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FACEBOOK SLUTS Transcoding between voyeuristic media and figure painting BY DINAH JUERGENS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Art New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Art/ Literature Under the sponsorship of Kim Anderson Sarasota, Florida April 2011
i TABLE OF CONTENTS Image List ii Abstract iii Artist Statement v Voyeuristic me 1 Transcoding 1 The rise of images 4 Mediated voyeurism 9 The figure in painting 14 Work 20 Optimism 23 Bibliography 26 Images 28
ii IMAGE LIST 1 Dinah Juergens, Key West 2010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches. 2 Dinah Juergens, Bachelorette 2010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches. 3 Dinah Juergens, Bike Slut 2010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches. 4 Dinah Juergens, Rabies 2010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches. 5 Dinah Juergens, Montreal Massacre 2010, oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches. 6 Dinah Juergens, Facebook Slut 2010, oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches. 7 Dinah Juergens, Eighteen plus 2010, diptych, oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches each. 8 Dinah Juergens, N10216344 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches. 9 Dinah Juergens, N10221415 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches. 10 Dinah Juergens, N10217919 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches. 11 Dinah Juergens, N10217830 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches. 12 Dinah Juergens, Party in the USA 2011, oil on panel, 40 x 48 inches. 13 Lev Manovich Software Studies Lab, 125 Years of Popular Science. 14 William Adolphe-Bouguereau, Le Printemps (The Return of Spring) 1886. 15 Edouard Manet, Djeuner sur l'herb 1863. 16 Edouard Manet, Olympia 1863. 17 Suzanne Valadon, Female Nude 1922. 18 Pierre Auguste Renoir, The Bathers 1885. 19 Sophie Calle, L'hotel 1981.
iii FACEBOOK SLUTS Dinah Juergens New College of Florida, 2011 ABSTRACT Despite differences in media, the predominant kind of pictures with human subjects being made nowdigital photographs shared on the internethave a place in the centuries-long art historical discourse surrounding representations of the human form. This paper is the written accompaniment to a thesis exhibition of thirteen oil paintings depicting nude and partially clothed figures. The paintings are interpretations of digital images from social networking websites and personal e-mail. Through my work, I hope to encourage a breakdown of perceived boundaries between digital and traditional artistic media in favor of an inclusive view of the history of images. These paintings are informed by Donna Harraway's theory of hybridity as presented in Cyborg Manifesto and Lev Manovich's concept of Transcoding between computer and cultural layers. By rendering large scale paintings of nude figures from user-submitted digital photographs, I intend to merge the problems of the digital nude with those of the nude in figure painting, allowing the discourses surrounding each type of image to influence each other in terms of both complications and understanding. Questions of privacy, objectification, voyeurism, sexualization, and agency become paramount. Rather than
iv staking any specific moral claim, these paintings seek to open conversation about the methods and issues of representation in digital and painted images, questioning the conventions of looking in each genre and how these practices play upon each other. Kim Anderson Division of Humanities
v ARTIST STATEMENT With over five hundred million users collectively uploading more than 2.5 billion digital images a month, Facebook is the most popular photo-sharing platform on the internet. As such, the structure and context of images on Facebook have incredible influence over the way we habitually view images. Following Lev Manovich's theory of transcoding, or bidirectional influence between computer and cultural layers of information, the paintings in this thesis function under the assumption that figure painting today is located at a crossroad of semantic informants. Both the traditional problems and conventions of the nude in painting and the more contemporary issues of privacy and representation in voyeuristic media influence how we create and interpret images of the figure. These paintings are based on "found" internet images and photographic self-portraits volunteered by New College students. It is my intention to merge the problems of the digital nude with those of the nude in figure painting, allowing the discourses surrounding each type of image to influence each other in terms of both complications and understanding.
