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"image"

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Matthew Sutherlin

on 21 June 2015

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Transcript of "image"

One Minute Sculptures Food Fight Micro-Politics of Consumption PERCEPTION MEMORY "image" (un)becoming teacher (un)becoming researcher (un)becoming artist You can just feel the details. The bits and pieces you never bothered to put into words. And you can feel these extreme moments...even if you don't want to. You put these together, and you get the feel of a person--Leonard Shelby, Memento (Todd, Todd, & Nolan, 2001) Matter, in our view, is an aggregate of "images." And by "image" we mean a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing (Bergson, 2004, p.vii). The In<SCRIPT>ion of “images” has the ability to provoke the process of teaching and learning. Such provocation is a means of jolting oneself out of slumber. It is slumber that seeks to squelch reflexive thought. Derrida (2002) discusses the moments that occur when he is just falling asleep or in a state of half sleep. It is this temporal space that Deleuze and Guattari (1987) term the “intermezzo” which refers to a movement in a space of interbeing in which the racinating function of the rhizome never ceases. It is in those moments, those in/between moments, when one fears the “images” that he or she has created, when he or she questions process and method. I have also had many half-sleepless nights, many nights in which “images” flash in my brain with cinematic effect. These “images” speak to the seriousness of teaching as a profession. When one is awake, conscious, and working, the seriousness and importance subsides. When one is in a liminal or meta-cognitive space, these images provide provocation for reflexive practice. Within the process of reflexivity, I acknowledge that my own perspective, as well as the ambiguity of all forms of communication, influences the representations, all communicative devices meant to convey information, that I produce. I open with the following student video reflection on representation. This student-created video is multi-layered, and the effect is that of a copy of a copy of a copy. The viewer is presented with the first layer, the drawing itself, an image created by pencil put to paper, and the second layer, the discussion of the drawing filmed by the cell phone. The third layer consists of the images and sounds made in the room while the recording is being recorded. These include the sound of a television in the background and the cracks and pops of the video camera as it is steadied. The video starts. Two cell phones sit on a bed. The folds of the off-white flowered sheets seek to engulf the edges of the cell phones. The screens of the phones are bright; their blue tinted light grainy and harsh, peering up at us through their casings. The “image” on the screen looks at us as we look at it. Our point of view shifts with the camera as it pans from one cell phone to the other. A finger reaches down to interact with the cell phone. It opens the menu and presses play.
There is a muffled sound of a television in the background.
TV-*You really don't remember me* Sometimes I have panicked about the data in this same way. “I have a lot of difficulty drawing the nose and the ears and all of my eyes and mouths that I draw all look the same.” I am a teacher talking about students, and on the other hand, student comments are painfully revealing of my practice. As I go through the process of evaluating my practice, it becomes evident to me that in some cases I was doing the study that I set forth in my proposal. Instead of allowing my practice to orchestrate or facilitate student learning, I sought to impart the skills that I felt were necessary in relation to art education. As I relisten to audio recordings of "discussions," it becomes painful for me because the digital information is a representation of the Real. It is not real in the sense that it gets at the whole, but rather, it is Real because of omissions, silences, rewordings, and imposed interpretations I see happening. A student makes a comment, and I reword it in my own terms. Instead of asking the student to expound, I find myself explaining for the student. In this section, I attempt to allow student voices to speak for themselves. However, in speaking for themselves, I must mediate their speech; there is no way to include everything. There are always omissions and generalizations, this is but one (re)mix. NETWORK (Re)mix
TV-*You really don't remember me*
Memory is a funny thing.
The minute I look away to record the events I am in danger…
Of (mis)representation
I am sorry for drawing you this way... The above (re)mix connects self with an/other, an interbeing. Being is not the same as representation. “To be” or “not to be, that is the question” or so it was posited in the famous soliloquy by Hamlet. Yet, just as Hamlet is haunted by the ghost of his father in the famous Shakespearean play, we too are haunted by conceptions of self. Derrida (1994) states that ontology or the study of being in the world is hauntology because phantom representations haunt conceptions of self. In Derrida’s definition, the self becomes nothing more than an apparition. We are constantly haunted by what could have been. Liberation comes from the realization that instances of being-in-the-world, that is our actions and interactions, are not singular points in space in time but rather a series of ever moving points. According to Deleuze and Guattari (1972), “There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life; the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.” (p. 2) We are coupled with the world as a Body without Organs. We are “image” connectable in all directions, like the schizophrenic who has no notion of a centralized self or an “I” produced through interpellation (who is it, it is me) connecting and disconnecting from notions of self (Althusser, 2008). “If Hamlet has something of the definiteness of a work of art, he has also all the obscurity that belongs to life. There are as many Hamlets as there are melancholies” (Wilde, 1891). To become Hamlet is the personification of the multiplicity of social and cultural roles we enact; conversely, it is also the name for a small town. It is both a proper name and communal site. Like the actors or actresses who have played the role of Hamlet, we are many playing one and one playing many; the roles we play are constantly in flux and depend on (con)text. According to the philosopher Heraclius, one never steps in the same river twice or encounters from moment to moment the same person twice. The world is in a state of constant flow; nothing stands still. POET(ic) images The cyborg, Haraway’s (1991) metaphor of n+1, allows for a form of appropriative action in the construction of self. Its realization as cyborg pedagogy allows for the utilization of hypermedia as teaching practice. This study employs hypermedia methodology as a way of promoting teaching and learning in the classroom. One might assume that hypermedia is inherently rhizomatic. However, what one can actually conclude from the use of hypertext and hypermedia software is that they are inherently multi-linear. Hypermedia and hypertexts as software applications require a POET, that is a Point Of Entry Text. Ultimately, there is a logic to hypertext and hypermedia that is mythopoetic bricolage. Several POET(ic) metaphors frame the process of bricolage. Berry and Kincheloe (2004) propose the first four, and the fifth is an addendum made by my own interpretation of the other four. 1.)Trees and forest
2.)Overhead Transparency
3.)Hypertext
4.)DVD (p.108)
5.)Wiki The Wiki as discussed in the construction of the dispositif allows for democratic negotiation of voices through feedback loops of reading and writing. These metaphors assist the reader in understanding the relation of the part to the w/hole. “The POET is poststructural ” (Kincheloe & Berry, 2004, p.108). Instead of the linear formation that constructs a book, the POET has no delineated “beginning, middle, or end.” The reader is the one who applies layers of meaning to the text. Layers of meaning are added to the original text as a means of building discourse. The original text is not destroyed, only augmented. Throughout both the spring and summer sessions, I sought to conduct the classroom environment. Conduction, as it is used here, is the appropriation of materials as a means of creating a flow that allows for the movement at the molecular level as a Line of Flight. This is an associative process in which lines of association are the guiding force behind the creative actions of art and pedagogy. Conduction produces a bricolage, an assemblage of “images” that becomes both record, production, and usage of the creative act itself. What do you think happens to people who aren’t artists? What do you think people who aren’t artists become? I feel they don’t become: I feel nothing happens to them; I feel negation becomes of them. (cummings,1934, p.9) In a/r/tography the question moves away from being or non-being and non-nonbeing. A/r/tography becomes more than the production of institutionally approved artifacts, its origin skewed. The question of who is transformed to when. When is a person an artist, and when is an experience art? Through post-structuralist discourse, art refers to a rich and complex construction of one’s own life. It is a subjective movement through space and time as a process of becoming. Within this understanding of the world, the self branches and multiplies (Irwin, et al., 2008). It becomes both the one in many and the many in one. “Today, many times the voice that one speaks with may not be one’s own” (Miller, 2004, p. 85). I started the process of becoming an art educator as a studio artist intending to teach studio art at the university level. The role I played at the time had a prescribed definition. As a studio artist, I saw myself as an artist first, an educator second. Art practice was self-centered without critical reflection of pedagogical practice. My teaching and artistic practice sought after modernist notions of originality and uniqueness which meant the exclusion of collaborative practice. During my MFA graduate studies, I quickly realized that authorship served as a major inhibiting factor to collaborative educational experiences; concerns regarding