Category Archives: Digging Deeper

“A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother.”

Last night I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for the very first time. I’m not sure why it took me so long, I certainly don’t have ignorance to pin on. The reasons might have been plain disinterest as well as a spoiled sort of prejudice against black and white films. I don’t regret it however because the person I am today is able to take a lot more from the experience of watching Psycho than the thrill of the suspense it provides. I found myself studying and dissecting each scene’s framing, lighting, character movement, music and storytelling choices. I understand better now and agree with the sentiment that Hitchcock is indeed the Master of Suspense.

I was not aware of the movie’s plot although thanks to pop culture I knew that there would be a scene in a bathroom where a woman is violently (obviously) stabbed to death in the shower. The Simpson’s, Pee Wee Herman, That 70’s Show, Police Academy, Looney Toons: Back In Action are just a few examples that I can name off the top of my head that have parodied or referenced Psycho. It’s theme music and that scene in which Marion Crane meets her unfortunate demise being the film’s most recognised and popular elements.

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South Park Episode: City Sushi & Psycho Visual Comparison

In season 15 of the animated satire series South Park, a long established Asian character Tuong Lu Kim is discovered to be in fact a Caucasian man who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Dr Janus is a child psychiatrist who also has several alternate personas with the most dominant persona being Mr Kim, the apparent owner of the local Chinese restaurant. For years Janus has effectively convinced the people of South Park that he is indeed the Chinese “Tuong Lu Kim” by squinting his eyes and speaking in a stereotypical Chinese accent. The end of the episode visually and narratively echoes the same scene in Psycho almost entirely, even up to the point where the faces of Mr Kim and Norman Bates are overlaid with the ghostly images of Dr Janus and Mrs Bates. In both stories this is to signify to the viewer that the alternate personality has completely taken over and dominated the original persona.

Psycho (1960) Original Ending Scene

As mentioned earlier, this was my first viewing of Psycho and tried hard to keep an open mind about what will or might happen in the film. As most other human beings I often seek out to guess the plot of a mystery film before I have seen it thoroughly. But this time I followed Marion Crane’s journey all the way up to her shocking death in the first half hour of the film. Stephen King said, “People remember the first time they experienced Janet Leigh, and no remake or sequel can top that moment when the curtain is pulled back and the knife starts to do its work.” On that I agree with him wholeheartedly, Janet Leigh’s character death was as unexpected as it was abrupt. Even prior knowledge of what would happen didn’t prepare me for the experience of watching the film itself. All parts of me were imploring Marion to move and to just ‘not’ be dead even as I continued to watch Norman calmly and methodically dispose of her lifeless body. Now that the character that I’ve attached myself to as protagonist has become a victim I reverted back to my habit of over analysing and second guessing the rest of the film.

By the end of the film I was quite buzzed about all the different narrative and psychological tropes that I recognised like the abusive mother and child relationship which led to Norman developing a split personality disorder. His fear, love and hatred of his mother that led the memory of her to take up permanent residence in his psyche. I was never bought over as a child by Disney movies that seem to give the message to children that no matter how much abuse or trauma they may encounter as a child they must remain a happy and hopeful symbol in a film where only a villain is allowed to experienced an emotional hangup. People are terribly fragile, their minds even more so. And what happens to them while growing up will definitely have consequences in their future. Some will become adults who are driven to kill by some terrible urge within them and there are those who simply want to bring suffering to another. There is a theory written about the differences between a sociopath and a psychopath. The general consensus is that psychopaths are born and sociopaths are products of their environment. Parental absence or abuse being the main reason for sociopathic behaviour. When engaging in criminal activity psychopaths tend to be more calculated and careful not to implicate themselves, sociopaths on the other hand are impulsive. Their behaviour rising into an uncontrollable onset of rage with little regard for the risks or consequences of their actions.