1 VOYEURISTIC ME It is three in the morning and I am writing my thesis. Through some series of distractions, I find myself drawn to the beckoning stream of images posted by my family, friends, and acquaintances on the social networking site, Facebook. I wander the labyrinth of digital photo albums, linked to other digital photo albums, linked to profiles, and somehow arrive at the profile of an old friend from middle school who I have not seen in ten years. Her profile picture is an infant. There are 465 more photos to see. By photo 465 of 465, all the bits of my former friend's life captured with a camera have been revealed to me in reverse chronological order. Still by still, I have seen her grow back into the skinny teenager I recognize, shedding the marks of the time that has passed. Her child disappears, her pregnant belly shrinks, her boyfriend is suddenly absent, replaced by a string of various companions, settings and costumes. She is in college, then in high school, and finally, in what looks like a physical photograph that has been scanned and posted to the site, there is a picture from our middle school years. I am crouched on a bed with my friend and four other girls. We are looking up expectantly and smiling at someone's parent who has interrupted our conversation. In that passing moment, I am sure that none of us were imagining the future context of this image, or the reality that it would one day be part of a widely accessible string of digital images describing our lives to unseen observers. TRANSCODING The above anecdote is an increasingly commonplace method of viewing images of others. As of January 2011, there are over five hundred million Facebook users, with the
2 average user visiting the site 40 times a month for twenty three minutes and twenty seconds a visit. 1 With so many active users, many of whom uploading data to the site everyday, the structure of Facebook constantly evolves into a predominantly visual experience in order to facilitate the flow of large amounts of information. Already, Facebook is the largest photo-sharing site on the web, with more than 2.5 billion photos to the site every month. 2 What is for many people the daily habit of viewing pictures on Facebook creates a system of conventions and expectations of looking that applies to other forms of imagebased media. It is my belief that when addressing the figure in painting today, it is necessary to consider the effects of voyeuristic media on how we read images of the human form. Lev Manovich is a professor of Visual Arts and the author of several books on "New Media, a form most simply defined as "computer-mediated forms of production." 3 In his seminal work, The Language of New Media he details the genre's prominent characteristics. One of the foremost of these is the principle of "Transcoding," or the concept that "the computer layer and media/culture layer influence each other [and] are 1 Ken Burbary, Facebook Demographics Revisited 2011 Statistics," Web Business, 7 March 2011, http://www.kenburbary.com/2011/03/facebook-demographics-revisited-2011-statistics-2/. 2 Chris Putnam, "Faster, Simpler Photo Uploads," The Facebook Blog Facebook, http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=206178097130 3 Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001), 43. "today we are in the middle of a new media revolution -the shift of all of our culture to computermediated forms of production, distribution and communication. This new revolution is arguably more profound than the previous ones and we are just beginning to sense its initial effects. Indeed, the introduction of printing press affected only one stage of cultural communication -the distribution of media. In the case of photography, its introduction affected only one type of cultural communication -still images. In contrast, computer media revolution affects all stages of communication, including acquisition, manipulating, storage and distribution; it also affects all types of media -text, still images, moving images, sound, and spatial constructions."
3 being composited together." 4 As this assertion is very important to how I am choosing to discuss my thesis exhibition, I would like to fully examine it by breaking it down into its constituent parts. Transcoding states firstly that there is a "computer layer." Here, Manovich is referring to the format and structure (or more philosophically the ontology) of the computerized world. From its basic units of code to the complexities of the internet, digital information exists in a particular form of being that has evolved to make its mechanisms suit its desired functions. Secondly, Manovich cites the existence of a "media/culture layer," meaning forms of media outside of New Media (e.g. print, live performance, painting, or any type of media existing before the advent of computer technology). With these two elements defined, Manovich then posits both that they influence each other and that they are being composited together. Influence is easily understood within a dichotomous system where one distinct entity (the computer world) effects another distinct entity (media outside the computer world). However, composition of the two layers suggests a breakdown of the boundary between Manovich's separately defined entities. Media influences technology and technology influences media in a bidirectional feedback loop, to the point that the borders of each begin to bleed into each other. The idea of a collapse between physical and cyber media is addressed in Donna Haraway's 1989 article Cyborg Manifesto in which she theorizes on the cultural implications the cyborg in science fiction. According to Haraway, the myth of the cyborg 4 Manovich, Language of New Media 64.