who would receive credit for the final product superseded the construction of knowledge. According to art educator Gude (2001), Even art programs that have consciously sought to expand their pantheon of artistic heroes to include women and people of color have tended to persist in teaching that good art is always the product of great individuals. Very few art programs effectively contextualize the making of art within complex social interactions. (para.16) The importance of collaborative educational experiences lies in the concepts of collective intelligence and the collective unconscious. Individuals learn from one another through a dialogue about the process. In studio production there has always been a strict segregation between artist/artist and artist/audience. Due to the frustration that I experienced with segregation of individuals into artistic “islands”, I began creating artworks that invited the viewer to participate with the piece and enter the dialogue. It was a form of pedagogical practice enacted in the art gallery. The piece was not fully completed by me; rather it required the assistance of the viewer in its creation. High-tech or low-tech objects with pumps, motors, motion sensors, micro-processors, etc., became a means by which I sought to broaden my understanding of the “art object.” On my part, it was an attempt to emphasize the relationship between the viewer and the object. In my view, without the presence of the viewer, the object itself was useless, an incomplete circuit. What I was unaware of at the time was that the object was a surrogate for self. The self that created the artwork and the self that approaches the artwork are already connected. The artwork merely allows for a tactile realization of the event. One is already folded into the other from the start; the self is fragmented, allowing for an interpretation in which the self is the artist, the viewer, and the viewer as artist. These object assemblages were extensions of body manifest in an object; my attempts to take myself out of the meaning/making process were negated by the act of creation—we are never fully separate, yet we are never fully w/hole. Objects of any sort provide for a manifestation of self that can be either physical or virtual. The self becomes embodied in a particular object, but the object remains as only an artifact rather than a full definition of identity. The self is therefore fluid and moves between viewer and artist, culture and participant. The mere existence of the object is both product and provocation of creation. Nancy (2000) states, “If ‘creation’ is indeed this singular ex-position of being, then its real name is existence. Existence is creation, our creation; it is the beginning and the end that we are” (p.17). Returning to the concept of programming discussed previously, the producer and viewer are no longer the discussion of importance. One flows into the other in an endless chain of production/consumption. The original producer becomes a transmitter that allows the next producer in the chain to become the producer in an endless network (Bourriaud, 2005). These works simultaneously point towards my existence as a conductor or appropriator of materials and the viewer’s capacity as a producer/consumer of the object. As such they formulate a means of cultural interface through which pedagogical inquiry can take place. Even though I was absent from the physical space of the gallery, “I” was present within the object. These works were the beginnings of my experimentation with the concepts of artist/viewer as performer, artist/viewer as producer, and artist/viewer as conductor of meaning (Derrida, 1976; Ulmer, 2003). Human beings are complex systems rather than surface stereotypes. To assume is to fall back to the surface. Surface becomes the playing field, the plane of immanance (everything all at once). To use a POET(ic) metaphor, we cannot see the forest for the trees. We seek solutions to problems we don’t need answered and lack knowledge of problems we do need answered. Culturally, we are inundated with information overload; in contemporary culture, silence is a rare commodity. Silence produces a return to memory through both the ontological and psychological unconscious as described by Bergson (2004). Through this return, we are faced with both representation and presentation of the events. This section will be a deconstructive exploration of the centralized self and its expansion to a concept of interchangeable parts or fragments. THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years (Whitman, 1921, p. 135) Embodied Duration/Extensity As human beings we are subjects because we are bound up and intertwined with other beings and material objects. The relationships between things are the means by which the world is constituted. These things include not only physical objects, but also language as the production of the virtual object. We are constantly in a process both of being constructed by the world and also of constructing the world from cultural experience. To be human is to be in dialogue with the world. Objects are process and processes are objects. The deconstruction of an object permits a loss. The loss of objects allows us to formulate them as subjects and ultimately to see them as parts of ourselves (Turkle, 1999). These physical and virtual traces become an In<SCRIPT>ion of the invented avatar (s) developed through interaction with reality as a readable and interpretable text. This text is art in all its flawed and mythopoetic grandeur. OOP is object-oriented programming is a process of interaction between scripted objects in the world of the computer. As we will see in other sections, objects have agency within the collective network. They have both properties, i.e., hair color, eye color, height, weight, gender, and functions that aid in embodying interactions, i.e., sleeping waking, showering, dressing. The object embodies the interaction but is not the interaction itself, rather it is a process that permits interaction. Through détournment, students, artists, teachers, and researchers are able to (re)script the object in a way that allows for multiple points of entry (Shiffman, 2008). These multiple points of entry are facilitated through the programming practices of the semionaut (Bourriard, 2005; Debord & Wolman, 1956). As semionauts, students and teachers can create traces through signs by imagining links that may exist even between disparate sites, objects, ideas, or images. Through sampling multiple ideas, objects, sites, and images, students become producers of the (re)mix. This necessitates vigilant activity on the part of the semionaut, as well as the diminishing of the dividing line between reception and practice as a way of re-territorilizing particular cartographies. Within this re-territorialisation, there is navigation between these sounds, ideas, objects, sites, and images as a means of produsage (Bourriard, 2005; Bruns, 2008). Our journey begins with a return to the past, a past of past experience to discover virtual traces that deal with students’ memories and perceptions of art. The following is an application of Bergson’s Second rule within his Method of Intuition that deals with pure differences in kind. In his description of “image” he discussed memory/contraction-memory or the ontological unconscious and affectivity/ recollection-memory of the physiological unconscious, addressing the “image” in the mind. Regarding the physical image, we can look at the following structure to aid in the immediacy of apprehension: perception/object/matter. The division of “image” and image give us the mind-matter binary described by Bergson (Deleuze, 1988). The following student responses deal with either image and/or “image” with respect to their previous art experience. Students made the following statements with regards to the prompt: Describe your best art experience. Mia: I once took an art class at A.C. [Angelina College], and we painted a picture following step by step the instructor as she gave a lesson on mixing colors. I actually have that picture framed (my husbands' request), but I can't really say I am proud of any of my attempts at art--they are never exactly what I had hoped they would be, so I never feel proud of them. Sherry: I would say that I have not had a great art experience. I have made a lot of little things, but nothing that whoas me. I would have to say that when I made a movie of pictures for my grandmaw one Christmas, I was really proud of myself. Joan: The first thing that I think of as possibly the best art experience I have had was when I was younger and we were each asked to make our own collage. It had to be the best art experience because I did not have to draw[. I]nstead I was creative through magazine cut-outs and newspaper clippings to describe who I was. The painting, the movie, and the collage become objects of experience. These objects help students and teacher to think about the abstract concept of art in embodied ways. Through programming, these objects become “image” that are multisensory experiences reconstituted through memory as virtual coexistence (Deleuze, 1988). Virtual coexistence occurs through the virtual object, which is tied to sensation. Sensation is therefore the experience in all its presence and absence. The student recalls the experience; however, the experience recalled focuses on the product of the experience. If art is experience as Dewey (1934) claims, then the object serves as a record of the experience that is infinitely reprogrammable through both memory and perception. Mind and matter work in tandem to envision new purpose and functionality. One might ask what is the connection to art/education and research. The answer addresses preconceptions and how they construct the classroom and research process prior to the experience. As students and I work together, we coexist as representations of our pasts within the present. As the art/researcher/teacher, what I see missing in myself is projected onto students and vice versa. The lack or w/hole, the presence of an/other and the lack constituted allows for continual revision of discourses through desire. The tension that occurs in this relationship is what Lacan calls jouissance, enjoyment and yet enjoyment accompanied by a sense of loss. The point when what we have desired is realized is also the point at which we discover that our desires, as they have