Discourse Analysis II

Continuing with a brief overview of what I managed to take from Rose's chapters on discourse analysis, the second type concerns institutions and power/control. This starts off with a mention of the archive and Tonkiss and Sekula:

“archives are not neutral; they embody the power inherent in accumulation, collection and hoarding as well as that power inherent in the command of the lexicon and rules of a language...” (Sekula, from Rose, p228)

There is also talk of Bentham's 
Panopticon, the power that invokes and how the subject becomes self-regulating through knowledge of surveillance: "visibility is a trap" (Foucault, from Rose, p230). Something like the panopticon would be an Institutional apparatus, whereas the blinds in the windows of the panopticon's observation "core" might be termed an Institutional technology. So what? I'm not really sure. Tagg and Sekula are referenced as discussing the inherent "truth" of photography. I was quite shocked to see the dates they were writing and still assuming the photography is a truthful media, but then this is put down to the institutional use of photography. So for the moment, lets put aside any idea that photography might be art. "Visual images and visualities are for them articulations of institutional power" says Rose (p233).

There is much said about the apparatus of the gallery and museum, institutions that allow the general public to have access to items of historical significance, culture and art in order to reshape social behaviour, much in the same way that the panopticon was designed to do (and by extension, the network of security cameras that pop up everywhere). How? Well, at a vulgar, top level approximation, art used to be something the bourgeoisie would enjoy, not the hoi polloi, so giving access (limited of course) to the great unwashed will be "uplifting". The architectural side of things can also be imposing - the façade of the building being important in letting the viewer know they're about to enter somewhere that has cultural power (this then also both inspires and controls - we whisper in libraries, we don't touch in museums...). Whatever you might think about this, the gallery (and museum) needs to attract people these days, so there must be something going on here - maybe it's because more and more are ascending to the ranks of
la petite bourgeoisie as more and more of Europe moves from a manufacturing to service based economy? It doesn't matter, the fact is that they're more accessible. And for me, herein lies much of the power as the decide what is available to view, how it is viewed, in what order and with what else around it for context, together with a set of notes on what it all means. 

The technologies in play are becoming more and more "considered", for the better or the worse. Museum's have their dioramas and display cases, more galleries are introducing "accessible" statements and guidelines for the viewer, at the danger of putting off the more educated clientele who might see it as "dumbing down". Then there's the "Americanisation" of the gallery context, with white walls and a row of images; it's different at the Louvre, which is weighted down with the history of art for many, many years and seems less concerned with these American minimalist/modernist ideas and the ability to consider things in isolation.

There's the labels and captions, panels and catalogues (all subject of the asynchronous discussions at the moment), aiming to provide knowledge about the art on show. As a personal preference, I'd opt for a panel and then, if necessary, a minimal label. A label providing the artists name might be construed as elevating the artist above the art, commodifying the creator rather than what has been created. Seems wrong to me, but then that name will also provide a degree of context as we would look at the art within the artists wider cannon... Maybe it is appropriate after all, or maybe this information should be on the panel? Context needs to be considered, just don't make it too prescriptive and/or reductive. Another aspect of the signage and leaflets is that which guides the viewer around, herding them to the highlights during a snatched lunchtime visit or whatever. It all seems quite obvious really, but then I'm not sure about it, about the discourse analysis and the research... Maybe I just need to discover that little spark that will make it all make sense. I feel like I’m losing my way a little.

Line (Tate Modern)

Rose, G (2012) 
Visual Methodologies. 3rd Edition. London. Sage Publications Ltd.

blog comments powered by Disqus