Penultimate meeting recap

As presentation day looms ever closer, we felt it would be both productive and useful to schedule in a supplementary meeting this week. As such, we met again on Saturday in what proved to be an especially efficient and reassuring discussion.

Since we had devised the barebones structure of what our presentation would entail in the previous meeting, we now focussed upon honing down the details of its format, content, and structure, as well as assigning individual roles and contributions. We decided that our court would be presented as a kind of moral court of appeals, situated externally from any singular culture context or legal parameters, existing in a kind of purgatory, wherein cases that could possibly be deemed to have been failed by real-world legal structures are re-examined within a broader ethical framework. With this in mind, we decided that three of us would provide evidence and testimony -quoting academic reading and various legal precedent- in aid of the appellant, while the other acts as judge. The inclusion of this role within the actual presentation, as opposed to inviting our peers to act as a jury, gives us the opportunity to provide more nuanced explanation of concepts and ideas, as the judge will interject into each individual appeal in order to ask for additional information, point out a counter-argument, and also to simply orchestrate the smooth transition between elements of the presentation. The judge will also provide the opening and closing statements of the case.

In addition to this, various specific yet more minor details of the presentation were also ironed out, including the order in which we will speak, the decisions upon who will assume which role, and also the question of what stylistic elements to include.

The job from here then, is for each of us to use our already extensive bibliography in order to construct our own scripts for the case. After they have each been created, we will peer edit them with a google doc in order to create a singular and coherent script for us all to follow throughout the presentation.

I feel like we are now in an especially solid position, with a manageable workload to be completed before the presentation on Monday. Most questions about what format the presentation will take and in what way it will be presented have been answered, and we already have compiled more than enough academic research to flesh out the presented appeals. What remains then, is to bring everything together into our now fully established mode of presentation, to rehearse, and finally: to present.

Week 4 Summary

Through Week 3’s seminar discussion we found that a uniting topic in our areas of interest was the ways in which the identity is socialized in children, leading us to devise our research question: 

Conflict between normative and non-normative identities through childhood. 

The nature of the conflict taken as our focus is therefore between dominant and marginal cultural scripts and narratives. We brainstormed contemporary examples of where this conflict can be identified in order to find a case study for our presentation, and the four possibilities that seemed most appropriate were 

  1. Disney and childhood 
  1. Charlottesville and toxic masculinity 
  1. Genderquake television show 
  1. Mermaids (a charity devoted to helping trans children come into their identity and fund transitioning) 

While this method of brainstorming proved useful in gaining a wide perspective on the possible case studies available to us, in Week 4’s seminar we decided to analyse the applicability of each case study to our relevant major disciplines in order to keep our research succinct. A table comparing the relevance of our case studies can be found here: <https://emckclac-my.sharepoint.com/:w:/r/personal/k1626863_kcl_ac_uk/_layouts/15/Doc.aspx?sourcedoc=%7BF04D80EA-9799-41E3-A0D0-B99EF2380EFD%7D&file=List%20of%20case%20studies%20with%20relevance%20to%20discipline.docx&action=default&mobileredirect=true> 

Charlottesville and Mermaids were relevant to all three disciplines making them the forerunners for our research. We decided that since mermaids related to the topic of childhood more, trans childhood should be our primary research area. 

Zack and I attended a talk on the subjectivity of trans children given by Gender Studies scholar Jacob Breslow, titled ‘Troubling Trans Precocity:  Narratives of Trans Childhood and the Temporalities of Sexuation’ which entailed ‘drawing upon media representations of trans children, a court case involving a six-year old trans girl, and narratives of trans childhood’. The talk provided an insight into how children, trans or otherwise, become sites of political normalization at the hands of adults through a process of psychological projection. Zack suggested watching a documentary on Netflix called ‘Growing Up Coy’, which follows the same court case detailed in the talk. 

After streamlining our topic we decided that for Week 5 we would each look at the topic of trans childhood through the lens of our major discipline, looking at trans legislation for politics, international differences in cultural approaches to trans rights for geography, and more normative and identity-based discussions for English.  

