Week 11 Discussion
In this discussion, you will apply a materialist critique of art and analyze how pre-judgments impact perception. You will also consider the artist’s intention.
In Ways of Seeing, Berger observes that in art and media, “men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.”
To examine this quote, select two works of art and/or advertising—each artwork should depicting subjects of a differing sex or gender presentation from the other. A good place to start your search would be major museums like the AGO, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, The Louvre, The Art Institute of Chicago, or the Musée d’Orsay. You could also use Google Arts and Culture or art market websites like Artsy or Artnet. If you want to use a different source, feel free to check in with your instructor.
You will be analyzing your image through the theories of John Berger.
In your ~500-word discussion post, indicate your chosen work by title, author and provide a URL. Then, answer the following questions:
The Art. (4 points)
How does the artist or creator depict each sex or gender? You will be applying this consideration to the next questions.
Who do you think has the power in each image: the subject, or the viewer?
Does the subject appear empowered, or spied on?
What social, historical or cultural ideologies are evident in this work?
The Artist. (2 points)
What was the author’s gender and/or sex? Does that information change your reading of the image? Does it contribute to the image’s meaning? Why or why not?
Do you think the artist’s intentionality matters to your critique of the image?
You, the Viewer. (2 points)
Do your pre-judgements about gender affect your own perceptions of this image, or of visual culture more broadly?
Berger is writing at a time when most societies considered gender to be a binary (male or female, based on sex) rather than a spectrum. Do you think that our contemporary notions of gender and sexuality impact how you interpret your images?