring or consuming the information on offer.

The ritualistic aspect is borne out of the “nurture” argument, in that people are conditioned to perform in certain ways for example; to go on days out, to observe new experiences or to experience things they have seen, heard or read about, for themselves.

2) Do the articles suggest to you reasons for staring at someone being at best bad manners and at worst threatening?

I think that staring could be seen as threatening. Fenichel talked of the eyes as being weapons. It can be said that by staring at someone you could be seen to be devouring them. I feel this is best summed up in Otto Fenichel’s article when he says “a person makes an onslaught with his eye upon the world, in order to devour it”.

Fenichel also talks of magicians and hypnotists who could cast a spell, simply by using their eyes and the basilisk, which turns to stone any who are struck by its gaze.

Once again, the argument of people being conditioned through “nurture”, means that most people would be horrified to be caught staring at another. This is perceived as terrible bad manners.

3) Can you make any suggestions as to the reasons for some people’s need to avidly watch television?

There are many reasons that could explain why people avidly watch TV such as

  • in order to devour images at a rapid rate as there is a constant stream and they are easy on the eyes (introjection)
  • to remove yourself from everyday life
  • experience/join in with different things (empathy)
  • company
  • habit
  • white noise
  • nurture
  • need for consumption (assimilation).

4) What visual fetishes have you noted in everyday life- your own or others? (An example might be a city-dweller who collects landscape paintings to ‘replace’ real countryside)

I have noted in everyday life there are a number of visual fetishes such as the need to look at smartphones, flicking through images in magazines and collecting photography/art books.

Another example is the uncanny attraction of wanting to gaze into the window of another’s home as you pass. This may be because of the way in  which the inhabitants are framed against the background, similar to a TV or a picture. It is a private moment that can be seized and exploited, rightly or wrongly.

5) Why are people often so keen to display wedding photos or family portraits?

I found this last question very difficult to answer as it is quite different and personal compared to the others. I think that it is very similar to the need to watch television, as the images are constantly there. However, images like this are very personal and frame an exact moment in time which people wish to remember. It may be the case that people feel the need to have the images on display as if they were not in view the memories might not be as clear or even remembered.

 

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About kunsworthphotography

I am currently studying towards a BA (Hons) in Photography with OCA and I have 2 children, Evie(4 years old) and Connor(3 years old)
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