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Otherance, Self-Representation and the Commodity Other



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Title: Otherance, Self-Representation and the Commodity Other
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Copyright Date: 2008

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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0010821/00001

Material Information

Title: Otherance, Self-Representation and the Commodity Other
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0010821:00001


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Otherance, Self-Representation and the Commodity Other


Ron Edelen

.1 ,. and Sciences

Submitted to the ( II of Fine Arts
School of Art and Art History,
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the defree of
Master of Fine Arts in :. '.I .1 and Sciences at the
University of Florida
May 200oo5

Copyright Ron Edelen, 2005
All rights reserved




Author





Ron Edelen
I I .1.I and Sciences
April 20, 2005

Certified by





Brian Slawson
Associate Professor, ( II of Fine Arts
Graphic Design
Thesis Chair





Scott Nygren
Associate Professor, Department I .1 I
Film and Media Studies





Tresa Asselin
Assist. : ... Director & Lecturer, ( II of Fine Arts
'. and Sciences


















Otherance, Self-Representation and the Commodity Other


Abstract


Ron Edelen

Submitted to the ( II of Fine Arts
School of Art and Art History,
on May I, 2005
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the defree of
Master of Fine Arts in
.1I !, and Sciences


Otherance is a two-part digital art installation that acts as a simu-
lacrum of culture by juxtaposing our desire for otherness with the
everyday routine. How we define our culture, our differences, and
ourselves is represented here through an ideological construction
of difference as a commodity. The work consists of painted and
sculptural components mixed with digital and video media. Public
artist Dave Kinsey delivers provocative social commentary through
his vibrant and haunting portrayal of characters from the city
streets. Analogous to Kinsey's characterization process, this instal-
lation creates a portrait of the American white-male as the mun-
dane (routine). This is juxtaposed with a very stylized, commercial-
ized form of the exotic Other contextualizing the experience of
Otherness into what I summarize as an adventure. Furthermore,
the adventure reassures our own representation, while moralizing
against those nasty systems that don't cause any surprise.
Otherness is a desire made profitable by culturally-themed at-
tractions, services, and consumer goods. In this installation, differ-
ence is bottled and packaged as a product using the pseudo-brand
name Otherance. It is appropriated and altered through political,
social, and economic filters. As a result, the representation received
by the consumer is a myth. Parallel to Roland Barthes' Mytholo-
gies, this installation produces a satirical, stylized commentary
that deconstructs the myths surrounding our daily lives. The myth
serves as a "safe" way to fill the void of desire, helping to define that
consumer's own representation. As this project is from the percep-
tion of the artist, these filters reflect that of an American white-
male. This perception suggests a mythological representation of the
white-male without origin, culture, or ideology.
The differences sold and consumed simultaneously represent our
own perception of what we are and what we are not. The installation
suggests that we represent our own desires it is our own culture
that represents Otherness, not Otherness that represents itself or us.

















Acknowledgements


Many thanks go the people who have helped me during studies in
the University of Florida Digital Arts and Sciences, Graphic De-
sign, and the Computer Science areas. Also thanks to the team at
the Digital Worlds Institute and those who helped in preparation of
this thesis.
My thesis committee Brian Slawson, Scott Nygren and Tresa As-
selin for their valuable insights and historical knowledge. Connie
Hwang for the continual pursuit of purpose and cultural influence.
Arturo Sinclair for influential craftsmanship and superior experi-
ence in the field of digital arts.
Professor Brian Slawson, for your consistency of vision. Thanks
for teaching me so much, I am forever indebted.
Finally, my wife Connie: for supporting us both and living the
struggle. My mother and family, for their everlasting encourage-
ment. I hope to make you proud.

















Table of Contents


I Introduction
Motivation/Antecedents 05
Influences 06


2 Installation
Melancholy Cow & the Butterfly 09
The Montage Io
Raising Tables 12
Otherance 14


3 Background
Myth, Art, Culture 17
Binary Oppositions, the Orient and Me 20


4 Concluding Remarks
Analysis 22
A Digital Ideology


5 Appendix
Brand-Motion Graphics 23
Sherman-Commodity Other 24
Discourse-Medium or Message 26


References 28

















Introduction


Motivation/Antecedents
My formative years were spent in a small east-coast town in
Florida where the majority of the residents where white-American,
talked the same, and dressed as if they either shopped atJC-Penny
or the local surf shop. At the time (being a child), the place was very
comfortable, fulfilling, and unquestionably natural-where differ-
ence was nothing more than a fairytale. I can no longer relate to
this memory of innocence. This self-history seems far from natu-
ral. It is mundane, boring and melancholy. This process of matu-
ration happened relatively quickly through my early college years.
Inward "gaze" (upon myself) spawns very interesting comments
on identity and the myth of childhood. Furthermore, the change
sparked a desire for all that is different-questioning my monotone
childhood understanding of culture. The desire drives me to define
difference, and seek it out.
French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (Cartwright, 2001) puts "the
gaze" at the center of how individuals deal with their desire. For
example, Lacan saw the mirror phase the moment when a child
recognizes and idealizes itself in reflection as a meaningful visual
act that is key to an individuals' psychological development. Ac-
cording to Lacan, the mirror phase is a stage of development in
which the infant first experiences a sense of alienation in its realiza-
tion of separateness from other human beings. Marita Sturken and
Lisa Cartwright in Practices of Looking define Lacan's theory as:

