Thursday, 29 November 2012

Lecture 7: Celebrity Culture

This lecture includes:

- The history of celebrity
- The relationship between photography/film/tv and celebrity
- The cultural significance of celebrities
- How contemporary identity and celebrity are intertwined
- Contemporary icons as case studies 

Julia Margaret Cameron    

- Celebrity portraits in the Pictorialist tradition- the period of the late 19th early 20th century
- A style that imitated painting: soft focus, toning such as sepia, romantic/theatrical themes
The Bride (1869)

Mariana "She said I am aweary, aweary”. 1875
- Sitters are often acting scenes from mythology or religious themes 

The invention of moving images

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince 

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince (born Metz 28 August 1841, vanished 16 September 1890) was an inventor who shot the first moving pictures on paper film using a single lens camera.

Josephine Baker (1906 - 1975)

- Baker costumed for the Danse banane from the Folies Bergères production Un Vent de Folie in Paris in 1927
- Her success coincides with the Art Deco movement which takes influence from African art 

- She had a pet Cheetah which sometimes escaped into the orchestra pit.
- a muse for contemporary authors, painters, designers, and sculptors including Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso 

Influences in Celebrity Culture:

- Celebrities, Glamour, Live Music and Fashion. 
- Fashion Rocks is more than an event – we are a unique brand that transcends the worlds of fashion & music. 
- We are one of the most exciting combined fashion and music fundraising events ever, harnessing the powerful influences of fashion and music to raise money for charity. 
- Our unique eCommerce and retail concept FR by Fashion Rocks will dazzle and wow you. Boasting unique, contemporary and on trend ready to wear fashion from the most exciting designers, some well-known favourites and some unique new gen. FR is 'got to have' fashion for those who are inspired equally by the street, the stage and the catwalk. 
- We are Fashion Rocks. 

Golden age of Hollywood

- Between 1927 and 1960
- The Jazz Singer is the first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences
- Mae McAvoy
- Classical style of invisible editing where image and sound should not draw attention to

Clark Gable 

- “King of Hollywood” starred opposite many star actresses of the time in silent films and on stage
- US army Air Corps during WWII 

Bette Davis 

- Known for willingness to play unlikeable characters
- Mildred in Of Human Bondage (1934), and Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes (1941).
- Married a man who claimed he had never heard of her 

Marilyn Monroe 

- Actress, singer,
- Relationships with Arthur Miller and the Kennedys
- Iconic as a ‘sex symbol’
- Her death freezes this status as her image will never disintegrate 

Andy Warhol - Pop Art

- Her face becomes a mask as it is endlessly repeated in publicity, the news,
- The idea that there is a different woman underneath ie: Norma Jean Baker prevails
- Circumstances of her death seem to confirm/not confirm this simultaneously as she becomes ‘myth’ 

Audrey Flack's - Marilyn (1977)

- In the tradition of the 16th/17th Century Vanitas painting where objects in the image have symbolic meaning
- Photorealism- airbrush 

Elvis Presley 

- Warhol uses an image of him acting the classic American hero- the cowboy
- Blurs our vision, reminds us that the image is all we can see
- His home Graceland is a place of pilgrimage for fans, then a museum after his death 

John F Kennedy 

- Celebrity politician- youth and good looks
- Television speeches
- Fashionable beautiful wife 

His death in 1963 was not filmed by TV cameras but by the public 

The Jacksons as a brand

- Musicians /performers
- 1971 The Jackson 5 had an animated cartoon on TV
- 1976 they star in a comedy where they act as themselves 

Michael Jackson

- The changes in Michaels appearance are interpreted as reactions to the abuse he and his family suffered at the hands of their father.
- He looks less like his father by reducing his African American features: nose, skin colour, afro hair etc. 

Lady Gaga vs Madonna
The two have been compared through their fashion and music taste, seems there are icon similarities! 


- A feminist statement: "If we don't stand up for our rights soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones. And I am not a piece of meat.” 
- Dr Richard Noble, head of art department, Goldsmiths College, University of London. "She appears to be referencing the Canadian artist Jana Sterbak, who exhibited a 'flesh dress' made of meat. 

