Almanac Reading Group February 2019 – Cartaburro

For the next reading group + discussion lead by Jo Harrison at Almanac, the central focus will be inspired by the current exhibition by Anna Franceschini, CARTABURRO, and consider the gaze, or, the sexualised nature of the act of looking. For this session, we will refer to a seminal text by Laura Mulvey: ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1973), followed by her own analysis of this text in “Afterthoughts on Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Inspired by King Vidor’s ‘Duel in the Sun’ (1946)” (1981).

CARTABURRO, Installation view. Photo by Oskar Proctor

In ‘Visual Pleasure’, Mulvey discusses the male gaze as we know it from psychoanalysis – that is, the sexualised objectification of woman by man, as a way to destabilise any insecurities associated to woman as a symbol of the castration threat – and confronts how this trope of ‘woman as image, man as bearer of look’ found its way into mainstream cinema.

Mulvey states that there are two ways of experiencing the big screen: the first being scopophilic (taking pleasure in the act of looking), but the second, ‘developed through narcissism and the constitution of the ego, comes from identification with the image seen’. Mulvey outlines these forms of looking as being inherently phallocentric and patriarchal; that, when we look, we always look through the eyes of a male, and it is always the woman who is objectified through this act of looking, as the man takes his place as the hero who carries the momentum of the narrative forward.

Mulvey later reconsiders this position and questions the impact of the female gaze (women looking at women) in her follow-up text ‘Afterthoughts’.
Here you can download Mulvey’s text.

Reading recommended (although not essential).