been previously constructed, cannot be realized. Many times, students who engage in art have a certain expectation of realism. This produces a negative art experience for the student because the expectations of realism often cannot be met on the very first try. The “image” of what the student intended to create does not match up with the image that is before him or her. Both pleasure and pain exist in the process of creating of a work of art. The art object or product becomes Kristeva’s (Kristeva & Oliver, 2002) abject or an object of attraction and repulsion. The object originated from within the individual; it is a product of his or her purposeful actions on the world, yet it does not meet up with his or her ideal. It embodies jouissance (Lacan, 2006; Ulmer, 2005). Jouissance exhibits itself within Heiddiger’s (1978) concept of Dasein or being-in-the-world; being is inseparable from the physical world in which it exists. The world is not simply an object as a static entity, but rather, it becomes a medium through which interaction occurs. Thinking is not separate from being; rather, they are intertwined. Objects become the means by which we embody abstract concepts, uses, and functions. The objects, be it a hammer or a CPU, provide a means of being-in-the-world. The connection to jouissance can be further expanded through Heidegger’s concepts of ready-to-hand and present-at-hand. While these two terms are separate, they occur together through the process of entanglement. Heidegger’s (1978) concepts of ready-to-hand and present-at-hand are processes of physical/virtual appropriation through which objects that are ready-to-hand become extensions of self. When an object is ready-to-hand, it is performed. This performance plays out the mental use of the object. The performance stops when I realize I am performing the object; it then becomes present-at-hand. Objects allow us to perform subjectivly, yet the minute we realize the performance, they once again become objects. This does not at all detract from performance but emphasizes its importance (Dourish, 2001). Appropriated objects can become tools, but not simply tools as tools, but tools used for a specific task as conceived by the mind. They are what Heidegger terms equipment or “something in-order-to.” Equipment can be connected to other equipment, linked up in ways that require a symbiotic relationship. There is no longer a discernable distinction between ready-to or present-at; the two distinctions return to the cyborg of Haraway (1991) as a way of thinking about this relationship. Subject and object are no longer distinctions; one melds into the other. This melding of subject and object becomes an augmented reality in which the virtual and the physical collide. This augmented reality exists in the active space between the two concepts that opens through performance and dialogue. During the summer term of 2009, students and I engaged in a discussion of the one-minute sculptures of Erwin Wurm. Wurm’s sculptures consist of a visual diagram or a map and a series of everyday objects: street cones, water bottles, trash cans, chairs, oranges, bananas, and a variety of other items. The task is for the sculpture maker/viewer to recreate the object based on the visual map. The body plays an important role in these sculptures as objects are inserted into every orifice as a way of augmenting both its form and function. Wurm’s work inserts the world into the body and the body into the world as a means of understanding their interpenetration. This is not an issue of prothetics because for any object to be a prosthetic assumes that the world and its objects are foreign to the body. The body is augmented, added to, and extended, not for the purpose of gilding the lily, but as a way of understanding what it means to be part of the Stoic Mix or aliquid (Latin translation: something). Being transforms into something in which the self becomes inscribed on the plane of immanance. Because of the infusion that occurs, it is not uncommon or unexpected that individuals would struggle in attempting to doubly inscribe these items as a w/hole rather than a binary. The phrase “doubly inscribe” refers to the recreation and creation of the object (be it street cone or trashcan) as a medium for a recreation of “image” and avatar (Deleuze, 1990, Lacan, 2006). Double In<SCRIPT>ion is the intertwining of the mental image of the object and its physical form as a creation of “image,” what the object “is” as it is present-at-hand. It is also the functional value or performance value of what it “is;” for instance, I eat a banana, and it is ready-to-hand. To recreate the object is to fractalize its ontology; it becomes a “vibratory” space that makes attempts at the real. We know that the object in question “is” a banana; yet, we use it as something else. It “is” a banana, but it becomes something more. The body proper is incorporated into this process and becomes the unity of subject/object through performance which vacillates between the two modes of existence (Lacan, 2006). We engaged in our own process of performance with one-minute sculptures. Students randomly selected three words from a bag and chose objects to embody those words. While the following may seem contrived and possibly teacher/researcher constructed, “I”, nonetheless, give you the description of the student performance as it was jotted down immediately following the conversation. The first image is titled Honor Reality First. Two students worked together in the creation of this one-minute sculpture. Its title and execution took into account the nature of reality and its connection to experience. The two students addressed how reality is often perceived as something that exists “out there,” and in honoring reality, they felt it appropriate to honor what they understood to be its origin in terms of perception. Utilizing the objects at their disposal, in this case bananas, they created a halo around the head of one of the girls. Next to the bananas they placed a set of markers that extended out from the head. In explaining why they used markers, the students cited their ability to make marks and alter reality in some way. Cups were placed in direct line with the ears to call attention to the importance of sound/information entering the body through the ears. In the background of their sculpture, a halogen spotlight focused on the figure created an ethereal or spiritual effect. When I reflected on the student performance of this one-minute sculpture, I realized that I needed to acknowledge the importance of the student description in relation to the body-in-the-world and the world-inside-the-body. As I think about this student sculpture in relation to the educational system in the Unitied States, I cannot help but wonder if the transcendental philosophies that we hold so dear in relation to critical thinking are not separating us from sensory perceptions that might otherwise be beneficial to the overall experience of living life. Posthuman philosophers make the claim that the body has been transformed into information. If accurate, the body would be the first prosthetic as described by Hayles (1999). The more common understanding of prothesis is as an artifical device or apparatus that replaces a missing body part. However, I would argue that the the body as prothetic pertains to Merleau-Ponty’s concept of ruins. Ruins reference that which is not visibly present and yet exists. Even that which has not yet been invented has a presence within the body. In this way the term prothesis takes on the Eastern Orthodox Church defintion of prothesis in which it is both the preparation of the Eucharist and the table or surface upon which the Eucharist is prepared. Within this plane of immanance, there is no separataion between the preparation and the surface for preparation. Furthermore, after the prepartion has occurred, the body of Christ (all elements of the world) are ingested and absorbed into the consumer’s body. At the same time one cannot deny the agency of the consumer; uncritical absorbtion of these elements is not the argument in question. We are constantly circulating through experience and critical analysis of that experience. One does not negate the other, and one should not be given more precedence than the other. The split subject becomes an/other to the self (Hayles, 1999; Ulmer, 2003, 2005). A second student performance was constituted through the work Loose Looking Lists. In this piece students simultaneously performed the creation of a drink and the drinking of that drink. It is a representational attempt at produsage as a process out of sync with time that allows for multiple understandings of process and product. A student sat with legs crossed on the floor in front of a smudged white wall in the gallery. The items used for the construction of this list were an orange, an iced tray, a straw, and a cup. The image began with a frontal shot of the student. The white wall behind her emphasized the outline of her body. The items were stacked one on top of the other, the cup held in hand, the ice tray on top of that, and the orange at the pinnacle. The straw pierced the surface of the orange and connected it to the mouth, creating a complete circuit. About midway through the video, the camera began to turn. It rotated three hundred and sixty degrees, finally returning to its original location. The performance is an inversion of product in which the list is turned topsy-turvy. In the work Side-Splitting Take Charge Books, students stood with hips together, holding two ice trays side by side. The ice trays created the illusion of a traditional book while their bodies formed the book itself. During the performance, the bodies drifted apart. Using a rope connecting the two students, the book pulled itself back together, thus taking charge of its own situation. By deterritorializing its borders, the book, a container for information in the physical realm, became an object of power. Information pulled at its structure as a means of getting away from its book form, but the book would not allow this split. To deterritorialize is ultimately to reterritorialize in recursive fashion. Information and understanding are (re)worked through separation and re-connection. In looking at these performances it is important to acknowledge the function of the unconscious in the creation of the titles. Much like the Surrealist practice of