There is much debate over this theory, yet according to Lacan infants establish egos
at about 18 months. This is achieved through the process of looking at a mirror
body-image. In theory this mirror body-image does not necessarily have to be a
literal mirror image of their own body and may be an image of their mother or
another figure. This split recognition forms the basis of their alienation at the same
time that it pushes them to grow. (Cartwirght, 2001, p. 360)

The mirror phase is a useful framework to understand the emo-

















tion and power invested by viewers in images as a kind of ideal. Not
only does this impact my understanding of perception as a child, it
also questions my role as a visual artist and image maker. Under-
standing this ideal (the way in which the viewer engages an image) is
an ongoing study in psychoanalytic and visual theory. Using these
theoretical references, influences, and my own personal experi-
ences, I intend to do two things:


I. De-construct the installation, foregrounding assumptions
embedded in an ideal (as the mirror-phase framework suggests)
for the work. This ideal will represent what the viewer may in-
vest in the work, and ultimately leave with.
2. Through the process of creating the visual artifact, I intend to
explore a personal pilgrimage for representation. Ajourney for
an exalted purpose or moral significance seems simultaneously
a search for ones own representation.


Influences
One of the most exciting elements of Digital Arts and Sciences
is the incredible range of interdisciplinary influences that become
a part of the everyday process. Many artists, designers, engineers,
anthropologists, historians, scientists, musicians, and perform-
ers have provided a very synergetic learning environment. Looking
back upon my earlier years of graduate studies, the melting pot of
influences caused extreme confusion in regards to personal goals
and conceptual direction. Although I claim to have narrowed my
influences to only a few in this project in-lieu-of thesis, I have kept
many others in mind. For example, it is possible to name a dozen
strong influences in the field of performance art. For simplifica-
tion purposes I will discuss only the one that is most closely related
to this particular study.
Conceptually, the greatest influence to date is Designer and
Performance artist Elliott Earls. Elliott is currently the Designer-in
Residence and Head of the 2-D Design Department at Cranbrook



















































Elliott Earls, Bull and Wounded Horse


Academy of Art and Design in Michigan. Upon Graduation from
Cranbrook in 1993, Earls's experimentation with nonlinear digital
video, spoken word poetry, music composition and design led
him to form the widely recognized Apollo Program. As a typogra-
pher, the type foundry Emigre distributes his original type design
worldwide. For me, Elliott has been the foremost example of an
inter-disciplinary methodology that focuses on originality as the
truest form of visual communication. Rarely working in collabora-
tion, Elliott "creates" everything himself-from the typefaces in his
posters to the musical score in his performances. Although there
are cases of content appropriation in my own work (typeface, drum
machine, and paisley patterns), it has been a personal challenge to
work with a similar philosophy whereas everything you see and hear
is an original creation of the artist. Elliott also questions theoreti-
cally the definition of originality, as it exists in contemporary soci-
ety. Can an artist declare a work to be original without disregarding
all of those who have come before? For example, the tool in which
I use to animate my ideas is a creation of another (group of others)
and therefore inflicts a degree of constraints (constructs) that are
not of my own intention and have limited or no control over.
Artist, illustrator, and designer Dave Kinsey is influential on
many levels. His vibrant use of color and design executed in large-
scale public and museum environments engage the audience with
an epic presence. The message behind Kinsey's art reminds us that
within the struggles of life and a multi-cultural society we are not
alone. Kinsey's work asks audiences to change their perspective. To
survive is to evolve with the environment-to Unlearn. Kinsey is
most widely known for his provocative social commentary delivered
through his vibrant and haunting portrayals of characters from the
city streets. The urban landscape as a canvas remains a constant
while he continues to exhibit his Fine Art in galleries locally and
internationally.
As a growing artist in the field of Digital Art, the issues of tradi-
tional vs. non-traditional art practices constantly confront me. Al-

















though my work is not as strongly urban-influenced, Kinsey's pro-
cess has allowed me to see important elements of my surroundings
and represent them in my own visual language. In 1996, Kinsey
founded the creative agency BLK/MRKT after observing the wid-
ening gap between corporate marketing techniques and the youth
culture that advertisers were trying to reach. The company immedi-
ately made an impact producing work for the X-Games, Mountain
Dew, DC shoes, and many other trend-setting brand campaigns.
Kinsey is part of a growing dimension of urban-influenced design-
ers changing the scene of traditional and non-traditional art and
visual media.