In accordance with this theory, Norman Bates in Psycho could be assumed to be exhibiting more sociopathic behaviours rather than psychopathic but the lines between them are blurred. As an only child raised in a stifled environment by a controlling, cruel and overbearing mother his dependency and attachment to her grew to the point that when she finally decided to get married and get a life of her own he killed her and her husband in rage. Unable to deal with what he had done and her absence, he created a persona of his mother in his mind to the point that it become separate entity that could take him over for certain periods of time.

Slavoj Zizek On Norman Bate’s House

Slavoj Zizek gave a brief but interesting analysis of Psycho, he focused on how the visual representation of Norman’s subjective mind the film is presented through the three levels of his mother’s house. The ground floor being his ego; the normal, rational and earnest Norman Bates who runs the motel. Up the stairs to the first floor where his mother’s bedroom is the super ego; the judgemental and overbearing part of his mind that projects itself as the image and voice of his mother. And down into the cellar in which he carries her body from the first floor represents the id. The id is the source of our bodily needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly our sexual and aggressive drives. His act of keeping Mother in the cellar can be seen as a metaphor for his attempt to hide super ego into his id; attempting to use the representation of the over controlling and judgemental part of himself to control his wild, violent and impulsive nature. From what I understand from Zizek’s statement he states that the super ego and the id are tied close together and that when the super ego feels threatened (when ‘Mother’ see’s Normal becoming attracted to another woman) the id will consume and take control over Norman. He is driven to kill the threat to his super ego.

Wow, ok this is becoming a very long entry. I feel that I should point out that I’m merely summarising and reflecting about these theories and I do not know enough of criminal psychology to express myself accurately and succinctly. I have a bit of an interest in researching crime murder, criminal psychology and forensic science. I would not call it a passion as I think my interest stems from a need to understand and accept the fact that people with violent mental disturbances and homicidal tendencies exist which is what this reflection is based around.

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Online Journalism: Google Glass

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Google Glass (Image Source Influxis.com)

On 15th of April 2014, for a single day only and in a limited number, tech-enthusiastic American consumers had the opportunity to purchase Google Glass Explorer, Google’s prototype device, at the cost of USD$1,500 (£894).

This has been the first instance when Google offered its device for sale to anyone across the United States, previously, having been available only via special invitation through its exclusive Explorer Program of prototype testers.

But even though it has been regarded as a pioneer in the era of wearable communication technology on its first testing in 2012, Google Glass has been in the centre of pro and anti-technology debates with a growing movement firmly opposing the use of it.

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Google Glass (Image Source KnowYourMobile.com ).

Google Glass’ design, closely resembles a standard pair of eyeglasses which possesses a small optical display, shaped as a glass prism.

It is connected to the user’s smartphone via “Wi-Fi” or “Bluetooth” being designed for micro-interactions, via a touchpad that runs from the user’s temple to ear, or by “hands-free” voice command/actions.

But even though the device mirrors the abilities of many existing smartphones in the market today, it still possesses seven individual core functions.

Google Glass is able to record video, take photos, perform Web searches, navigate and get directions, send texts, make phone calls and instant message or video chat with contacts via Google Hangouts

Being able to be operated via voice actions, the device offers potential uses in the assistance of various types of clients.

Several conceptual uses have been proposed for Google Glass in education, emergency response and in healthcare.

For example, the Glass is being tested by educators, firefighters, police officers, doctors and surgeons among others.

One interesting example of its usefulness in healthcare is in Newcastle University.

Doctors at the university are trialling Glass to help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

In collaboration with its users, the doctors have developed a programme that will remind patients to take their medication and to also swallow or speak up; behaviours that can prevent debilitating episodes of paralysis known as ‘freezing.’

From GPS to smartphones to personal computers and to the internet itself, the development of new computing technologies has almost always taken place exclusively in the realms of government, military and business.

So not everyone has praised Google’s more public approach into the exploration of more potential uses and usefulness of the device.