Week 4 Summary

Through Week 3’s seminar discussion we found that a uniting topic in our areas of interest was the ways in which the identity is socialized in children, leading us to devise our research question:

Conflict between normative and non-normative identities through childhood.

The nature of the conflict taken as our focus is therefore between dominant and marginal cultural scripts and narratives. We brainstormed contemporary examples of where this conflict can be identified in order to find a case study for our presentation, and the four possibilities that seemed most appropriate were

  1. Disney and childhood
  2. Charlottesville and toxic masculinity
  3. Genderquake television show
  4. Mermaids (a charity devoted to helping trans children come into their identity and fund transitioning)

While this method of brainstorming proved useful in gaining a wide perspective on the possible case studies available to us, in Week 4’s seminar we decided to analyse the applicability of each case study to our relevant major disciplines in order to keep our research succinct. A table comparing the relevance of our case studies can be found here: <https://emckclac-my.sharepoint.com/:w:/r/personal/k1626863_kcl_ac_uk/_layouts/15/Doc.aspx?sourcedoc=%7BF04D80EA-9799-41E3-A0D0-B99EF2380EFD%7D&file=List%20of%20case%20studies%20with%20relevance%20to%20discipline.docx&action=default&mobileredirect=true>

Charlottesville and Mermaids were relevant to all three disciplines making them the forerunners for our research. We decided that since mermaids related to the topic of childhood more, trans childhood should be our primary research area.

Zack and I attended a talk on the subjectivity of trans children given by Gender Studies scholar Jacob Breslow, titled ‘Troubling Trans Precocity:  Narratives of Trans Childhood and the Temporalities of Sexuation’ which entailed ‘drawing upon media representations of trans children, a court case involving a six-year old trans girl, and narratives of trans childhood’. The talk provided an insight into how children, trans or otherwise, become sites of political normalization at the hands of adults through a process of psychological projection. Zack suggested watching a documentary on Netflix called ‘Growing Up Coy’, which follows the same court case detailed in the talk.

After streamlining our topic we decided that for Week 5 we would each look at the topic of trans childhood through the lens of our major discipline, looking at trans legislation for politics, international differences in cultural approaches to trans rights for geography, and more normative and identity-based discussions for English.

 

Further Notes

Does exhibited art (age of terror exhibition) desensitise our perceptions of conflict?
A study of the Age of Terror exhibition at the Imperial War Museum.

First ideas: Geography offers approaches to analyse space and place, both real and imagined. Exhibited art, implies art that is held in a certain space.

Geography therefore is interested in this direct space, its meaning and specifically, given its nature as exhibited, how it is privileged in so far as by being exhibited in a certain place access is unequal.

Geography is also concerned with the indirect space. That is the spaces/places that relate to the artwork itself, where it comes from, the people involved and the real imagined geographies implied by the artwork. (mixing of different geographies within the exhibition, geographic/ historic ignorance) Impact on perceived versus real geographies.

For the purposes of geography this question concerns both the art itself and its entangled geographies and the exhibition as a space.

Focus: Art in exhibited space

  1. : Who can access it?, who cannot?  Related to where it is and the cost. Therefore privileged/ capitalist. Public versus private art.
  2. The meaning of the space, (the place) aspect of the exhibition.
  3. Entangled Geographies of the artwork. Art as geographic representation and imaginative Geographies.

Relate back geographic readings to group understanding of art/conflict and others’ findings.

Explore our perceptions of conflict…
Bibliography for geographic ignorance…

How space contributes to being desensitized…

Structure:

Question. Definition of elements

  1. Conflict as war
  2. Perceptions of war conflict? What are your perceptions?
  3. Case study
  4. Exhibited art
  5. Methods section… discourse analysis…

Desensitize…

Geographic interest = place…
Artwork as form of meaning making, constructing a perception (imagined) geography of conflict. Therefore creates a representation of conflict, separate from conflict itself.