"The objective of the Unlearn message is to push
people into seeing a perspective other than their
own-and to question the origin of what is considered
normal and tolerable." Dave Kinsey


Dave Kinsey:
Untitled, Expired '03, Pris 4 '98

















Installation


Mrkt. Street Installation
Melanchojy Cow
Photo by Dylan Romer


Melancholy Cow & the Butterfly
The installation is about an interaction between two subjects. The
first subject is a characterized self-portrait. The other subject is
an identity (or brand) defined by everything that is NOT me. The
subjects are developed through one perspective (myself), maintain-
ing the representation of Otherness from a white-male perspective.
The Melancholy Cow paintings in this installation are an extension of
an earlier self-portraiture series. The original series focused on an
individual caricature. This installation places the individual into a
herd of its peers. Exaggerating the lifestyle of a domesticated cow
while juxtaposing it with the self-image of my childhood, I derived
a very static, mundane, and melancholy creature.
The repetitive daily behavior of the cow made it easy to make a
relationship between it and myself. The appropriation of the cow's
lack of individuality amongst the herd is an important element
to this installation, suggesting that the white-male is non-unique
amongst its peers, following the "crowd of similarity," compliant to
a set routine generation after generation. Within the white-domi-
nant social environment of my childhood it was the herd that got
noticed-supporting the idea of power in numbers and the Ameri-
can ideology of white dominance. Yet within this, rarely did the
individual receive unique attention. This lack of individuality casts
a melancholy shadow onto the portraiture, supporting a controlled
but aggressive brushwork. The knotted, low-quality plywood gives
the character a course and unclean feel. A conventional canvas gives
the impression of high art status-which is greater than the charac-
ter deserves.
Opposed to using a photograph, the cow is illustrated to allow for
an anamorphic characterization process. The character has cow-like
features while maintaining a human posture. This is a subversive

















process-exaggerating the portrait by merging myself (reality) with
a metaphorical representation (the cow). This is commonly used
in graphic novels, animation, and illustrated narratives as means to
make the subject more emotive, breaking down features and exag-
gerating points of interest. The draping eye cavity and sagging snout
adds a greater weight to the character and the duotone color scheme
projects the mundane quality of this subject.
The Butterfly in contrast is everything that the Melancholy Cow
is not capable of. The Butterfly signifies the exotic. With the ability
to change color, and to move fluidly in an out of alternate en-
vironments, the Butterfly offers potentiality, individuality, and
difference. Since it is my own perception of "self and otherness"
that feeds the development of these characters it is obvious why the
Butterfly takes on a branded identity. This perception of the Other
(see Binary Oppositions Orient and Me) is experienced through
mediated filters-constructs of the institutional gaze, commercial-
ism, cultural appropriation, etc. A large part of this installation
suggests that representation of other cultures (different ideolo-
gies) is channeled through institutional mechanisms often set forth
by one's own culture. In other words, Otherness is manipulated
prior to being consumed and therefore can never experienced in
its original form-regardless of weather or not origin is obtainable
as this thesis suggests that origin itself is a myth. Furthermore, the
Butterfly is used as a commercial icon for the pseudo-band Other-
ance. Therefore, in this definition, the Other is presented as a
consumable good.


Montage
The Other is represented in each piece as the product. The entire
installation is titled Otherance, highlighting the subject of highest
interest. Within the whole, there are two separate yet intertwined
installations: Otherance (left) and Raising Tables (right). As there
is a duality between the mundane and the exotic there is a rela-
tionship between each component of this installation. In favor of


Ehibition Otherance
documentary photo


















the Montage, each individual piece works together to formulate
a richer meaning. On the left side of the installation, Otherance
reflects the result of consumption on an individual. On the right,
Raising Tables justifies the act of consumption through a social/his-
torical reference point. The interaction of the audio between both
pieces is a good example of how the separate works "perform" with
one another. The audio track for Raising Tables is non-linear and
very experiential a continuous, uninterrupted experience. The
Otherance installation in contrast has an intermission, pausing for a
few seconds prior to the narrative repeating. This suggests how the
commodity comes and goes while the routine remains continuous.



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Raising Tables
The desire pushes us towards a process of reification; where we
become things and things become us. In H -i,.. .i .,il.i Esther Les-
lie describes Karl Marx's use of the table to explain this process of
reification:

Marx's footnote to this point reminds the reader of how the tables began to dance
in China, as the rest of the world stood still: pour encourager les autres, he adds.
This cryptic reference, according to an annotated edition of Capital, suggest that
Marx is referencing the anti-feudal liberation revolts in China, which occurred
at the same time as the European bourgeoisie succumbed to a spiritualist fad for
table-raising in the fallow period after the defeat of the 1848/49 revolutions. In
the absence of political progress, European citizens turn mystical-it was indeed the
case that the modern worldwide spiritualist movement was inaugurated in a 'haunt
ed house' with table-rapping in Hydesville, NewYork, on 31 March 1848-while
at the same time in China struggle breaks out, indicated in the phrase 'dancing
tables', a synonym for revolution. (Leslie, 2002, pg. 7)


