How does the visual world communicate with us? This is an important question to ask ourselves if we wish to have a better understanding of the world which we live in. Many people have approached this question in their works. So, what do they say?
Cindy Sherman suggests many things about our visual world through her photography. The most notable thing I recognized was that everything we see is constructed in some shape or form. For example, Untitled Head Shot #400 makes no effort whatsoever to conceal the large amounts of makeup worn, shown with her natural brows visible and unnaturally light under-eyes and brow bone. Sherman works alone, so we know that this her intentional decision and it leaves us asking why she wants us to know that this is a constructed image. Would this character be the same without her tan lines and awkwardly held body? The answer must be no, since the only information that we have on this personality is what we are shown. So why is it important? I think it is because it tells us more about ourselves. There is something we can see about ourselves in every photo that was on display. In discussions within the gallery we talked about how there is always a day where you feel like you look fantastic but then you encounter a mirror and your perception of self and your actual image do not match. There is always lipstick on teeth, a stained shirt and flyaway hairs. But having these faults is human, it makes us vulnerable. It is this culmination of our interests, traits and imperfections that create our identity. As Mirzoeff said, “We assemble a world from pieces, assuming that what we see is both coherent and equivalent to reality. Until we discover it is not.” (Mirzoeff, 10). He supports Sherman’s arguments in that we are made up of many different elements, but these are all put on for others and that they sometimes are not the truth. Which feels very true. When coming into a new environment such as university, I am always conscience of how others will perceive how I have dressed etc.
So how do we deal with these inconsistencies between what we are presented with and their true forms? Do we need to stand in our galleries and museums for hours on end, picking apart works of art to find their faults? Well, artsy.net says that, “the average time a person spends gandering at a piece in a museum is between 15 seconds and 30 seconds. That’s plenty of time to figure out what the image is attempting to represent … But that’s not nearly enough time to fully experience the work.” (Kaplan, Artsy). However, as we are all different, the amount of time to understand something is going to vary. I think then, that we must spend as much time as feels necessary. If we wish to engage with what we see, we must, “not take for granted… ideas and assumptions that have emerged within particular cultural contexts.” (Wallace et al. 49)
Kaplin, Isaac. “How Long Do You Need to Look at a Work of Art to Get It?” Artsy, 26 January
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World. Pelican, 2015.
Wallace, Andrew et al. “Critical Thinking”. Beginning University: Thinking, Researching and
Writing for Success, Allen & Unwin, 1999. 45-61.