exquisite corpse poetry, the titles were constructed in part by the laws of chance. Once the three random words were drawn from the bags, the collective unconscious/intelligence of the students self-organized the words into a coherent title. In the construction of these one-minute sculptures some students were aware of these unconscious undercurrents while others did not uncover their presence until the classroom dialogue took place. A second student performance was constituted through the work Loose Looking Lists. In this piece students simultaneously performed the creation of a drink and the drinking of that drink. It is a representational attempt at produsage as a process out of sync with time that allows for multiple understandings of process and product. A student sat with legs crossed on the floor in front of a smudged white wall in the gallery. The items used for the construction of this list were an orange, an iced tray, a straw, and a cup. The image began with a frontal shot of the student. The white wall behind her emphasized the outline of her body. The items were stacked one on top of the other, the cup held in hand, the ice tray on top of that, and the orange at the pinnacle. The straw pierced the surface of the orange and connected it to the mouth, creating a complete circuit. About midway through the video, the camera began to turn. It rotated three hundred and sixty degrees, finally returning to its original location. The performance is an inversion of product in which the list is turned topsy-turvy. These performances provide(d) an in/between space for slippage between the signifier and the signified. Students moved beyond the creation of objects to the performance of student understanding of semiotic relationships that allow them to see the object as something more than itself. The chain of signifiers permitted the objects to be programmed with new meanings and functionality by students. Such signification is important to a redefinition of creative thinking. Student sculpture/performances oscillated between subject and object. The object was created, interpreted, and performed through a process of double In<SCRIPT>ion. Because students completed these sculptures in groups, they formulated their own signified for the signifiers as a collective language, a recursive sub-culture in the classroom. Embued with new meaning, these signs were taught by each group to others in the class as a means of permitting them entry into the new discourse created. This allowed students to explore the specialization of discouse and the ways in which subtle nuance inhabited meaning. The concepts inherent to this practice are transferable to the understanding of an/other. As individuals, we can only ever have partial knowledge of what the significations produced by an/other individual or group mean; however, we can engage in dialogue that add new parts to the w/hole of our understanding. The discussion of outside response to “these” sculptures draws a connetion to the discussion of connotative and denotative code as presented in the The Psychological Iterations of Self. The new slang of our sculptures was specific to a particular group as a smaller portion of a larger class. The group work was understandable to the class due to the (con)text created around one-minute sculptures. These sculptures programmed with digital code that became specific to a particular group in a particular time and place; however, I want to make clear that this does not negate their reiteration not as the Same, but as something different by those who might appropriated them in the future Programming, as it relates to student understanding of the world, is important because it provides a concrete/virtual experience that can enable a powerful mode of change in their world. Both digital and analogue media allow for an In<SCRIPT>ion of the objects through the metaphors of “the DJ and the programmer, both of whom have the task of selecting cultural objects and inserting them into new contexts” (Bourriaud, 2002, p. 6). Instead of viewing all aspects of interaction as the “way things are”, students can apply artistic principles learned through semiotic programming to re-vision their “image” of the world. Although their “image” has been influenced by cultural memory and perceptive factors, they can remake that image through the process of becoming. To alter a phrase first spoken by Ghandi, “Be[come] the change you want to see in the world” or in the case of the following section, (un)be[come] the change that you want to see in the world. To make oneself understood is not the same thing as teaching—it is the opposite. One only understands what one thinks one already knows. More precisely, one never understands anything but a meaning whose satisfaction or comfort one has already felt. I’ll say it to you in a way you won’t understand: one never understands anything but one’s fantasies. And one is never taught by anything other than what one doesn’t understand, ie. by nonsense (Lacan, 1990, p. xxvi). “I am a teacher”/ “I am not a teacher” Such statements are (un)becoming of a professional. Teacher identity comes into being through a variety of domains that are not relegated to the pure effect of education or a degree. The effective domain is generally described as being productive and intentionally efficient, while the affective domain is relegated to a realm of pure emotion. The poetic, which is understood to belong to the affective domain, is mistakenly perceived as being a weak method which provides only entertainment. In contrast to this misconception, what the poetic does provide is “image” creation. These are the virtual and physical “images” that influence our perceptions, actions, and understandings of the world. Being a teacher refers to the perceptions and memories or “images” one has with regard to teaching. Becoming refers to the evolution of teaching practice. When one becomes a teacher, s/he engages in the practical concepts relating to teaching practice. He must deal with the situational elements that occur in the classroom and alter his/her practice accordingly. The term being refers to the things of the world. In a classroom situation, each student has a particular being, as do the desks, chalkboard, projector, etc. The space between Being and becoming is Chora; it is the space in which the alteration of teaching practice take place. My “image” of teaching plays a role through out this study. My perceptions of “teacher” at the time I began this study were conflicted. These internal conflicts altered my teaching practice in ways which made me feel uncomfortable. By understanding representations, both effective and affective, “i” was able to critically reflect on my own practice. As teachers, we, both pre- and in-service students and “I,” learned to learn through an embodied interaction within a “community of practice.” The insight that effective/affective, literal/metaphorical, sense/nonsense, teacher/student are not binary oppositions, but rhizomatic durations, permits me to see the possibilities inherent to a practice of practice (Bergson, 2004; Deleuze, 1990; Deleuze & Guattari, 1987; Britzman, 2003). The Socratic method, one of the first modes of teaching documented by the philosopher Plato, utilized a method in which oppositional ideas or concepts were pitted against each other as a means of stimulating a debate which served the function of illuminating new understandings of the world through the merging of opposites in Chora or the space between. These new understandings resulted in new ways of being-in-the-world. This Socratic dialogue was performance; prior to the In<SCRIPT>ion, it was the orality of a culture that informed educational practices. Schooling as an institution of practice was facilitated by the introduction of literacy. Plato inscribed the teachings of Socrates, and since Plato, questions of ontology have been driven either directly or indirectly in the West by engagement in some form with his philosophical writings. Technology and institution became fused within the apparatus (Ulmer, 1985). The concept of teacher as performance artist brings the subjective understanding of teaching and learning to light. During the time this study was being conducted, I held several sessions, dealing with the concept of teaching identity, in Second Life. During one of the sessions, I decided to use the abilities of Second Life to disrupt representation. What follows is my audio journal entry as I was trying to formulate this idea in my own mind. It is stream of consciousness written in the style of writers such as James Joyce. TEACHER AS PERFORMANCE ARTIST What I plan on doing is I am thinking or toying with the idea of using a Second Life avatar as… um…a means of disrupting the space around identity or within identity—or around identity—or between identity When you are thinking about how space is constructed…with Second Life, you have a Virtual Space and you have a real space… students will know me as the physical person that “I” am but they will also know me as my avatar representation… I plan to try to disrupt this space by taking my avatar which maybe they would assume would look like me and giving it three separate incarnations. The first is to transform my avatar as a female figure looking at how femaleness as a visual representation impacts students’ understandings of me as an educator. I want to challenge the idea that representation can be sort of… uh…held captive by a particular group that only certain groups can look in certain ways and, for instance, challenge that idea of what it means to be feminine in the minds of these students. From a feminist perspective, feminine does not have to mean being female in form. I want to question how they interpret femaleness in terms of imagery. I am not planning on provoking discussion in this direction until we actually get to that point because what I am bringing them in for is to discuss their own identity; it is my hope uh that they will possibly think about the repercussions and the… um…what is problematic for them about me representing myself as a female… um…within this discussion of identity. Whether or not they feel I can have any sort of identity by representing myself as a female… I take on any sort of feminine qualities in their eyes because they may or may not have certain conceptions of what it means to be female. “I”: Would you feel comfortable being the opposite sex?