I further this notion by appropriating the table as visual meta-
phor for social reification. This metaphor connects the table with
the human action of revolution. Specific to this installation, the
act of raising tables signifies a rage against the normative system.
The table stands not only with its feet on the ground; it moves
upward to reveal a change in perception, re-birth, or a political/
spiritual movement. The table also exists on a social level to signify
the object of interaction within an American family. The table is
a place of proper behavior, where one sits daily to discuss their rou-
tine with another person of social significance. The act of tipping
the table suggests and outrage against traditional family structures
exposing the conventional social environment to notions of poten-
tiality and difference.
As a means of subverting the medium, forcing the viewer to focus
on the table, the television is encased in a box to hide most of its vi-
sual indicators such as knobs, volume settings, brand logo, etc. The
video object serves as a container for the work that is shown on and
around it. This neutrality is strongly juxtaposed with the Otherance
component of the installation where the material and object quality


S i .11... .Tables
animation still



























-* 1 1 .1.. .:Tobies
documentary photo


are made vivid by using a 21" Apple Digital Flat Panel Display.
As if frozen in time, the installation shows a table penetrating up
through the video object. The table itself is being raised. On the
screen is a split-animated montage portraying a visual representa-
tion of the Cow and the pseudo-product Otherance. Split horizon-
tally by the table, the audience must interact with the installation
to read and view both sequences. What is experienced on the lower
portion is a sense of release, what is above is the mundane. The
up-turned table exists as a metaphor for revolution or rage against
the system the beginning of an adventure away from the routine.
The mundane (Melancholy Cow) is a self-performance, mirroring the
cows of the adjacent installation. In this instance, the difference
in interpretation is specific to the myself. Hence the cow is indi-
vidualized, as opposed to the idealized, characterization of the cow
paintings. This is intended to connect the cow to myself, as a white-
male. The motion of drinking milk is a metaphor for consump-
tion-suggesting that what is being consumed is a re-consumption
of one's own product (the cow drinking milk).
The juxtaposition in motion exaggerates the differences be-
tween each experience. The bottom portion of the split panel is
an adapted excerpt from the commercial featuring Otherance. This
sequence is very liquid containing exotic blends of color and move-
ment. The top sequence is rigidly animated with a stop-motion
feel as to exaggerate a mechanical movement. The Raising Tables
installation is an experiential piece and therefore does not project
a linear narrative. There is no beginning or end as the animated
sequence loops continuously. The sculptural element of the piece
(table) is designed to capture a moment in time, highlighting the
instance of change, allowing the audience to continuously focus on
the moment. There is a spatial interplay between the art object and
the animation experience follows the theme of Montage, where two
individual "images" work together to form a greater meaning.
Analogous to Marx using the table to explore the act of revolu-
tion across several cultures simultaneously, I am extending this

















metaphor to discuss the "absent other." The table is an artifact
where people of mutual social significance congregate to discuss
their mundane lives and daily routine. The act of tipping the table
suggests and outrage against this conventional process, exposing the
social order to notions of potentiality and difference. The desire
for Otherness is the desire for a personal encounter with another
person who may seem to be from the other side of the planet. The
positioning of the table in this installation is tilted with one side
more towards the ground. In the situation two people where sitting
on opposite sides of the table-one would seem more "grounded"
in the raising process and the other more "altered." The side of the
table with an exaggerated tilt/elevation exposes the person situ-
ated there to Otherance. Since there are no chairs or people in this
installation, it is intended for the audience to fill those roles. Buy
walking in and around the piece, the perspective of changes and
how much information from the split-animation changes.


Otherance
Commodity surrounds our everyday actions. It is the magazine you
read while in the bathroom, or the logo on the toilet seat. It tells
you what to wear, how to speak, what to eat. Commodity exists when
you chat, when you've got mail, or when you "Google." In Caoital
Karl Marx writes:

The existence of things qua commodities, and the value relation between the prod
ucts of labor which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection
with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom.
There it is a definite social relation between people, which assumes for them the
phantasmagoric from of a relation between things. (Marx, 1904, pg. 83)


Exhibition, Otherance As soon as an object or idea becomes a commodity, it is trans-
documentary photo formed into a sensuous-non-sensuous thing. As I try to define
the Other I find myself unavoidably representing people/culture as
objects. This process of objectification creates what I call the Com-
modity Other. The Butterfly objectifies exoticism, using it to sell


































Exhibition Otherance animation still


culture.
Within this installation there is a narrative interplay between the
painted panels and the Otherance commercial. Starting from the bot-
tom panel, the Melancholy cow is presented within the herd. Their
expressions are similar and the mesh of graphic lines and mono-
tone colors create an overall impression of a unified identity. As
the panels progress upward, they decrease in size, creating motion
out of static planes driving the narrative into the center focal point.
Each panel is cut into hard graphic shapes with converging angles
leading the viewer inward, visually portraying desire and exemplify-
ing a kinetic relationship between the mundane and the exotic. In
the second and third panel, the composition focuses on an indi-
vidual amongst the herd being selected to "experience otherness."
The commercial for Otherance is a filter for which the selected in-
dividual progresses through. Presented on a 21"' widescreen Apple
DVI Flat Panel Display, the commercial (signifying the Commodity
Other) is shown with a sleek and savvy craft. The use of technology,
clear presence of the medium, re-enforces the "sale" of the com-
modity object and the mediation of Otherness. This also suggests
how commodification can exoticize something that may not be
exotic by origin. The Otherance commercial pulls from the motion
graphic medium the strong advertisement component of the in-
dustry. This presentation is more poetic and experiential than most
commercial work but still includes appropriated signifiers such as a
product name, logo, and energetic audio cues.
Additional text was cut from the commercial as to focus on image
manipulation in order to convey different "flavors" of Otherance.
The text was directly related to a specific exotic human-quality:
(movement, cosmetic) (eyes, piercing) (virtue, silent) (lips, ravish-
ing) (accent, vintage) (honor, valiant) (romance, warm) (wisdom,
aged) (skin, bold). The omission was done so that the commercial
would be less specific to my own perception of Otherness by not
focusing on features of the human body in which "I" feel are exotic.
Idealizing Otherness to "flavors" of color and movement allows the

