Several businesses have already begun pre-emptively banning it, a number of campaigns sprang, like “Stop the cyborgs” which encouraging businesses to ban Google Glass over concerns about surveillance and invasion of privacy, anti-surveillance group campaigns, and even a software subscription service called Anti-Glass.

The strongest backlash Glass received, has been from a social standpoint.

The rise of a derogatory nickname — “Glasshole” is one such example of the social stigma that has come to be attached to users of Glass.

To try and combat that way of thinking, Google has revealed its own Top 10 Google Glass Myths.

Concerns of social etiquette, electronic surveillance, invasion of privacy and other implications of misused have been prevalent in any discussion concerning Google Glass.

It also became a symbol of class division and gentrification.

Business Insider reporter Kyle Russell wrote about how “a mugger snatched his Google Glass off his face” and then smashed it into the ground while he was travelling through San Francisco’s Mission district.

Though initially confused at the scathing and negative reactions he had received in the wake of the incident, Russell was somewhat understanding of the feelings — writing that “anything associated with Google has come to represent gentrification in the city” thus acknowledging that he should have taken off his Glass.

Users rely heavily on broadcast technology, social media, mobile devices, video games and other innovations to enrich themselves whether in a business setting on in their personal lives.

Google or any company that is pushing wearable technology as evolutionary in the realm of communication technology have not yet effectively defined the utility of devices like smartwatches and heads-up displays, at least for general consumer use. Are they a necessity or a novelty?

 In the case of Google Glass, the use of the device can in fact, come across all too often as over gratuitous consumption.

With such a high price tag labelled onto a product that is technically still in development, experts and general consumers alike are questioning the logic behind the desire to purchase Google Glass Explorer.

For further information:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26987972

http://www.knowyourmobile.com/google/google-glass/21388/google-glass-release-date-features-and-price-ray-ban-oakley-commit-future

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/got-glass-get-out-where-are-we-supposed-to-use-googles-awesome-new-tool/#!FaAxO

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10752873/How-Google-Glass-is-helping-Parkinsons-sufferers.html

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/nypd-started-testing-google-glass-patrol-officers/#!FaAs1

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/anti-glass-movement/#!FaAwZ

 

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Warrior Women & Gender Representation Inside My Art Work

Queen Boudicca  Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

I’ve never been fully convinced of conservative social convections on femininity and how women should be passive, subservient and domesticated. My mother is the strongest woman I know and so I while I spent most of time growing up around my father and brother (whom each possess more than their fair share of “Alpha Male Ego”) there was and still is a strong feminine presence in my life.

For me, there has always been a fascination with the female warrior figure. I learned early in life that even though woman can appear demure and ladylike; under that veneer there is more likely than not; a core of iron. And there is a lot to admire and respect among strong feminine archetypes. Examples of strong historical female warriors include Artemisia I of Caria, Tomoe Gozen, Fù Hǎo, Joan of Arc and the ferocious celtic queen Boudicca. And despite coming from a fictional source, the positive influence garnered also from stories from folklore, novels and movies are undeniable. I think there’s a reverence in the strength of women; all kinds of them. Whether a fictional heroine, or capricious Goddess of myth and legend or a modern day female politician standing up against misogyny in male dominated parliament; women are strong and while not necessary of the physical sort, strength and honor is not exclusive to men.

The Crimson Lotus is In Bloom (2009)

“I was never deceived by Chinese women, not even by the flower-like lovely girls. They are the strongest women in the world. Seeming always to yield, they never yield. Their men are weak beside them. Whence comes this female strength? It is the strength that centuries have given them, the strength of the unwanted.” 

– From Letter from Peking by Pearl S. Buck, 1957 (1)

In continuation to the subject of Gender Representation in the Arts I would like to take a piece of artwork that I had painted as a object of study. I chose my own painting for this experiment largely due to an interest in dissecting my own artistic psyche and I would also like to look at my painting with a fresh perspective as it was after all, completed three years age. It is a digital painting titled The Crimson Lotus is in Bloom and it features a female character I created named Ren which is the Japanese translation of lián (蓮) meaning lotus (2).