RG: I don’t think so. It would be kind of weird.

ER: I agree with Grant.

FR: I feel like my representation represents a different me, like, undercover.

ER: It would defeat the purpose of representation.

“I”: What would defeat the purpose of representation?

ER: We are all representations of ourselves.

“I”: But you could be anyone.

DJ: Yes but no matter what I believe[,] you are still representing yourself. My sessions in Second Life with elementary educators provided me with an ontological leap into a new conception of the research topic. The comment by DJ (ironically enough) continually looped through my brain. “Yes, but no matter what I believe [,] you are still representing yourself.” No matter what form I took, my performance allowed that visualization to embody “i” as the perception of the w/hole. Representation as past experience was held still by students so that I could not fully become other. Knowledge is power; student perceptions and memories of me distort the event. I could not fully be female because students knew me as other, not only other to who they were as females, but other to my own “image.” Whether “I” were a hippo, a cockroach, a table, or a chair, the signification held through the performance of “image,” however when students consciously thought about who I was outside of Second Life, the chain of significaiton was broken. Butler states: If every performance repeats itself to institute the effect of identity, then every repetition requires an interval between acts, as it were in which risk and excess threaten to disrupt the identity being constituted. The unconscious is this excess that enables and contests every performance, and which never appears within the performance itself. (p. 28) Just as in the act of writing described by Derrida (1988), the unconscious is “signed” through the event of the signature. The In<SCRIPT>ion becomes the way in which we write the self as “image.” These “images” are discrete and continuous fragments, data or information inscribed on the surface. Day One: I walk into class and pace around the room waiting for seats to fill. The room is quiet. I walk outside to check the clock because I have forgotten to wear my watch today. I walk back into class and over to my computer where I fiddle with my email. I look up to see that two more people have entered the classroom. I go back to my email and glance at the small digital clock at the top of the screen, seven minutes to go. I tell the students that there is no need to sit silently. They give a murmured chuckle. Seven minutes pass and class begins. An In<SCRIPT>ion of the Events: A Return to the First Day of Class Each semester Teaching Art for Elementary Educators has a similar beginning. As I stand in front of the class and look across the many faces, it becomes apparent that my sex puts me in the minority of those choosing to enter the elementary education profession. Having taught elementary school as a male, I am well aware that each individual who enters the classroom brings with her the cultural stereotypes associated with male teachers. Such stereotypes combined with past experiences of art education merge to form an “image” of what the class will become, and yet neither I nor my students are without agency in the classroom situation. “I”: “Ok, well my name is Mr. Sutherlin, not Dr. Sutherlin, I have not finished my dissertation, so I am just Mr. Sutherlin…Even if I had finished my dissertation you could still call me Mr. Sutherlin. I would not be offended… in fact, I am not sure that I would not prefer that.”

I tell them a little about myself, and then we go around the room, learning something about everyone in the classroom. “I”: “Alright, the first thing we are going to do is a sketch. If you will look on the board, you will see the following question: If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be and why? Please draw an image of this person along with your explanation.”
Student: “What if I don’t want to be anybody else; what if I only want to be myself.”
“That is fine, just tell me why you want to be yourself rather than someone else.”
This student’s question made me realize that it was quite possible that many people were offended by my question. Could it be possible that each might take a moral stance as a means of defiance to all outside cultural influences? Many stated that the only person whom they would ever want to be was “myself” or “me,” existence in a vacuum of individuality. The following is a list of descriptions from student drawings: I drew, well tried to draw myself. I have been through my share of hard times in my past and have finally come out on top. I am proud of the person I am, so right now in my life I would not like to be anyone else but the person I have become.

I would like to be myself because I can control my actions and opinions better than anyone else would. Also, because I don’t drink/smoke, I have already made a difference in children’s lives already.

I like being me. It’s the only person I really know how to be. I’ve gotten pretty good at being me, so I’m going to stick with it.

I am happy just being me. I have a wonderful family and great friends. I am excited about where my life is and where it is going. The thing I am most excited about is becoming a teacher and spending the rest of my life with kids.

If I could be anyone in the world, I would want to be myself in a few years because by then I will successfully be at a job and maybe have a family. Autonomy pervades these descriptions of self. Through the process of interpellation, to be “myself” is to be generic; yet, if we can apprehend with our senses, we become capable of knowing the subject—“myself” or “me”—through interaction with it (Althuser, 2008). Within a description of “myself” are those elements that shape the selfhood of the students in the class. Each class member also drew an image of who each one wanted to be. In most cases this image was generic like the generic “myself.” The representation of self was devoid of detail, a symbol for selfhood rather than a full divulgence of identity or the Real. Their classifications of self were as things, static objects that had been created with an objective in mind, the answering of my question, the question “I” posed: if you could be anyone in the world, who would you be and why? Other students embraced the idea of becoming someone other than “myself,” an incarnation as someone other or an avatar. This idea allowed them to think about the qualities they would like to exhibit. The students who embraced this idea found examples in the entertainment industry. In the first example, we discover a desire for another being that is multi-layered. It is not enough to simply separate these layers; it is necessary to understand how these layers flow one into the other. I would want to be Bella from Twilight because she has an amazing personality and gets to date a hot Cullen boy named Edward and his life story is really interesting in the books.