Therefore: Discourse analysis to reveal representation…
Argument:

 

  1. Dealing with our perceptions of conflict not conflict itself.
  2. Exhibited art (age of terror) involves the representing conflict.
  3. This representation is a form

That is it creates a representation of conflict and it is this representation we use to perceive conflict. Therefore it is a perception, not the real thing, or in geographic terms an imagined geography of conflict. This detachment can be argued to be a form of desensitization because we are

PLACE

152, art can play a powerful role in the creation of place/ imagined place…

How was the exhibited art made meaningful by its association with place…

  1. How exhibited art is in a museum that architecturally lends itself to a dissociation of witht the outside world… a sperate space  

“The place of the gallery is more likely to make something considered art”

Is it significant that art on the age of terror is hung in the imperial war museum, or would it be the same anywhere?

Psychogeography… entering place…

Sontang

Representation

Notes on IAE

What role do language and text play in exhibited art and to what extent does it desensitize the audience? 

language has the power to complicate and withhold meaning

as viewers, we are invited to imagine through and beyond the spoken and written word, to think and re-think

International Art English (IAE)

“There are so many people who come to our shows who don’t even look at the programme sheet. They don’t want to look at any writing about art.”

  • serves as an ammunition for those who don’t take art seriously
  • pompous language, endless sentences…
  • They call it “a unique language” that has “everything to do with English, but is emphatically not English. [It] is oddly pornographic: we know it when we see it.” (guardian, journal Triple Canopy, Levine and Rule)
  • “Ordinary words take on non-specific alien functions”
  • IAE has made art harder for non-professionals.” In fact, even art professionals can feel oppressed by it.

(https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jan/27/users-guide-international-art-english)

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/artinfo/international-art-english-the-joke-that-forgot-it-was-funny_b_3397760.html

  • Visitors use text in a number of ways (Ferguson, et al, 1995):

adults read sections of text aloud for children and other members of their group

adults paraphrase the text out loud

adults read privately and then discuss the text with other visitors

visitors ‘talk back’ to the text and answer the questions it poses

visitors use words from the text in their conversations

Helping to Define ‘Perception’

Here is a little summary of The Scene of the Screen: Envisioning Photographic, Cinematic, and Electronic Presence by Vivian Sobchak (an American cinema and media theorist and cultural critic). The whole article was not highly relevant, but I thought Sobchak’s words on how photography as perception was useful, especially in defining that term in our introduction.
[As a discipline, film studies looks toward Sobchak and phenomenology (study of consciousness) significantly in understanding how spectators respond to film.]
 
Sobchak notes how photography has been perceived “as existing in a state of testimonial verisimilitude”. What she is saying here is that photography posits itself as ‘the real’, and we have come to accept it; this is largely due to the fact “photography produced images of the world with an exactitude previously rivaled only by the human eye.” The human eye is thereby replaced by “the mechanical eye of the photographic machine” (Comolli), and in doing so, allows for “the material control, containment, and objective possession of time and experience.” It is a material process which creates a material form “that can be objectively possessed, circulated, and saved, that can accrue an increasing rate of interest over time and become more valuable in a variety of ways.
 
However, she goes on to say that because photography freezes a momentum and turns it into a moment, this moment cannot be inhabited:
“it cannot entertain in the abstraction of its visible space, its single and static point of view, the presence of a lived and living body—so it does not really invite the spectator into the scene so much as it invites contemplation of the scene.”
She claims this is different to moving image/ cinema, because although they come from the same technology, “a moving picture is not precisely a thing that (like a photograph) can be easily controlled, contained, or materially possessed—at least, not until the relatively recent advent of electronic culture.” She says that DVD’s etc. undermine this argument by allowing for fast forwarding/ pausing/ playing at will, BUT this doesn’t relate to our discussion because film in an exhibition is also out of our control (in Age of Terror we weren’t able to pause/ play the films whenever we wanted to, and so our experience was much the same as being in a cinema).
 
I feel like we can use these sentiments to establish what we mean we we discuss our own ‘perceptions’ on conflict, and how these perceptions are merely perceptions that have been based on [other people’s] perceptions. Therefore, while we may become desensitised to perceptions of conflict when presented to us in an exhibition, this doesn’t account for our reaction to real life conflict that we could find ourselves in. 
Full essay can be found here.