I’ve chosen this particular painting as an example to represent an expansion of the lecture’s theme because it explores the concepts of gender identity and androgyny. It depicts a human subject who is certainly female yet also possesses certain qualities that give her undefinably masculine and feminine characteristics. I wanted to paint a character who appeared young. deeply stricken but very strong. Despite the lack of expression on her face, there would be intensity in her eyes that would identify her as a strong person despite the physical evidence of violence that she carries along with an armful of lotus blossoms.

As the artist who painted Ren, I know her history, character and motivations intimately and so I painted her with the intention exposing her inner character and not her body. Whilst the majority of her physical nudity is concealed by the delicate lotus blossoms she is nude in the sense that it is her soul that is exposed. Every element in the painting from the her scars to the clinical background was chosen to represent Ren’s personality and state of mind. The predominantly green color palette represents nature, regeneration, honor, virtue and beauty (3) and the splashes of blood (that may or may not belong to Ren) in crimson red to bring her inner violence and her rage into context. It is meant to be a portrait and she appears nude and is carrying an armful of flowers. Her posing is a satirical approach to what is employed in traditionally demure portraiture and the lotus flowers, while also symbolising purity are mainly passive objects that absorb the color and mood of their surrounding environment. They are the symbols of Ren’s gentle womanly nature that is still a part of who she is.

In the case of scopophilia, Ren appears to be a prisoner in the portrait and is both the object being consumed but also the one consuming, in this case either the actual viewer themselves or an unseen character/s inside the world of the painting. It is possible that Ren is gazing at her own reflection thereby consuming herself. Whoever she is consuming with her stare, she remains stoic but defiant and vengeful too.

Ren is striking and beautiful but she is not an object of desire and yet she is also not an object of horror to soothe Freud’s castration anxiety by giving the male viewer a female object to conquer either. Her androgynous features are meant to offset and confuse the traditional norms of female beauty and to perhaps lead a male viewer into a sense of security. What they see is a figure who defies the gender binary system and hence traditional gender norms in not clearly definable in this case as Ren cannot be fit into a comfortable gender role. She is a rare creature and she is absolutely her own person. A woman warrior and Alpha female who will not sacrifice any part of her honor and integrity. She apologizes to no one and is prepared to retaliate in violence in order to protect herself and those that are under her protection.

But it is a very rare woman to be taken for who she truly is. And I would like to conclude that while I may be ambitious in my attempt in portraying my vision of a idealistic woman warrior whether I succeeded or not is entirely subjective to whomever is studying this piece of work.

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Narrative of (500) Days Of Summer


Image Source and Copyright: Churchx

Focusing on the narration of the movie (500) Days of Summer from 2009 which is told in a non-linear narrative in other words the film events are portrayed out of chronological order.

People are drawn to a good story, and I am no different. Whether fictional or biographical, stories have and always will be a part of what has shaped my life. I think that half of what makes a story engaging is how it is told and it is my belief that what the audience perceives about a story or narrative is directly influenced by what the artist, writer or director comprehends and how they choose to present that understanding.

(500) Days of Summer is as the poster states; a story about love and not a love story. It’s the story of Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who believes in true love and when Tom meets Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) he thinks he has found his soulmate. But while Summer likes him perfectly sincerely, she does not share the same views on love and is not looking for commitment. Ultimately, she breaks his heart and he is left baffled.

Image Copyright: Imaginaryforces

Image Source: drunkonfame

When the numbers of the days in the relationship are shown, the coloring and “mood” of the background art change to reflect the status of the relationship. Good days are brighter and bad days are darker.

The movie narrates of the chapter of time in which Summer is in Tom’s life and is told from his perspective. Their romance and subsequent breakup is revealed through a non-linear narrative segmented time fragments, jumping from different days in the past or present as we follow Tom’s memories during the high and lows of his relationship with Summer.

