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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reading Kristen Stewart's "CHEATING" Pictures Through the Eyes of Foucalt Reading Manet


The Foucauldian Method:

Not taking a position, but following and disentangling lines....

Foucault is less interested by what the image says than by what it produces -  the behavior that it generates, and what it leaves barely seen among the social machinery in which it distributes bodies, spaces and utterances.
 ....strategies that confine painting, to render visible what it shows, 
but equally what it conceals.

Completion Date: c.1879
Foucault Discusses Manet's The Waitress
In effect what does this picture consist of and what does it represent? Really, in a sense, it does not represent anything in so far as it offers nothing to see. In effect, you have a total here and for a total, in this picture, this figure of the waitress which you see very close to the painter, very close to the viewer, very close to us, who has a face turned suddenly turned towards us as though a spectacle has suddenly presented itself in front of her and attracted her gaze. You see that she is not looking at what she is doing, which is putting down her beer glass, but her eye has been attracted by something that we do not see, that we do not know, which is there in front of the canvas. (p 49)

....the canvas is composed of one, two, or at the most three other figures...which we almost do not see since between them we see hardly anything but the receding profile and after that we see nothing but the hat. Rather, whoever they are looking at, they are themselves looking back at them in exactly the opposite direction. What do they see? Well, we know nothing about it, we know nothing since the picture is cut in such a way that the spectacle which is there, and by which these gazes are attracted, this spectacle is also hidden form us. 

This is where Manet "breaks" with classical painting. 
Always before the spectacle was also there for us to see 
what the figures were looking at.

It is a picture where nothing is represented except two gazes, two gazes in two opposite directions, two gazes in the two opposite directions of the picture, recto verso and neither of the two spectacles which are actually followed with so much attention by the two figures, neither of these two spectacles is given to us; and to underline this, you have the curious irony of this little part of a hand that you see (on the left) and this small part of a dress.

...it is as though there is nothing to see, that the picture should consist of these gazes turned towards the invisible, showing nothing but the invisible....

From one part of the canvas to another, you have two spectacles which are seen by 
the two figures but at its root the canvas, instead of showing what is to be seen, 

hides and conceals it.(p 50)

First let us look at these 2/55 photographs  which have been included in a series of pictures in  a media manufactured Debordian world wide SPECTACLE
And let us consider them as paintings and not photographs.

What do we see?
Two figures, - in a soft out of focus shortened depth of field - a man and a woman in a heterotopian space, the front seat of a car.
The one at the top  shows the back of a woman's head facing away from us looking at something we cannot see. 
The clearest focus is the outside of the car, the handle of the car door and the pinpoint of sun reflected there. The light coming from outside the painting falls on the lower half of her back. 
The upper part of the man's face  is positioned looking over her shoulder, gazing at something obliquely outside this heterotopian space, this space in western culture, the front seat of a car, a place outside of all places, a place of separation.
He seems to be looking at us, but not quite. We cannot be sure at what he is looking as his face and eye is also out of focus.
The horizontals and diagonals are in clear sharp focus. The upper silver edge of the door of the car descends from left to right sloping to the edge of the raised window, its framing and the framing of the door, the separation between the two a dark black that continues a sensuous curve around the door closure continuing down to the lower part where we observe at the bottom a reflection of what is behind, but there is nothing there. Nothing for him to see and nothing for us to see. A gaze focused on the empty landscape. 

Strangely enough it is a very beautiful photograph if observed through the eyes of Foucault. The verticals and horizontals  interrupted by diagonals draw your eye away from the two figures in shadow and out of focus in a shortened depth of field, almost as if they are there along for the ride, almost as if they are ghosts.

The lower picture has obviously been cropped and cropped stupidly and crudely. The play of the horizontal and vertical lines with the intersecting diagonals has been cut off on all four outside edges. The primary focus now is on the two figures inside the car, the heterotopian space here, in shadow. The figure of the woman is lower now.  The sunlight coming from outside the painting is falling on her shoulder, but not quite to the top of it,  which is in shadow, and it is falling on her back.

We see more of the man's face and in this lower image his eye that was opened above is now closed. It is as if the painter drew a darker line across it and his mouth is so shadowed we cannot tell if he is touching her with his lips, is about to, is withdrawing, as the focus is too blurred for us to know. too deep in shadow for anything but speculation. We cannot see if her eyes are closed, if she is looking at something, if she is looking at him, as her gaze is invisible to us.

Since we know that these are not paintings by someone influenced by Manet, but perhaps are photographs by someone with that sensibility. There is a lovely quality about them, a haunting illusion not unlike that moment Michelangelo invokes as he has God extending his hand with pointed finger towards Adam to touch him with life, with just a hair of a gap between, an almost but not quite touch, a whisper away from bestowing life.(Leo Steinberg)

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