SEMINAR NOTES: 1st & 8th March

 

In both of these meetings, the group has started planning our presentation, discussing how the presentation should be structured and introducing our individual perspectives and how we can use our disciplines to answer the question.

Does exhibited art desensitise our perceptions of conflict? 

We began by breaking down the crucial elements that constitute this question:

  1. exhibited art
  2. desensitisation
  3. perceptions
  4. conflict

What do we mean by each of these?

We started defining what we meant by ‘our perception’

  • who is ‘our’?
  • people will approach an exhibition differently depending on their own experiences

We discussed the idea that we are desensitised to image but not the reality

  • and our perception of these images come from a place of privilege
    • we don’t have to be exposed to conflict unlike many people
    • we haven’t experienced the type of conflict explored in the Age of Terror exhibition
Therefore, our perceptions are informed by other people’s perceptions of conflict and perhaps we are desensitised to these perceptions, rather than to the actual conflict itself.
  • perception is synonymous with interpretations
  • we would start by discussing perceptions but then go on to discuss difference between perception and the ‘real’
  • When considering mine and Annabelle’s discipline (film studies) it is interesting to consider how film attempts to convince us of it’s reality
We then discussed the difficulty of the word ‘desensitised’ within our question, agreeing that we are able to discuss the effect of exhibited art on our perceptions, but it is this word that complicates matter slightly.
A definition of desensitised is:
  • less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty or suffering

This definition helps significantly in understand what exactly it is we are exploring. In light of this, we are able to offer secondary questions to our main question:

Does exhibited art make us less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty or suffering?

This is how we can exploit our individual disciplines to interrogate this issue.
  1. Kateřina has been looking at the use of language beside works of art and how this language can be seen as alienating.
  2. This links to Matt’s geographical exploration into the space of exhibited art and how this affects us.
  3. As Annabelle as mentioned in her previous post, her exploration focuses on an analysis of visual media in the context of Walter Benjamin and Susie Linfield’s arguments concerning the power of the film medium. These arguments suggest a dichotomy between moving image and still image (e.g. paintings).
  4. In response to this, I will then be looking into spectatorship response, which is something I began exploring on my previous essay for this module. Walter Benjamin argues for the immersion of spectators within film suspending their opportunity for critical thought, and by applying spectatorship responses (such as Vivian Sobchak’s exploration into affect within cinema), one can argue for the potential of film to shock us etc.

Our discussion in our latest meeting focused around us feeding back on these aforementioned arguments. Perhaps exhibited art has potential to create affect through immersion, but through it’s nature as EXHIBITED- in a sterile and performative space- we become distant and desensitised. Is it true that the individual art has potential but within the space it is denied it’s potential feeling?

Is our perceptions to art about conflict desensitised by the environment in which it’s viewed?

One final thing we agreed on is that we will definitely be discussing exhibited art as art that you pay to see, rather than art exhibitions in general. The reason for this is that it allows us to allude to the privileged/ capitalist nature of this kind of art.

Finally, we opened a Google Slides document to allow us to begin creating a slide show presentation, thereby giving us a structure by which to follow.

Our Case Study: ‘Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11’

Answering my question from a film perspective

Does exhibited art desensitise our perceptions of conflict? 

Within the War on Terror exhibition, I have decided that I am going to focus on the various visual media and moving images that were presented to us. I’m going to try to analyse the visual media in the context of Walter Benjamin and Susie Linfield’s arguments concerning the power of the film medium. Through this, I hope to provide an exploration of our research question.

Do exhibited moving images about war and destruction desensitise our perceptions of conflict?

Benjamin argues that the film medium diminishes our capacity for critical thought (Linfield, p.165) Linfield then expands on this. If moving images mean that we are less able to think about what is being shown critically, does this mean that we are going through a process of desensitisation? I will explore this by grounding this idea within specific examples from the exhibition.