work to relate to a more universal audience.


Exhibition Otherance animation still


Adventure
to moralize against
those nasty patterns
which don't cause
any surprise


what heredity,
what fatality,
what ROUTINE


"To be represented, our universal myth" is the pseudo-marketing
slogan for Otherance. This expresses the notion that within Otherance
there is "our" ideology: to be surrounded in magical decor, to be
cultured, and to be represented.


Above the flat panel display the panels inversely repeat the per-
ception of the cow; staring with the individual, the composition
"zooms" out to portray the cow once again amongst the herd. This
overall component of the exhibit sets up a narrative of transforma-
tion (a before and after) where the character's identity is branded
by the product Otherance. This branding process alters the state of
the individual setting it apart from its peers. I used transparency as
a metaphor for loss of origin, suggesting that once the individual
experience the myth of Otherness, their own representation be-
comes less opaque-broken down and less defined in regards to an
established origin. This also suggests that the Commodity Product
waters down the representation of the consumer.

















Background


Myth, Art, Culture
Looking back at my childhood brings about questions of valid-
ity in regards to origin and culture. The fairytale fragments of my
memory conflict with my current understanding of social structures
and cultural representations. The most important thing that history
has taught me is that history itself is written by those of power. Un-
fortunately, this further complicates my ability to define represen-
tation, origin, and culture and supports Roland Barthes (Barthes,
1972) explanation of myth-where myth becomes a process to how
we understand history. This suggests that myth and history are
interchangeable. Since history is a politically established term, it is
validated and taken as pure fiction. The same establishment conflict
occurs when comparing mythology to religion. Here again I am
suggesting they are one in the same. According to Barthes, myth is
the hidden set of rules, codes and convention through which mean-
ings, which are specific to certain groups, are rendered universal
and given for a whole society. (Barthes, 1972) Myth thus allows the
connotative meaning of a particular thing or image to appear to be
denotative, hence literal or natural.
To discuss this further I will use the Chinese Dynastic culture as
an historical framework for politics, culture, myth, and historical
representation. De-emphasizing traditional disciplinary barriers of
historical study, K.C. Chang's book Art. Myth. andRitual (Chang, 1983)
implements a fundamental perspective for viewing the nature and
structure of ancient Chinese civilization as having a strong political
orientation. To support this Chang begins in the first by present-
ing supportive data in the developing political landscape of the
clan based Dynasties; Hsia, Shang, and Chou. The importance of
the clan, and subsequent lineage, is reflective in the rise and fall
of Dynasties being directly related to the rise and fall of fortunes
of the individual clans in the political arena of the time. Studying

















archeological town layouts revealed much about dynastic rule, but
as Chang's claims, they are much more important than their walls.
Towns represented hierarchical systems of administrative control,
wealth distribution, cross-clan interactions, trade, war, and even
marriages.
Secondly, Chang goes on to discuss that authority (kingship) and
is more than just lineage suggesting that the kinship system could
not maintain the hierarchical status. For example, the early leaders
of Hsia Dynasty did not need moral justification in "earning" a po-
sition over another, since there were no former leaders to compete
with. In contrast, later dynastic leaders had to accomplish specific
deeds in order to maintain or take over power. This required a
system of moral authority or coercive power. Military, rules of be-
havior in ritual, ancestral temples, treasures, ancestral myths of ac-
complishment, formation of heroes, were all tools used to maintain
and establish hierarchical power.
Chang re-enforces this notion of how culture is formed by those
in power. Because we are looking back on this culture form an
archeological perspective, it is important to note that our un-
derstanding of Dynastic culture (its history) is written by making
assumptions from observations of cultural artifacts. This is impor-
tant to note as this project comments heavily on how the artifact
(commodity good) defines a culture. Furthermore, it is important
to note that rituals, heroes, treasures, and trade where a large part
of Chinese Dynastic culture. Largely due to travel on the Silk Road,
"culture" traveled and traded. Many archeologists claim that China
was one of the first true melting pot civilizations, where multiple
cultures and religions flourished within one set of imperial walls.
Expanding on this example, the Imperial Courts of the Sui and
Tang Dynasty, 7th century CE (Thorp, 200o) were made profitable
by trade and travel. Elite artifacts worn by Emperors where often
comprise of several valuable trinkets. Archeological findings have
suggested that in some instances, these trinkets found in Imperial
Burial site of China had other cultural origins, suggested to have

