The non-linear narrative dismisses the atypical Freytag 5 part (dramatic arc, exposition, rising action climax and dénouement) structure of storytelling a drama and utilizes its kaleidoscopic time structure as an appropriate tool to tell Tom’s story. As human memories are seldom recalled in chronological order, especially when it concerns a failed romance and the person in question is going back over the course of the relationship and looking for those first signs of the end that they’d missed when it was happening. They start near the end, and then hop around between the times that were good and the times that left pain.

Image Source: thewhitesade.com

Another use of camerawork I was really impressed with was when Tom meets up with Summer again a few months after their breakup. A split screen is used in this sequence to show his Expectations and the Reality of what actually happened. The viewer is shown first hand the variants between reality versus Tom’s expectations as well the disappointment he is ultimately subjected to at the end of the scene. There is no dialog during the entire sequence and the subtlety was sublime and very effective in portraying how how often a person’s reality doesn’t line up with how they play things out in their mind.

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Postmodern Artist: Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, who was born in 1955 is a controversial American modern artist from New York. He is known for his exquisitely crafted paintings and sculptures reproducing kitschy or banal objects using materials and ideas from popular culture to make his art.

One of his most controversial and personal collections is perhaps his deliberately provocative Made in Heaven series from 1990 to 1991 (1)(2). This collection features himself and his then future wife Ilona Staller (otherwise known as Cicciolina), an Italian porn star having sexual intercourse in various positions. The series itself is predominantly made up of huge explicit paintings, photographs and sculptures that leave nothing to the imagination.

One opinion of this series is how the combination of Koons’s fascination with sexuality, the readymade object, and the Baroque interest in Greek and Roman gods, suggests a pagan, pre-Christian view of physical love without shame or boundaries. (3) Unsurprisingly the original opening was criticized severely by art connoisseurs and in the press. Koons challenges the conventions of people’s artistic taste and I suppose this was his way to encourage his audience to make their own decisions about what is acceptable. My opinion on this series still falls within the range of ‘acceptable’ but each piece of art skirts deftly (no pun intended) between the lines of fine art and pornography. Yet despite the blatant sexuality and explicitness, I was surprised by the intimateness and tenderness depicted in the art work and conclusively I felt more like a voyeur intruding on a private moment than one observing works of high art- albeit outrageously subjective high art that is in turns spiritual and gaudy.

Bourgeois Bust – Jeff and Ilona from his Made In Heaven series (1990) (3)

Koons is typically described as a ‘post-modern’ artist and has openly rejected the distinction between low and high art. and his work also illustrated some of the challenges of health promotion in the early 21st century. Many of the health problems of Europe’s richer nations are directly linked to overconsumption. One example is cigarette smoking, in his work Koons transforms a fictitious brand called ‘New 100’s! Merit Ultra-Light’ into a eerie glossy advertisement.

Jeff Koons’ “New 100’s! Merit Ultra-Lights” (1)

I’m not a great admirer of Jeff Koons work but I do find his mocking and self-deprecating approach to art quite interesting. The original work that caught my eye was a large metal rabbit, eloquently titled “Rabbit” from 1986. Koons took a readymade inflatable rabbit and casted the object in stainless steel, playing on the tension between weight, material, and transcendence. It is not itself a mass-produced object, although it represents one and in principle could itself be mass-produced. He claims to be merging high and low culture, turning a bunny such as one would give to a child as a worthless, throwaway toy into a sculpture of highly polished stainless steel thereby giving monetary value and interest to an object that were it not created by Jeff Koons – a famous artist- would not have much value at all. Monetary or otherwise.

Jeff Koons’ “Rabbit” (1986) is considered an icon of Postmodernism (Image Source)

Postmodernism in the Arts. Reinvention Once Again

Welcome to today. In comparison to the past, life has become even more contextually complicated than before. And almost everything is dissected and then viewed in shades of grey. Very little is found within the spectrum of simple and straightforward.