In this example, the student blends the boundaries between cinema and the printed word. In the classroom discussion about her chosen avatar, the student discussed attributes of the characters in the film Twilight, released three months prior, and the book Twilight, written several years earlier. The “hot Cullen boy named Edward” is not an idea that was determined solely by reading a description in the novel. This is made apparent through the student’s addition of the phrase “his life story is really interesting in the books” as if the Edward Cullen previously spoken of was not this same Edward. Rather, the actor playing Edward, Robert Pattinson, merges with Edward Cullen, the character in the film, who merges with the Edward Cullen, the character in the book. Edward Cullen is not simply one of these entities; he is both, all, and none of them. Edward is not the person this student wants to be; the student wishes to be a person who has an intimate connection to Edward. There is affective desire produced in the student’s physical body that makes him/her want to become Bella, an individual who will have direct physical contact with Edward. In other words, the student has illustrated the interactivity necessary to assume identity. Yet it is interesting to note that Bella’s “amazing personality” is not described. We have no knowledge as to what the student envisions an “amazing personality” to be. Based on this description, to be Bella without interaction would be simply to be a singular, a dot in space. If I could be anyone else in the world, I would be the actress Debra Messing. I believe she is very classy and poised. She appears to be comfortable in her own skin and being a successful actress helps, too. : ) The “image” portrayed by Debra Messing becomes one of class and poise; yet we have no way of knowing what lies behind this “image”. What we do know is that to this student the image portrayed by Messing is one in which the actress “. . . appears to be comfortable in her own skin.” This is where the spectacle can become a generative tool, rather than one of negation. A space has opened for dialogue about what we do not see. Why would an individual want to be someone who is comfortable in his or her “own skin,” and what is the meaning of the phrase “own skin?” Do we truly own our skin? Skin becomes a metphor for representation or image. Whether or not an individual can own their representation either gives or negates power. To own ones representation is to be comfortable with that representation and utilize it as a source of power. The concept of image in relation to the spectacle of celebrity provided a plethora of topics to discuss in the classroom. Such questioning is analogus to to the concept of Merleau-Ponty’s visible and invisible and Derrida’s writing of the body. In our discussion and drawings, the “image” of appearance has become the new mode of circulation and the “image” is what becomes the attachable/detachable machine that is a conduit of flow, but what if the “image” is more than physical-appearance? In retrospect, there were some aspects of this conversation that I cut off and directed more fully than “I” should have. I believe my frustration with what I deemed as a less than satisfactory direction of the discussion on my part was the result of my failure to apply the principles of the briocoluer, of taking the tools at hand and using them as a means of permitting a new method of “seeing.” The mirror or looking glass provides a metaphor for an inversion of “self.” It is an inversion which subjectifies/objectifies that which is observed, and yet the observer and observed are both observing one another. In metaphorical terms, the mirror produces a reflection that can be reflected again and again in a recursive pattern. Recursive reflection becomes subjective interpretation. Educationally, mental reflection allows one, as a form of assessment, to step outside his or her teaching practice. Assessment is not only about the evaluation of student learning. It is also about the evaluation of teaching practice. Reflection by the teacher on his or her teaching practice culminates in an incarnation of practice. “I am not a teacher”: being/becoming alterity The material universe, the plane of immanence, is the machine assemblage of movement-images. Here Bergson is startlingly ahead of his time: It is the universe as cinema in itself, a metacinema (Deleuze, 1986a, p. 59). The teacher identity or the conception of teacher identity is an assemblage that is based on the experiences of those who render it (re)incarnate. These cinematic assemblages are constructed from the experience of the teacher in conjunction with popular culture references to teaching as a profession. The (re)thinking of my teacher identity became my most difficult struggle. This struggle originated not only from student understandings and misunderstandings of the concept of teacher, but from my own as well. The movement-images that I created produced an identity or image with which I had to contend. As for many individuals, there is for me a Being that resonates: Teacher or Educator. Throughout this study, I tried to (re)think the position of teacher from a perspective that was the inverse/reverse of what I had conceived teacher identity to be. This led to many failures and will, I am certain, lead to many more failures; however, just as in artistic practice, the practice of teaching requires risk. Teaching is not a safe profession. Rather than centralizing the teacher identity as one individual, one way of Being, one representation of self, “i” should take comfort in the fact that “i” am part of an ever evolving network that allows for the current of becoming. “I” am at a liminal point in my career as “I” am moving out of public school and into the university setting. As a teacher, “I” am relatively new to the field of education. As a student and son of a teacher, “I” have been involved with education since the age of four. My mother is a teacher whose model “I” have at different times espoused/declined, her primary credo being “Save time, do it my way.” This authoritative model of student interaction functions after the efficiency model. “Madeline Hunter that avatar of efficiency education has given us the blueprint to retro education of the 50’s. But print is dead; our illiterates roam the streets, unable to read or write or deal with bureaucracy (jagodinski, 1997).” Efficiency education is a product-based model that is less time consuming for the student and the teacher. It is a perpetuation of instruction as a meta-narrative that perpetuates a narrowly defined model of teacher and dictates the “image” of teaching. The “tell them what you are going to teach them, teach them, and tell them what you taught them” model creates a system of separation. I am going to teach you about X today, not XY or XWZ. This authoritative model perpetuates the understanding of learning as something dictated by the teacher who knows to students who do not know which limits the possibilities of learning for students and teacher alike. Throughout the course of the semester, students’ artworks reflected their fascination with the spectacle of popular culture at what I considered at the time to be the most basic of levels. Instead of asking questions which explored their fascination with popular culture, I became frustrated by their inability to move beyond the spectacle. My frustration resulted as much from the perceived time constraints of the course as it did from my inability to see the importance of my students’ interests. I understand now that the inventions of students should have been better integrated into my teaching practice. What I did not understand at the beginning of this study was just how important the making aspect of this project was to a reconstruction of interpretation. This became apparent to me as the study progressed and making was more fully integrated into the second cycle. I had always thought of the hypermedia construction as being the invention portion of this study, but it was performed individually rather than integrated into the classroom conversation. One of the major turning points in this study came for me during a class discussion of what I termed critical visual literacy. In my understanding, critical visual literacy required the reader/interpreter of an image to see the hidden agenda of the image and in so doing to become liberated from its holding power. I centered the class discussion around a particular set of images that I had found in various online locations. I deliberately chose images dealing with issues of sexuality and gender because of the overtones of their message. I believed sex and gender to be two of the easiest characteristics for students to identify within the image because of their pervasiveness within visual culture. The first image was an advertisement with a photograph of film star Rock Hudson. The caption at the top of the advertisement read IT'S A PSYCHOLOGICAL FACT: PLEASURE HELPS YOUR DISPOSITION. Beneath the caption is an image of two women. One stares aghast at the woman across from her who wears the head of a dog; the “other” woman is obviously a female dog or “bitch” whose disposition is less than congenial. In the frame below this image, Rock Hudson sits petting a collie of similar coloration while smoking a Camel cigarette. I began the analysis of the image. Instead of allowing for student possibilities, I filled in the blanks for them. “I”: Cigarettes are paralleled with sex or at least heavy petting. The image can be seen in the screenshot from VUE below. As we progressed through the images, it became clear that the discussion was less of a dialogue between student and student or student and instructor and more of a monologue by myself. As the teacher, I began to construct the (con)text of the discussion and therefore to determine the interpretation of images. We went through various images, including a Louis Vitton advertisment pictured in the screenshot below in which “I” felt the sexual message was the most overt. A woman stands in front of a target, her legs spread slightly, knives surround her legs as if someone has been aiming at the target. The central point of the target lies between the woman’s legs. We discussed the semiotic relationship between knives and penetration and the ways in which it shaped the tagline: Shoes for Women and Men. Afterwards, we constructed our own maps of images taken from magazines. Most of these images were advertisements, which contributed to the (con)text of what was to follow. In their groups, students took their images and pasted them on a large sheet of paper. They then began to look through other magazines for more visual associations. As they looked, they tore out images that related to the initial image in question and pasted those images to the sheet of paper. Working collaboratively, they came up with an entire network of images that related back to the initial image. They drew connections on the paper between the initial image and the appropriated images from the magazines. The appropriated images were then connected together through the same process. Words and phrases marked the connections and illustrated the connections. What I discovered very quickly was that almost all of the student interpretations became sexual. My hypothesis for this is two-fold: 1) I created a psychological (con)text that relied on sexual interpretation as a means of understanding and making meaning from the image and 2) students sought to give me, as the teacher, the “right” answer. While these two aspects are separate, they are not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, it speaks not only to the practice of image interpretation but also to the practice of education as a whole. The theory that has been created and illustrated in previous/contiguous chapters was greatly influenced by this hypothesis. More directly, it influenced my conception of visual literacy as a means of forcing a way of “seeing.” Journal