Barak Obama

- ‘Pop’ President
- His election seems to offer progress in American politics as he is the first black president
- Young, good looking, musical
- Employs graffiti artist Sheperd Fairey for his election campaign 

Princess Diana 1981

- Represents innocence and beauty as the truth of her marriage to Charles emerges
- Reinvents herself as fashion icon as they begin to separate 

Photographed by Mario Testino a famous fashion photographer 

The Paparazzi

- Seem to be to blame for Diana’s death in 1997
- But our demand for ‘real life’ images of celebrities creates a market for these images which command huge financial rewards 

- We can follow celebrities
- Details of their home and private lives
- We can find out immediately of their latest projects
- Read their innermost thoughts 

- Elvis’s Hair- $115,120 by selling a lock from the famous black quiff back in 2002.
- Britney Spears Gum – $514
- Scarlett Johanssons used tissue- $5,300 made for charity 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Lecture 6: Critical positions on pop culture

Culturing studies:
Analysing the idea of culture


- Critically define ‘popular culture’
- Contrast ideas of ‘culture’ with ‘popular culture’ and ‘mass culture’
- Introduce Cultural Studies & Critical Theory
- Discuss culture as ideology
- Interrogate the social function of popular culture
Who decided what is important and what is not?
How it affects us the way we think and its social function?

What is Culture?

- ‘One of the two or three most complicated words in the English language’
- general process of intellectual, spiritual & aesthetic development of a particular society, at a particular time
- a particular way of life
- works of intellectual and especially artistic significance’
Any discussion of culture is always complex, any time you try to define culture it can refer to a set of ideas, a body of artistic work, a process of intellectual production at a particular time.
Difficult to define.
Look at culture in a particular way, introduce the way of thinking about the world in a... 

Marx's Concept of base / Super structure

Forces of production - Materials, tools, workers, skills, etc
Relations of production - Employer. employee, class, master/ slave etc
Economic reality of society, what is the material that makes up society.
Everything else about society forms a consciousness about the way we think about the world.

Social institutions - legal, political, cultural
Forms of consciousness - ideology
We live in a capitalist society, all forms of art and design are a direct refection of ideology.

‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’ (Marx, Communist Manifesto)
Produces law, politics, culture.
Looking at culture and the way it can be seen to be a direct reflection of our society.

‘In the social production of their life men enter into definite, necessary relations, that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness.
At a certain stage in their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production ...
...From forms of development of the productive forces, these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.
With the change in economic foundation the whole immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic, in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.’
Marx, (1857) ‘Contribution to the critique of Political Economy’

The State

‘...but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie’ (Marx & Engels (1848) ‘Communisit Manifesto)
Instruments of the State Ideological & Physical Coercion

The Bourgeoisie

The Proletariat

The pyramid of capitalist system.
Base of society, reality of the world, the super structure. 


(a) system of ideas or beliefs (eg beliefs of a political party)
2 masking, distortion, or selection of ideas, to reinforce power relations, through creation of 'false consciousness'
[ The ruling class has ] to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, ... to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones.
Karl Marx, (1846) The German Ideology,

4 definitions of ‘popular’
Raymond Williams (1983) ‘Keywords’
– Well liked by many people
– Inferior kinds of work
– Work deliberately setting out to win favour with the people
– Culture actually made by the people themselves
If we have culture, which is a product of the base.
What is popular culture, it is a base version of culture, also populism something commercial. 
Perhaps as culture made by the most popular, made by the masses for the masses. 

Inferior or Residual Culture
- Popular Press vs Quality Press
- Popular Cinema vs Art Cinema
- Popular Entertainment vs Art Culture

Caspar David Friedrich (1809)‘Monk by the Sea’

Types of art that wouldnt normally be shown in art galleries, all expressions of creativity, but why are they classed as culture. 

Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane (2005) ‘Folk Archive’

Is it graffiti or is it art?

Working Class, Bourgeois

E.P. Thompson (1963) ‘The Making of The English Working Class’
Can be traced back to a particular moment in the evolution of the base.
Process of heavy industry, growth of the city. 
There was very clear division in the people, class of work. Who the rich were and who the poor were. 
Difference in common culture. 
An idea that it was a shared culture, the only people it applied to was the Bourgeois. 
Political literature, speaking of your own lifestyle. 