been traded and sold along the Silk Road from Western lands. In
trying to interpret culture, history, and representation it is im-
portant to grasp the semiotics of an image (connotative/denota-
tive meanings). Each individual artifact, in their original context
outside of China, had significant cultural meaning. Re-contextu-
alized as apart of the Emperors wardrobe, those artifacts became
void of their original meaning and represented (for the Emperor)
as a social symbol. It now represented power, status, showing the
Emperors ability to own other rare cultural artifacts. This supports
the concept of myth and its semiotic framework. Myth is a term
used by French theorist Roland Barthes to refer to the meaning of
a sign that is expressed through connotation. The sign, a semiotic
term, defines the relationship between a vehicle of meaning such
as a word, image, or object and its specific meaning in a particular
context. It is important in semiotics, especially within the discourse
of Otherness, to note that images have different meanings in dif-
ferent contexts. For example a cigarette might signify friendship or
romance in a Hollywood film, but in an antismoking ad it would
signify disease and death.
Rosalind Krauss's modernist approach to this notion of semiot-
ics, there is a prevalent dependency on perception. (Kruass, 1986)
Krauss brings up interesting debates on the existence of original-
ity, or lack there of. Origin falls into an infinite pattern of looking
back onto previous systems. In other words, the myth is a deriva-
tion of yet and earlier myth, of which is proceed by an even earlier
system, and so on.

From our perceptive, the one from which we see that the signifier cannot be rei
fied; that its objecthood, its quiddity, is only a fiction; that every signifier is itself
the transparent signified of an already-given decision to carve it out as the vehicle
of a sign -from this perspective there is no opacity, but only a transparency that
opens onto a dizzying fall into a bottomless system of reduplication. (Kruass, 1986)


Myth, Art, and culture are difficult terms to work with, especially
when using them as tools to understand history and representation.

















Myth is the only means in which I can define my own culture and
my perception of Other cultures, and therefore it is imperative to
discuss the semiotics of historical association.


Binary Oppositions, the Orient and Me
The notion of duality is strongly portrayed in this installation,
representing opposing experiences-the mundane and the exotic.
It is common in the visual arts to use binary opposition such as
nature/culture, male/female, us/them, etc., through which real-
ity has been traditionally represented. The historical reliance on
binary opposition points to the way that difference is essential to
meaning and how we understand things. In binary opposition, the
first category is understood to be unmarked (hence the "norm")
and the second category as marked, hence "other." In the conven-
tional opposition male/female, for instance, the category male is
unmarked, thus normal while the female is marked (the Other),
or not the norm. These categories of marked and unmarked are
most noticeable when the norm is departed from. In my experience
with commercial practice, certain quotas must be met in order to
establish a politically correct message. Those subjects that would be
categorized as norm need to be excluded and those that are marked
would be intentionally sought after. Government and public sys-
tems work in this manner in order to promote culture diversity
within the United States commercial market. Therefore race (black
in opposition to white) suppresses the dominant and features the
marked category. I have grown up in a time where my "Gaze" (on
the marked) is mediated. This mediation is a filtration process
controlled by specific manipulative institutions. Theme-park at-
tractions, Hollywood, MTV, and even Google have all provided me
with the myth of Otherness.
There are ways in which we can think about institutional gazes,
which result in the ability to establish relationships of power. This
now brings us to the notion of the Other. The other is a term used
to refer to the category of subjectivity that is set up in binary op-

















position to dominant subjectivity. The Other refers to that which
is understood as the symbolic opposite to the normative category,
such as the slave to the master, the woman to the man, the black
person to the white person, etc. In contemporary theories that
question the functions of binary opposition in understanding
society and social relations, the Other is that which defines the op-
posite of the dominant pole of the binary opposition (black being
defined as non-white) and which can be understood as disempow-
ered through this opposition. The concept of the Other has been
used by theorists including Edward Said to describe the psychologi-
cal dynamic of power that allows those who identity within a posi-
tion of Western dominance to imagine a racial or ethnic Other,
against which he or she may more clearly elaborate his or her own
dominant self. Going back to the discussion of the mirror-image,
Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the mother is the original mirror-
like Other through whom the child comes to understand his or her
self as an autonomous individual.
Orientalism is a term defined most recently by cultural theorist
Edward Said that refers to the ways that Western cultures conceive
of Eastern and Middle-Eastern cultures as other. (Said, 1979) Said
goes as far as to attribute to these Other cultures qualities of exoti-
cism and barbarism. Orientalism is thus used to set up a binary op-
position between the West (the Occident) and the East (the Orient)
in which negative and/or exotic qualities are attributed to the latter.
For Said, Orientalism is a practice that can be found in cultural
representations, education, social science, and political policy.
For example, referencing current situations in "America's War on
Terror," the stereotype of Middle Eastern people as fanatic terror-
ists is an example of Orientalism. Similar analogy can be made with
Soviets and the Nazi regime. The act of looking commonly thought
of as awarding more power to the person who is looking than to the
person who is object of the look. Karl Marx boldly stated in refer-
ence to the Other that "They can not represent themselves, there-
fore they must be represented."

