Through engaging with Susie Linfield and Walter Benjamin, I will explore the ways in which the power of the film medium encompasses us, and thus either sensitises or desensitises our perceptions of conflict. Not quite sure what the concrete answer to my question will be yet, but I feel like it will provide two sides of an argument!

 

 

Preparation for Meeting

Over Reading week, we decided that we would try and find evidence to answer our research question from the perspective of our discipline. 

The Research Question is: Does exhibited art desensitize our perceptions of conflict?

The particular example of exhibited art that we will be focusing on is the Age of Terror exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, which we all attended.

From a film major perspective, I guess you could say that film is a form of exhibited art. In this particular exhibition, there was definitely a lot of visual media displayed. But, you couldn’t really call the work on display ‘feature’ films, it was more in the style of documentary. Again, not big-budget feature documentaries, but artistic documentaries.

To answer this question from a film perspective, it is firstly interesting to explore the ways in which the film medium deals with issues relating to conflict. Film is a really powerful medium in the sense that it can really resonate with someone’s emotions because it depicts things in a way that is close to how we actually view the world. Of course, there may be the use of editing, special effects, sound and set design, however, the film will always remain a form of artistic expression that represents undistorted images of the world. This is why it is so powerful.

The film used in this exhibition could have easily consisted or brutal, graphic horrific clips of people being killed and tortured as a result of a conflict. But would this inspire people to come see such an exhibition? I certainly wouldn’t want to. I guess this brings into question what we mean by the word ‘desensitize’.

From the internet the definition is: make (someone) less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty or suffering by overexposure to such images.

It is clear that this word has to do with some sort of process. It’s the process of making people less likely to feel shock or distress.

In our particular case study, Film has to be careful in what it shows. We have to consider that some of the people entering the exhibition may not be desensitized to violence and suffering AT ALL. Therefore, the content of the films had to remain somewhat on the level of basic humanity and leave out the really brutal and graphic reality of suffering. Film has to be careful in what it shows, because sometimes content can push audiences out of their comfort zone so that they feel utterly disturbed and frightened. Is feeling disturbed and frightened the same as being desensitized? I don’t think so.

Thus, if we go back to the question, I guess we could argue that exhibited art does not desensitize our perceptions of conflict, because the perceptions we have in the first place are far from the reality (and this is because most people going to these exhibitions live in a little-privileged bubble who prefer not to come to terms with how horrible human beings can be to one another) The exhibition creators and artists know this, they know that they have to tweek their art in a way that resonates with the audience on an emotional level. But, they can’t (especially in film) go beyond comfortable boundaries and completely scare an audience away!

I guess we have to consider that everyone’s perception of conflict is going to be different going into this exhibition. Yes, we know there are pain and suffering in the world, but do we really understand? Someone going into the exhibition who has seen someone die in a brutal way in real life will have a completely different perception of conflict than us, privileged university students who are doing a liberal arts presentation at one of the best universities in the UK. We have to make it clear from the beginning of the presentation that when we say ‘our’ we are talking about people like us, people who have not experienced the brutal level of conflict that this exhibition is dealing with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seminar Notes: Thursday 15th February : Conflict Group D

Seminar 
 
  • We decided that we must make a decision as to whether or not we want to include a survey whilst carrying out our research. We decided we will see how our research goes and then see if there will be a suitable place where we can place it in.
  • We talked about how we were unsure how Comparative Literature would come into our question. We then started talking about how Katerina could maybe talk about graphic novels as an example of art which is NOT exhibited. This would then allow her to incorporate a level of comparative literature. We often define things through what they are NOT, so this may be an interesting thing to talk about.
  • Our main point of focus for our question is the Exhibition: The War on Terror at the Imperial War Museum.
  • We then talked through the defining features of our question: what do we mean by exhibited and what do we mean by privileged? It seemed as though the way our question was phrased seems to raise more questions than it answered… therefore we decided to simplify it even more. We did this by getting rid of the word privileged. 
  • We then realized that the word capitalist also raised a few problems, therefore decided to get rid of that word too.
  • Thus our new question is:

Does exhibited art desensitize our perceptions of conflict? 