Matthew Arnold (1867) ‘Culture & Anarchy’

Culture is
–  ‘the best that has been
thought & said in the world’ 
–  Study of perfection 
–  Attained through disinterested reading, writing thinking 
–  The pursuit of culture 

A backlash against that would be the people who were were from the ruling culture, an attempt to define culture, was about perfection, achievements claims Arnold. Anything with a gender wasnt culture. Culture was beautiful as much as ballet and opera. 

Leavisism- F.R Leavis & Q.D. Leavis
Leavis seen gradually the world of the 20th century going on a downward spiral. 

- Still forms a kind of repressed, common sense attitude to popular culture in this country.
For Leavis-
- C20th sees a cultural
- Standardisation & levelling down
- ‘Culture has always been in minority keeping’

- Collapse of traditional authority comes at the same time as mass democracy (anarchy) 
- Nostalgia for an era when the masses exhibited an unquestioning deference to (cultural)authority 
- Popular culture offers addictive forms of ditraction and compensation 
- ‘This form of compensation... is the very reverse of recreation, in that it tends, not to strengthen and refresh the addict for living, but to increase his unfitness by habitutaing him to weak evasions, to the refusal to face reality at all’ (Leavis & Thompson, 1977:100) 

Frankfurt School – Critical Theory

Institute of Social Research, University of Frankfurt, 1923-33
University of Columbia New York 1933- 47

Frankfurt School :
Theodore Adorno & Max Horkheimer

- Reinterpreted Marx, for the 20th century – era of “late capitalism”
- Defined “The Culture Industry” :
2 main products – homogeneity & predictability
- “All mass culture is identical” :
- ‘As soon as the film begins, it is quite clear how it will end, and who will be rewarded, punished or forgotten’.
- ‘Movies and radio need no longer to pretend to be art. The truth, that they are just business, is made into an ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce. ... The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the culture industry. ... The culture industry can pride itself on having energetically executed the previously clumsy transposition of art into the sphere of consumption, on making this a principle. ... film, radio and magazines make up a system which is uniform as a whole and in every part ... all mass culture is identical.’

Frankfurt School :
Herbert Marcuse 
Popular Culture v Affirmative Culture

The irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits, certain intellectual and emotional reactions which bind the consumers more or less pleasantly to the producers and, through the latter, to the whole. The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood. ... it becomes a way of life. It is a good way of life - much better than before - and as a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one dimensional thought and behaviour in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this universe.
Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man, 1968
(of affirmative culture): a realm of apparent unity and apparent freedom was constructed within culture in which the antagonistic relations of existence were supposed to be stabilized and pacified. Culture affirms and conceals the new conditions of social life.
Herbert Marcuse, Negations, 1968

Giving people no options, its reduces peoples capacity for independent thought. Pacified people, people always sit back and let things happen. Provokes a false consciousness.
‘Authentic Culture vs Mass Culture’

Qualities of authentic culture
- Real
- European 
- Multi-Dimensional 
- Active Consumption 
- Individual creation 
- Imagination 
- Negation 

Products of the contemporary ‘Culture Industry’

One product that actively creating a system of exploitation on many levels, it teaches the lesson that the way out of the abject mystery is to go on a talent show and be judged by the middle classes, its not teaching us the ways of solving the problem for people, its an illusory route. 

Adorno ‘On Popular Music’

Walter Benjamin

‘One might generalise by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence. And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own situation, it reactivates the objects produced. These two processes lead to a tremendous shattering of tradition... Their most powerful agent is film. Its social significance, particularly in its most positive form, is inconceivable without its destructive, cathartic aspect, that is, the liquidation of the traditional value of the cultural heritage’

‘The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction’


Louise Lawler, ‘Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Connecticut,’ (1984)

The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies- CCCA (1963 - 2002)

Hebdige, D (1979) ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style’ 

- The culture & civilization tradition emerges from, and represents, anxieties about social and cultural extension. They attack mass culture because it threatens cultural standards and social authority. 
- The Frankfurt School emerges from a Marxist tradition. They attack mass culture because it threatens cultural standards and depoliticises the working class, thus maintaining social authority. 
- Pronouncements on popular culture usually rely on normative or elitist value judgements 
- Ideology masks cultural or class differences and naturalises the interests of the few as the interests of all. 
- Popular culture as ideology 
- The analysis of popular culture and popular media is deeply political, and deeply contested, and all those who practice or engage with it need to be aware of this.