Concluding Remarks


Analysis
I. Personal: An animated self-portrait resulting from an inward
Gaze. The act is looking upon myelf. The result is a re-assur-
ance of my inability to reach beyond the myth of Otherness.
2. Universal: White-male and the Commodity Other.

The irony apparent in this process is the encounter of another
(the other). This installation states that the only way to encounter
Otherness is through commodification. The irony is that in this
experience/consumption of the Other, the result is finding some-
one who exceeds commodification. Thus, the process falls into
an infinite loop of re-representation and defines the concept of
Absent Other. The desire for Otherness attempts to fill a universal
void, driven by an absence in the existence Otherness.


A Digital Ideology
Although I relate strongly to Design, I am interested in further
examining the lines between science, production, and design prac-
tices as they relate to the fine art context. Traditional disciplines
and conventional art making practices create an overwhelming con-
straint for new ways of working and thinking about fine art. This is
especially true when working in the digital medium. First, there a
subjective understanding of what "fine art," differentiating between
disciplines. Second, technology (the medium) instinctive implies
a misconception on both the artist and the viewer. New technolo-
gies bring new forms of visual communication, making digital art
obscure and somewhat unpredictable. In reference to the medium,
this trend hides the underlying content in layers in an effort to
bring an aspect of mystery or sophistication. This is easy and seduc-
tive, misusing the computer's tendency to conceal the message, or
lack thereof, by making the oblique or unreadable.

















Appendix


Brand-Motion Graphics
The ProMax and BDA (Broadcast Design Association) show
in San Francisco features dozens of talks from well-known de-
signers and studios on subjects from HDTV to the Web, editing
to directing, and marketing your business to marketing evening
news programs. The BDA is dedicated to professionals who create
graphics intensive imagery such as station identities, openers, and
commercials as well as print, Web, and set designs. ProMax (the
company that absorbed BDA) is dedicated to the art of selling, in
the form of promotional and related efforts. For the most part, it
is the designers that set the tone of discussion at these conferences,
even though the medium is based in film and television. The reason
whey typography has become the bedrock of most motion graphics
is that the best motion/time-based artists come from type and print
worlds. At the same time, I have found it very surprising how many
video artists are uncomfortable at manipulating type especially
when it comes to integrating it successfully into other elements of
the production.


',. .' 1I Kitchen, Digital Cinema Sound-Sony















































Cindy Sherman, UntitledFilm Stills


Cindy Sherman: Commodity Other
The use of Gaze within photo-artist Cindy Sherman's work is dis-
cussed here as a mechanism for further understanding discourse of
the commodity Other. Appropriating visual culture of Hollywood
during the 60s and 70s, Cindy Sherman takes a feminist approach
to confronting the portrayal of gender roles in mass media. With
subtle aggression, Sherman questions varying representational
tropes by experimenting with the many ways in which women and
the female body are depicted by mass media. Furthermore, Sher-
man imitates and confronts historical portrayals of women in fairy
tales, portraiture and surrealist photography. Sherman tries to
present a new objective context by impersonating various charac-
ter types from old B movies and film noir spoke to a generation of
baby boomer women who were absorbed in the roles and drama of
glamour portrayed by television.
Gaze, voyeurism, and the process of representation are mecha-
nism for establishing the myth as a fairytale. Representation is
often the act of exaggerating what is being looked at. In traditional
psychoanalytic theory, the gaze is intimately linked to fantasy.

Cindy Serman is a good example of this. In works such as Untitled Film Still #15
and Untitled Film Still #34, Sherman appears as a seductress. Speaking of one such
image, she has said, "to pick a character like that was about my own ambivalence
about sexuality-growing up with the women role models that I had, and a lot of
them in films, that were like that character, and yet you were supposed to be a good
girl. This image affirms woman role models at the level of myth. Similarly, myth
roughly relates to the notion of Ideology, whereas an ideology is the shared set of
values and beliefs that exist within a given society and through which individuals live
out their relations to social institutions and structures. (Hirsch, 2000)


Therefore she confronts these issues of the objectified woman as
it is presented within the discourse of mass media. This objective
definition suggests that women are portrayed unbiased and based
on facts, whereas referring to scientific fact or ways of seeing and
understanding the world that involve a mechanical process rather
than human opinion. This objective view is an establishment that

