Monday March 2nd 2009

Today we worked on the construction of our paper maps. These maps were meant to aid students in the process of image interpretation. What we discovered was that many of the interpretations were culturally constructed in some way. One image interpretation troubled both other students and myself [image below] as well. The image was that of a man in an Ice Breakers Gum ad; students began their discussion of the image with a label. “GAY” in big bold letters was inscribed at the bottom of the page. They then proceeded to describe through their use of images and text why this image represented the word “GAY”. Their associations went from fresh breath to love interest to BOYS to desire to marriage (ring). It branched in other direction[s—] too feminine. In the top right-hand quadrant of the image was an ad for Just for Men. “GAY” was also associated with fruity cocktail drinks, party, and disco.
I am [was] not quite sure how to address this interpretation without making those who created it feel guilty about what they have produced. While the image does seek superficial attempts at acceptance, it has strong undertones of prejudice. Some students have [had] even asked me to take it down. I have [had] used these instances as opportunities to discuss the issue further; however, this has not yet been done in the class in which it was created. Journal
Wednesday March 4th 2009
Today we discussed the maps in each of the classes. Before beginning the discussion, I explained the importance of etiquette in my set. I told students to be sure to be sensitive to the feelings of others as they discussed the maps. Each group discussed their map and how they made the connections they created. One student did bring up the fact that the map of the group with the Ice Breakers Gum ad troubled her. There was a little tension in the room, but I tried to mediate it as best possible. Students who constructed the map stated that it was not that they were saying that these things were qualities that they necessarily perceived this individual to exhibit; however, they did acknowledge some of the stereotypical phrasing, imagery, and lack of sensitivity to the issue of homosexuality. This brought us to a broader discussion of imagery that we use in the classroom and how it can effect/affect student self esteem and sense of self worth. I think I handled this situation the best that I could without imposing my own interpretations on the students who created the work. As a teacher it is important to my teaching practice to be sensitive to those voices that are counter to my own beliefs. If I am accusatory in my teaching practice, it will only breed guilt and resentment. This is not always an easy task. It is something that I work on constantly. The following discussion unfolded several days after the first. It also demonstrates the directive qualities of the first image interpretations, but does so through more questions than did the discussion of the first set of interpretations. As you will see, I still direct student comments; however, in this instance, students’ felt more confident and played a greater role in directing the conversation. They described the images based on their own experiences and the memories of those experiences. In the following dialogue, we were looking at images drawn by students who were in my class when I taught elementary school. The discussion was based on visual culture and the elementary student’s depiction of the perfect toy for a boy and the perfect toy for a girl. “I”: Bratz are the perfect toy because they are fun to play with. What do we notice in terms of the differences between [the drawing of] this Bratz doll and [of] this Bratz doll?
Student 1: She has clothes on.
“I”: She actually has clothes on.
“I”: This one almost looks more like...what?
Student 2: A prostitute.
“I”: Almost like a prostitute.
“I”: The midriff is covered, the dress is long, and you can see that there is still an adherence to appropriateness within the child’s drawing. Because they know they are in the educational context and they know that they can't draw a Bratz doll like this because it is inappropriate for the context that they are in. So that is just another thing to consider. How do we set up a context of openness within our classroom so that images can be discussed [so] that it doesn't seem like… um... we are going to impose our values? That is a difficult thing because I know that in this classroom I impose my own values. I know I do it. It happens all the time.
Student 3: Ok, you know how the girl drew the Bratz Doll with the longer dress. Is that saying that like, you know how like toymakers...because like teenagers dress how the real Bratz doll dresses, do think that like she, do [they] think that like kids would still wear them if they had like you know real clothes on and maybe the toymakers don't know that like kids will still like the dolls if they had real clothes on, you know.
“I”: That is a totally different interpretation I had not thought of.
Student 3: That is what I was thinking of like that she would still like it even if it had real clothes on.
“I”: So even if the doll was covered up, it is a possibility, according to this image, that she would still play with it.
Student 3: She would still play with it.
“I”: That is interesting take on it; I had not thought of it in that way. Does anybody else have any ideas relating to that?
Student 4: Before Bratz [there] were Barbie[s].
Student 1: Yeah and Barbies are still successful.
Student 5: We like our Barbies, and she had clothes on.
Student 6: And girls have always dressed like that.
“I”: So, if you are thinking about a dissection of Barbie, is Barbie an ideal or [a] realistic notion of women?
Student 1: She is still ideal but *chuckle* her clothing is more realistic.
Student 2: Now Barbie has tattoos and stuff.
Student 1: Yeah, but you still...then we have always had Barbie. Barbie would not be able to stand up straight because of her measurements.
Class: *Chuckle*
Student 1: She is not realistic.
Student 3: Yeah.
Student 1: So she's . . .
Student 3: I like the clothes they make for Barbie versus than like Bratz. If I had kid, I don't think I would let them play with dolls that wear clothes like that; that is like sending a wrong image to them.
Student 7: Then are you going to let them play with GI Joe cause most guys don't look like that either.
Student 1: Well . . .
Student 7: Or dress like . . .
Student 3: Probably so because my parents are both in the military.
Student 4: That is also a military context; it is not like the terrorist or criminal . . .
Student 1: Your issue was that is not a modest way to [dress] whereas GI JOE it might not be ideal for everybody, but at least he is dressed modestly.
Student 3: They are changing Dora the Explorer too. Like, she has like long hair and like a shorter skirt or dress or whatever . . ..
Student 1: YES! Yeah they made Dora slutty. How do you do that?
*Chuckle*
“I”: That is all good conversation to have in relationship to this as the landscape changes, and it is constantly changing. That is something that we have to be aware of. Culture is always in a state of becoming rather than being fixed. It is never this is culture; rather, culture is constantly flowing into the next moment so you know at this very moment we are seeing transition in our culture so, if we can be critical about the transitions rather than necessarily think ok this is the way it is and this is the way it is always going to be, we can start to understand how it is affecting children. Three signs are adhering to the window of a sandwich shop stare at me with all their cultural significance as I stare back. The first broadside proclaims $3 Toasty Bullets; the second, $4 dollars Toasty Torpededos; and the third, $5 Toasty Subs. These “signs” shape and are shaped by the way I engage in the process of food consumption, labeling, interaction, and production. The signs produce a vivid image of the warm sandwiches while also utilizing a discourse of martial attack. By naming, consumption has become an act of war based on the desire to satiate hunger. Hunger or desire becomes something that must be attended to through violent action: the shooting of a bullet, the launching of a torpedo, the deployment of a