• Look up Schrödinger’s Cat. Make a brief summary (see end of post)
  • In Blade Runner there are a number of instances of references to Lacan’s version of the Gaze. Find six other examples of this in film, TV or other imagary and annotate and make notes on your chosen examples and explain how they fit in with Lacan’s ideas

There are planty of obvious symbols of looking and eyes found in Blade Runner as described, but I would argue that these are overt examples and there are many more covert examples of being seen in all of culture. “Looking and being looked at are identical processes for Lacan – when you look you are also seen; when your are the object of the look you return it, even if only to reflect light back to its source; ‘things look at me and yet I see them” (Four Fundamental Concepts, 109)” (Hirsh, 1997, 103) The concept of the image screen is extremely difficult to fully understand. We can only see the picture if we are in it – if we see it, we are part of it. The object reflects back at us making us and it an interacting relation, neither of which exists without the other. (I notice there is some concern over a translation regarding this.)

  1. Nearly every time you travel up or down an escalator on the London Underground you will be presented with images of women in advertisements for objects and services as diverse as make-up, clothing, theatre, magazines, holidays or phones. The repetition, as the screens (often digital and therefore contain moving images nowadays, or a pattern of changing images that are synchronised) pulse at us on the journey, induces a sort of hypnotic state. Often it seems that the women in the adverts look at us, or invite us to look at them. Their constant presence on the Underground is very much like the scenes in Blade Runner, with high-tech advertising surrounded by dirty and grimy infrastructure as pointed out in the following example. These screens tell us what life ought to look like in our imaginations. (I really like the blog post that accompanies the image I found to illustrate this point… https://makewealthhistory.org/2008/10/28/london-undergrounds-new-digital-posters/)
  2. Ralph Eugene  Meatyard – Meatyard’s work is a complex fit with Lacan’s ideas but Marianne Hirsh’s Family Frames introduced me to the idea of image screens and used Meatyard as an example when she explains that image-screens become ‘visible only through the mediation of filtering screens’, which is how Meatyard’s masks work. Hirsh suggests that the masks work by acting a bit like a successful ‘piggy on the middle’ taking the object and transforming its presence. She says, “Meatyard(‘s) …makes visible what is inherent but masked in the very activity of perception. (Hirsh, 1997; 103) Polly Borland‘s work does this too. She also uses masks and strange outfits, adding to the image screens that already exist, transforming, making the ‘real’ visible by rendering it strange, by adding to, she and Meatyard manage to strip away from the symbolic.
  3. Cindy Sherman’s work seems to be mostly concerned with the image screens of cinema which provide us with a dictatorial idea about what women, and men in fact, should be. Her most obvious examples of this are the film stills, described on wexexbits.org as follows:  “Modeling (sic) in several roles, she reveals gender as an unstable and constructed position, which suggests that there is no innate biological female identity. On the contrary, women adopt several roles and identities depending on their circumstances. Therefore, the roles in the Untitled Film Stills series vary from an immature schoolgirl to an attractive seducer and from a glamour diva to a caring housewife. Importantly, her work encourages self-reflection in the spectator. As Sherman argues, “I’m trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me.” (nd)
  4. All family photography – as explored in detail by Hirsh in Family Frames; our family portraits ‘stare’ back at us from walls and mantelpieces reassuring us about our family structures and our own positions within it, even when it’s an uncomfortable place, it’s nevertheless comforting to recognise, according to the objects that we invest in. “The mutuality and speciality of looking, as well as that fundamental masking and mis recognition, are no-where more constitute than in the space of the family. They are fundamental to the familial look, which is institutionalised through the screen of the mask of a culturally and historically specific familiarity…” (Hirsh, 1997; 103)
  5. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is filled with images of a monstrous gaze and the image screen is literally observable as it juts out of computer screens, magnifying faces and the digitally filed records of citizens. Made just three years after Blade Runner, it explores similar themes in many ways – dystopian future, the blurred lines between real and fantasy, what it is to live in a world being constantly observed. It too contains images of the ideal female form. There are also a few eye-shaped edits e.g. where folding curtains form the white of the eye and the fantasy forms the centre – the pupil, serving to give an impression that what we are seeing is in ‘the eye of the beholder’, or rather the protagonist (and perhaps therefore the viewer as he/she relates cathartically).
  6. Un Chien Andalou  – the most compelling and brutal image that anyone who watches this film will recall is the eye being cut edited along with the cloud slicing the moon.  The slicing apart of the visual organ, which as we saw early in the course, is related to eating and reproduction at their most basic levels, is desperately difficult to contain. A surrealist protest perhaps?

Schrödinger Cats – a thought experiment to illustrate how particles can be in more than a single fixed state at any one moment. They can act as a wave as well as a particle and there is always the possibility that these tiny sub atomic elements can be both, until that is they have been observed, at which point they stop being unfixed and are one or the other. Erwin Schrödinger was one of the early physicists and devised the thought experiment, which is now an example of complex science filtering through to popular culture as  seen in Big Bang Theory – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCOE__N6v4o. It has also been used to make fun of UKIPs ideas about immigrants, ‘simultaneously lounging around on benefits whilst also stealing jobs

References – all online links accessed on 2/1/2017

Hirsch, M. (1997). Family frames. 1st ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p.103.

Image of London Underground advertising https://makewealthhistory.org/2008/10/28/london-undergrounds-new-digital-posters/

Polly Borland https://www.instagram.com/p/BOvyfoojBLQ/?taken-by=polly_borland

Brazil Terry Gilliam, 1985, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088846/

Big Bang Theory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCOE__N6v4o

Le Chien Andelou https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIKYF07Y4kA


Main image (c)SJField 2016



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