has been accepted as fact but to Sherman's suggestion is no more
that the subjective male view.
In visual arts, film theory and art history Gaze is a term used to
describe acts of looking as it is related to the human dynamics of
desire. Cindy Sherman encourages our participation by suggest-
ing, through the deliberate nature of her poses, that she is the
object of someone's gaze. The perfect example of this is in the
situation where the gaze is triggered by a desire for control over its
object. This act of looking is not to be confused with John Berger's
(Berger, 1977) discussion on the Ways ofSeein. Although the notion of
the Other is linked to Berger's statement of relationships whereas
the relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.
Gaze includes the element of desire concatenated with the notion
that the act of seeing is what establishes our place in the surround-
ing world again as Berger suggests. This establishment of place
and belonging is where the notion of power comes into play, as it
is human desire to be in a place of greater existence or of higher
power. Theories of the gaze have explored the complex power rela-
tions that are a part of the acts of looking and being looked at.
Applying Freud's and Lacan's theories to film, 1970s psycho-
analytic film theory posited that in cinema, the gaze of the specta-
tor upon the image was an implicitly male one that objectified the
women on screen. (Cartwright, 200l) And so it makes for a good
target reference (or myth) to confront in position of a feminist
such as Sherman. Contemporary theories of the gaze have com-
plicated this original model, and now discuss a variety of different
kinds of gazes, for example gazes distinguished by sex, gender, race,
and class, that can be deployed by different kinds of spectators. The
gaze thus helps to establish relationships of power.
Michel Foucault (Faucault, 1965) uses the term "gaze" to describe
the relationship of subjects within a network of power and the
mechanism of vision as a means of negotiating and conveying power
within that network in a given institutional context. For Foucault,
social institutions enact an inspecting or normalizing gaze upon






























Installation Components (The Medium)
In reference of the installation and its dis
cussion of the medium, all components and
tools for the build and design of the project
are listed as follows:

Hardware:
Apple G5 2.5 GHz Desktop, Sony TRV27
Mini DV Camera

Software:
Maxon Cinema 4D, Adobe Photoshop CS,
Adobe After Effects 5.5, Apple Garage Band,
Audacity, Final Cut Pro HD, Adobe Illustra
tor CS, QuickTime Pro 6, Apple iDVD

TechnicalDetails:
Video texturing via multi-layered composite
ing, Live-action rotoscoping, null object
keyframe parenting for camera movement

Additional Materials:
Installation components (acryllic on wood,
pvc pipe, mounting equipment), 21" Apple
DV Flat Panel Display, Sony 22" TV, Apex
DVD Player, 2 sets of stereo speakers with
subwoofer, misc cables and extensions


their subjects, to keep track of their activities and thereby to disci-
pline them. In this formulation, the gaze is not something one has
or uses, rather, it is a spatial and institutionally bound relationship
into which one enters. This makes the relationship between the gaze
and its influence in the fabrication of the Other.


Discourse Medium or Message
In the world of motion graphics and time-based media, it's easy
to become seduced by technology. New releases of software and
hardware bring with them promises of acquiring previously impos-
sible process at the touch of a button. In the world of art practice,
we don't deliver a spec sheet to the audience or the museum cura-
tor; we deliver art. In this traditional sense, when the job is done
well, the medium become transparent and the message is reflective.
Made popular by Marshall McLuhan, the phrase The Medium is the
Massage (McLuhan, 1968) refers to the ways that media affect viewers
regardless of their messages. McLuhan stated that a medium af-
fects content, since it is an extension of our individual bodies, and
that one cannot understand and evaluate a message unless one first
takes account of the medium through which one receives it. Hence,
McLuhan felt that a medium such as television has the power to
impose "its structural character and assumptions upon all levels of
our private and social lives."
Photo-artist Cindy Sherman suggests that objectivity of gender
is subjective, and is linked to the understanding/perception of the
spectator. To further complicate Sherman's message would be to
make apparent the objectivity of photographs in other words, the
Medium. The camera plays an every-changing role in perception
and is the ultimate commodity filter. It is a tool used so commonly
for representation (re-representation) that its presence has become
invisible. For example, consider whether a photographic image is
objective because it was taken mechanically by a camera or is sub-

jective because it was framed and shot by a human subject. The
objective/subjective position of the spectator is separately defined

















in the discourse of Gaze, yet they become blurred within the no-
tion the Other. Within the fantasy of the Other, take a specific
culture for instance, people are viewed objectively. The conscious
of the spectator, or the unmarked as defined later, view the Other
as truth, believing in a manifestation that may or may not be based
on scientific fact. The concept of the gaze, as well as the Other, is
not restricted to question of objectivity, the subject's role, or the
spectator. Thus, the notion of gaze is used here as a portal into the
discourse of the Other.
As an extension to discussion the Medium, is also important to
mention the notion of discourse. As this paper is a discourse on
the Other in relation to the white-male, it is important to discuss
how the discourse in which I am practicing effects how the work is
made and received. In general, a discourse is the socially organized
process of talking about a particular subject matter. According to
Michel Foucault, discourse is a body of knowledge that both de-
fines and limits what can be said about something. (Faucault, 1965)
While there is no set list of discourses of economics, the law, medi-
cine, politics, sexuality, technology, etc. Discourses are specific to
particular social and historical contexts, and they change over time.
In this installation, I have appropriated an established discourse
and re-contextualized it within the fine art discourse. In doing
this, the notion Other becomes the subject-either an accepted as a
re-enforced myth, or a signifier to a new myth. It is fundamental to
Foucault's theory that discourses produce certain kinds of subjects
and knowledge, and that we occupy to varying degrees the subject
positions defined within a broad array of discourses.

















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