submarine. Such an attack on hunger can overshadow the intimate nature of food. We consume it, and it transforms into energy that allows us to take action in the world. Those who create the food we eat put effort into its creation. They are able to do so because of the energy they have attained through their own food consumption. It is a network of interaction rather than an overwhelming force arriving to make things “better” by dominating or subjucating an enemy. How does the environment in which we exist shape the unconconcious through consumption and in turn how does the conscious recognition or reflexive analysis of such constumption allow us to rethink the metaphors that we live by. During both the spring and summer semesters of 2009, I tried to introduce multimedia as a provocation for classroom discussion; some days this method worked better than others. On one particular occasion we were discussing the power of animation to display images that might otherwise be too graphic or horrific to display in traditional film. It was at that point that I chose to show a film clip from YouTube titled Food Fight by Stefan Nadelman. The description by Nadelman calls Food Fight a “chronologically re-enacted smorgasbord of aggression.” He gives a synopsis of the food representations on his site. However, he states that it may be more “fun” for the viewer to discover the food representations on his or her own. Before showing the film, I made the statement that images have power and that a critical eye is needed when deciding what images are shown in the classroom and how they are presented. My intent was to show that one piece of media could have multiple interpretations and that each of those interpretations could be equally valid depending upon the perspective of the viewer. As students and I discussed the film after its completion, the class was polarized; one group of students was appalled while the other group thought it was “the funniest thing I [they] have [had] ever seen.” We discussed the representations utilized and many of the students were concerned about the use of stereotypes to depict such horrific acts of war. From the perspective of those students who were appalled by the visual representations, the depictions of Americans as hamburgers and chicken nuggets, British as fish and chips, Germans as bratwurst and pretzels, Japanese as sushi, etc., went beyond political incorrectness. Those students who found the imagery to be funny thought of the entire film as satire and had no problems with the foods chosen as representations of nationality. Throughout the discussion, I tried to work as facilitator and keep my own personal viewpoint separate from the discussion by playing devil’s advocate for both sides of the argument. While no one was ultimately “converted” to the other’s point of view, the process of becoming cannot be relegated to a particular class period. Some students opened up to the conversation while others completely shut down, clinging to their viewpoint on the world. The drastic change I had hoped to see in student perception of these images was not realized for many during the class period. What I felt at the time was a failure may have, in fact, been something that students continued to think about for some time beyond the end of the class. Discussions of national identity and spectacle were also engaged in through the deconstruction of prominent cultural icons, including those that most directly relate to children and childhood. Instead of allowing students to deconstruct these images for themselves, I took the route of efficiency. I showed a short clip from the video Mickey Mouse Monopoly. The film discusses the spectacle that Disney has made of innocence and how that innocence relates to the conception of childhood. As Giroux stated in the Jenkin’s (1998) publication, “…the Disney Company has become synonymous with a notion of innocence that aggressively rewrites the historical and collective identity of the American past.” (p. 45) Some of the first responses occurred before the film was even finished. Comments of “that’s crazy” and “yeah, right” were heard throughout the room. When the video ended, I asked the students, “What do you think?” The first responses were that “some people have too much time on their hands” and “I watched Disney films all my life, and I don’t think that way.” Some of the students were offended by the suggestion that Disney might be anything other than a moral authority on what is “good” and “right” in the world. I tried to engage the students in a discussion of this video on a level other than a strictly emotional response, but the damage had already been done. Acknowledgement by the student that Disney was in anyway responsible for the dissemination of anything other than truth would be an admission of complicity and guilt. What I failed to perceive during the interaction with students is that Disney was part of what made them American. To question Disney was to become un-American in their eyes. Many thought that the points made by the critics in the three-minute clip were too strong and that no child would interpret or internalize the imagery in a similar fashion as these critics had. What this exercise allowed me to see was that the carefully constructed “image” presented by a teacher should question rather than accuse. I had accused them of wrong doing rather than allowing the “images” to unfold before their eyes. I failed to create safe place in which beloved images could be questioned. I also asked the question, “What does the song Someday My Prince Will Come mean to you?” One student said immediately, “What should it say, someday my asshole will come?”, as if the song presented only a system of binary relationships, asshole-prince. I then asked why she should have to wait at all? This question spurred a conversation about “feminism” in its familiar guise and a discussion of the glass ceiling, and the workplace, etc. One student immediately piped up with a comment that was impressive in relation to the construction of “image”. When an individual mentioned the glass ceiling, she said, “Isn’t your [the other student’s] discussion of the glass ceiling perpetuating the image of the glass ceiling.” Her comment was misunderstood, and the class went back to discussing the inequality of women in the workplace. I redirected them back to the student’s comment because I felt that it was pertinent to the discussion. The metaphor of a glass is utilized because of the ability of those seeking promotion to look up and see what they could attain if a barrier did not exist. The fragility of glass is irrelevant in this metaphor. However, what this student had realized was the ability to reprogram the metaphor in a way in which the idea of a glass barrier lost all power. Her comment alludes to the way in which Representn’ perpetuates myth. The metaphor of a glass ceiling calls attention to the ability of those seeking promotion to look up and see what they could attain if barriers did not exist. The fragility of glass is irrelevant in this metaphor. However, what this student had realized was the possibility of reprogramming the metaphor in such a way that the idea of a glass barrier lost all power. Glass became both transparent and fragile. Fragility is an attribute of the comparison that is rarely considered. Her second signification took on the attributes of the “intruder” who crosses boundaries without regard for culturally and socially constructed norms (Ong, 1982). This was what Ulmer (1994) calls a eureka moment. What if cultural consumption is not simply about regurgitation of the pre-existent metaphors or dead metaphors, what if it is about the enlivening of those metaphors? Repetition of the signified gives the metaphor of the glass ceiling power, while repetition with a difference activates the semiotic chain of metonymy (Ulmer, 2003).
The purpose of the “image” in “image” / “i” / “nation” is provocation. It is the utilization of “image” as a generative tool that allows for dialogue and new conceptions of self and reality. The concept of “image” constructs not only the way that we think about certain aspects of our lives, it constructs an “image” of the process of thinking itself.
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