  • This question works better because ‘exhibited’ seems to imply ‘privileged’ and ‘capitalist’
  • We will brand off this question to then explain what we mean by exhibited, incorporating these ideas of privilege and the capitalist nature of art exhibitions. This will then branch off into our explanation of our case study!
  • We then talked about Benjamin’s piece: art in the age of mechanical reproduction. This may help us when answering our question, more research must be done on this.
  • We then discussed things that would help us to better define this whole concept of ‘capitalist’ and how we would show that this correlates with an image of conflict. How are images of conflict and terror more profitable than art dealing with nice/pleasant things?
  • We branched off from this and started reflecting on Susan Sontag. 
  • Page 19 Susan Sontag! : talking about how photographs are perhaps more memorable than film medium!
  • p. 20-21: goes to the idea of desensitizing and capitalism! She talks about the way in which Photo journalism tries to shock the audience.
  • She talks about the idea that the hunt for the more dramatic images drives the photographic enterprise… we are attracted to shocking images and interestingly, they are profitable! This will be an interesting viewpoint that we want to cover in our presentation.
  • We covered this idea of spectacle and the contrast between the real event and the spectacle of it.
  • The War on Terror is an exhibition and topic that the imperial war museum knows would attract an audience, otherwise, they wouldn’t put it on. It is a stimulus for business.
  • Perhaps the REASON why such images have become valuable us because we now live in a world where we are saturated by visual work (this brings in Benjamin)
  • Photography is now a very common enterprise and is not really a shock factor anymore.
  • Therefore, we want to see images that shock us and make us think.
  • This lead to a discussion of how the work of Azoulay would come in.
  • Basically, Azoulay would bring in an answer to our question: she would say that exhibited art sensitizes our perceptions of conflict.
  • The fact that we leave the exhibition and just go back to our daily lives.
  • Azoulay argues that we pretty much have a duty to be shocked by these images and redress the injuries/hardships they depict.
  • On page 13 and 14, she talks about the idea that photographs have no authors. She explores the encounters we have when we look at a photo. She says that the person who takes the photo is not the one who actually owns it… the owner is the person who views it! This means that is can constantly be interpreted and reviewed. This is what gives an image real power because it can exist outside of structures that we must read in certain ways.
  • Basically, we should look at photographs stripped of their context and who took them, we should look at them as being outside of the structures of society! The photographs inspire something within us.
  • We have a civic duty to look at people in photographs and think about how we can help them,
  • We then started talking about geography perspectives:
  • Jen Harvey has an interesting essay which talks about the Tate Modern turbine hall and how this is a space of emancipation? Perhaps we could use this idea as a tool to think about the space of the imperial war museum.

To answer our question: we will apply our methods from our disciplines to the case study of the war on terror exhibition with the research question in mind.

  • Geography (Matt): space, what that space means… age of terror is interesting because it lumps a lot of different conflicts together in this overarching theme! it creates an impression that comes from geographic ignorance! Suddenly London pops up, then you have a Chinese artist. Home section, art from the middle east! The unequal distribution of geography!
  • Literature (Katerina): the role of text next to the image … Azoulay says that you don’t need the text in order to understand the image. She’s saying that you shouldn’t have the text if you are then you are placing the photograph in the context of the people who are in the conflict. Do photographs have to be labeled?
  • Film (Toby and Annabelle): Spectatorship reflect on the documentary aspect! More traditional cinema… staged set of interviews. Visual media and the way in which this. Look at the documentary cinema readings!
Next steps over reading week:
1. We have to start thinking about how exactly we ground our findings in the specific evidence from the exhibition and in academic readings.
2. Each of us will think about the question from our disciplines and ground most of our argument within the exhibition. Have an answer to our question through our discipline.
3. We must also think about how our methods are working… what are these methods doing in order to allow us to answer our question?
After reading week:
  • Present and articulate how this has acquired an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • Reflect on the challenges of interdisciplinary research.
  • Really try and bring our ideas together.
  • Bare the methods in mind!
  • Looking at reviews of the exhibition, are there any other exhibitions that have similar approach?