No longer do we have beautiful objects to admire. I think that these works involve a kind of response that depends neither on laws of perception nor on a feeling of beauty. Postmodern art, it seems to me, works in an altogether different way.

Where Modernism was born in the age of rapid progress and industrialisation, Postmordernism came about when the massive production of goods went on a decline and more emphasis took place on the service industry. Social and economic value shifted from the literal object to the immaterial representation.

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Modernism: A Radical Break From The Past

Every once in a while; Everything changes.

Especially when the world is going through a rapid stage of industrialisation. And even more so when there are so many wars going on right alongside.

And during a time of external – sometimes – chaotic change, a massive reorganisation of thought, attitude and behaviour happens. This period I’m referring to in particular is called Modernism and it was one historical movement that we covered in our last lecture.

If I may interject with my own personal opinion at this point; I dislike change. I may be aware and accepting of the fact that changes big or small are inevitable and often necessary yet it is hard to make peace with the major changes in one’s life that often come about- and not in the way you plan or hope.

Modernism marks a revolution of change in art and it’s history. From the late 19th Century and well into the 1970’s there was the breakaway of traditional thought and cultural views. Modernists within the arts and science community rejected almost everything that was once valued in the past and re-established their own intellectual philosophies.

Modernism had it’s own set of goals and aspirations that the movement was determined to realise. The ideal goal of a society stripped of past restrictions and over reliance on religion to act as a divine barometer and dictate one’s worthiness as a human being. Artists, scientists and philosophers turned the tide and paved the way towards what they believed to be a more organised, rational and utopian society.

Artists began to express themselves through the abstract, focusing on the concept of human thought and perception and expressing that exploration in art form. As opposed to simply painting a pretty picture with no obvious deeper meaning. They wanted to explore the inner workings of everything and how human thought and rationale, the human body and the external influences could affect the surrounding environment or even the whole world.

Modernism was a time when people experimented and explored the different ways on how they, either as a single individual or a group can influence change through the written word and through art in it’s many shapes and forms.

(Source) (1) (2) (3)

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As Bob Dylan said and then immortalised in song; The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)

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Fascination With The 3-Dimensional Zoetrope

Another topic that we covered in our lecture last Thursday that interested me were the numerous devices invented to display animated images like the Folioscope (otherwise known as the flip book) which was the first form of primitive interactive media that I was exposed to. I was surprised to discover that it had not been patented until 1882. The Thaumatrope (1825), Phenakistoscope (1832) and the Zoetrope (1834) predated it.

Whilst there were many devices that was mentioned during the lecture. I was interested in the zoetrope in particular and especially in the video of a 3-Dimensional zoetrope that was presented.

A traditional Zoetrope is basically a device that spins so the viewer can animated images and or/objects with the aid of visual isolators which enables the human eye to ‘catch’ the animation in progress instead a blur of spinning images.

A zoetrope is most often found in the form of a spinning cylindrical barrel contraption (or toy as some would argue) that contains a series of artwork inside; each contextually and sequentially related but differing slightly from one other. The Zoetrope is then spun quickly so the illusion of animation can viewed through the cut out slits at the sides that act as shutters.

The aforementioned 3-Dimensional zoetrope was created by Pixar Animation Studios and it featured the characters from the Toy Story universe. Interestingly enough, it was itself inspired by a sculptural Zoetrope built by Studio Ghibli of the characters from the much beloved animation My Neighbour Totoro from 1988.

The 3D zoetropes presented differ from the traditional zoetrope in a few ways. The ‘images’ themselves are in fact 3D sculptures of each animated character and are not confined within a cylindrical barrel or drum. Multiple character sculptures are placed in sequence on a rotating disc. When the mechanism is rotated and spun at high speed, a strobe light is used to make the sculptures persist and ‘stick’ to the human eye.

Giving the appearance of movement and animated life.

This to me, is definitive proof that an idea, however simple; will never fail entertain, inform and mesmerise audience when executed wholeheartedly.

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