I realise I left out so much from my post last night when I was trying to jot down all the ideas I’ve been having.
As I said the central thrust of what I want to explore when answering the question, “what is reality” is to do with language and how it shapes and is shaped by our perception of reality.
I keep trying to remind myself about the phrase “explore issues surrounding the real” from the assignment question.
Just some things:
- In relation to Genesis which I mentioned, it starts with a description of the process of naming, classifying and separating things. It’s about language being assigned as much as anything else. God said this is light, this is the land, this the sea…. ect.
- In a conversation I had with Mandy Thatcher, who I am working with on a joint project, described in an earlier post (see personal projects) I made the note – “language hides the Real, because of language we don’t see the Real”. Instead we see the symbolic and Imaginary.
- We were discussing narratives. I described my thoughts on the way two cultural texts, the film, Arrival and the Turbine Hall piece, Anywhen both explore non-linear narratives and instead play with different sorts of narratives. Mandy suggested that people often want easy narratives. They want to be able to say “In the beginning…” but often life doesn’t present us with them.
- I am making very slow headway through Iragary’s first book as I have been so busy with work recently. But hopefully I can read more over the coming weeks. She explores language in great detail, and how Freud’s language in particular classifies gender differences, often in quite a strange way. Mandy has been looking at Foucault’s Docile Bodies, and how language embeds a control-system in us. Mandy and I are looking at active bodies in the work we’re doing, along with aiming to avoid predictable narratives that she feels people are often (unconsciously) eager to pin on her, or Freud pinned on women in general
- Women, and not only women, but Others have not been the keepers of language in our western history. I am more and more aware of this.
- I am also constantly reminding myself to be weary of western and 20/21st century solipsism.
- Another thing that has been on my mind in relation to language is thinking about the difference between barriers and boundaries. Society functions by having structure around which we exist. Language gives us foundations and internal structures upon which our existence rests. Without the structures, the boundaried, we’d be left floating about the place without anything to hold on to.
- Forgive the mix of metaphors but language also gives us an interface with which we are able to interact and understand the world, comprehend reality, perceive reality.
- Currently there seems to be an awakening, or a further reveal (as society is only now ready following earlier shifts which we had to absorb and let settle), that language we have traditionally been exposed to can be limiting and unhelpful. An example of this can be found in a recent email I received from British Land, who I have done a little bit of work for, which addresses stereotypes and the way in which advertising images shape our perception:
“A recent Lloyds Banking Group report found that just 19% of people featured in ads are from minority groups, and of that 19% only 0.06% of people portrayed are disabled or from the LBGT community and just 0.29% are single parents. These figures are drastically out of kilter with the wider UK population where disabled people represent 17.9% of the population, the LGBT community 1.7% and single parents 25%. The same challenges arise with race and gender.
And it’s also true if we look to British Land marketing and communications. Recent feedback flagged that we embrace stereotypes – such as that of women with shopping bags – without thinking. Our marketing is heavy on alpha males and of conformity with the pin stripe suit culture.” (Stephens, 2016)
- In the feedback for A4 MB says, “To begin with, you staked a claim on the oppositional arguments that directly challenge patriarchy and in this case the ‘author-god’. But you then recognise that such a stance may inadvertently oppose itself.” (Belshaw, 2016) Staying with this complex predicament, Mandy and I talked yesterday about how having labels can be counter productive, especially in the debate surrounding feminism and patriarchy. In the desire to achieve equity certain terms are conceived which it might be argued pose the risk of leading to greater division. However, both of us also acknowledged that the naming of things seems an important step in the continuing evolution from a patriarchal society towards something less Power-Over-the-Other based. What’s more, this is the only language we currently know. Since any form of non-signed language (whatever that may be…) is disregarded so much in favour of signed language we can only rely on such categories and classification. (At drama school we would do an exercise which we referred to as the school of fish. A group would move around the studio in formation, without speech, or planning, or logic and yet after practising for several terms we became adept at following, knowing when the leader had changed, knowing when there was no leader, etc, etc. The other time when I have communicated in this way is with my babies; knowing when they wanted feeding, were scared, wanted holding, needed sleep, often without any obvious sign such as crying. In fact, in many cultures crying in babies is far less frequent than it is in ours. There are complex reasons for this – but too much of a discussion for here). So the classification of things which is so embedded in human existence and viewed as the ultimate clear sign of our superior position in the chain of being is what we rely on to identify states, views, opinions that would benefit from being dismantled and reconstructed in alternative ways.
- Finally, Mandy has quoted in her dissertation often from a book called Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing through other patterns by Nora Bateson and it seems immensely relevant.