4 as a hybrid of human and machine is indicative of a current blurring of boundaries between a wide array of things often understood as oppositional. "The dichotomies between mind and body, nature and culture, men and women, primitive and civilized are all in question ideologicallyThe home, workplace, market, public arena, the body itselfcan all be dispersed and interfaced in nearly infinite, polymorphous ways." 5 The advancement of technology emphasizes connectivity and interface over individual experience, moving us toward a state of hybridity. "We are living through a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous, information system." 6 THE RISE OF IMAGES This thesis examines the concepts of transcoding and hybridity between types of media as they pertain to representations of the figure in digital images and in painting. I will begin by examining the structure of the "computer layer" as it appears in the website Facebook. Given its widespread base of frequent users, Facebook is a useful case study of internet image consumption. Internet use in general, and of the social networking website Facebook in particular, is rising. As technology advances and becomes more widespread and portable, more people are using the internet for longer amounts of time, and a greater portion of that time is being spent using social networking sites. A December 2010 survey measured time spent on the internet at "about 12 hours a week for adults under 30," 7 a conservative estimate, considering that the data in the survey was self-reported and "people tend to say 5 Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," Socialist Review, (1985), 163. 6 Haraway, "Cyborg Manifesto," 161. 7 Joshua Brustein, "American Internet Use Catches Up With TV Use," The New York Times, 13 December, 2010.
5 theyuse the Internet less than they actually do." 8 Social networking sites such as Facebook take up a considerable amount of that online time. A Nielsen media research survey found that the percent of online time devoted to social networking sites is increasing. The August 2010 study found that, "Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networking sites and blogs, up from 15.8 percent just a year ago." 9 Facebook users "socialize" with a digital representation of a person, a collection of user-submitted information that makes up a profile page. Currently, a profile is comprised of three main parts: 1) a text-based "information" section which lists the user's response to various standard questions under sub-headings of "education and work," "activities and interests" and "basic information," 2) a "wall" which is a live feed of messages and links posted by other Facebook users, and 3) a photos section which contains both images that the subject has uploaded and all images from other users' albums that have been identified as that subject. This final "photos" section is increasingly important in the eyes of both Facebook and this thesis as a method of communicating compact and easily absorbed information about a person. Photo-sharing is one of Facebook's most popular features. Once submitted, users are asked to tag or identify, the people in photographs, generating a collection of images of a person from disparate sources, which are compiled and made available on the subject's profile page. Depending on the privacy settings of an independent user, their photos are available to either people accepted by the user as "friends" or to all other Facebook users. 8 Brustein, "Internet Use." 9 Nielsen Media Research, "What Americans Do Online: Social Media And Games Dominate Activity," 2 August, 2010, http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/what-americans-do-online-social-mediaand-games-dominate-activity/.
6 Progression towards a flow of images over static data is a key characteristic of what Lev Manovich terms our current "informational age." For Manovich, who considers himself a scientist/artist, the current artistic project is a response to the need for visualizing large amounts of data in a comprehensive way in order to view trends. The relevant information is not the singular form, but the movement of the form through time. Manovich's work also stresses the growing prevalence of image over text as a means of efficiently conveying large amounts of data. The collaborative project of William Huber and Lev Manovich Software Studies Lab, entitled 125 Years of Popular Science (fig 13) supports the idea that in all forms of media during what Manovich terms the "Information Age," the image becomes the most prevalent and succinct form of information communication and absorption. In its original digital form, the work is a detailed 74-megapixel leviathan showing each page of the magazine Popular Science from 1882 to 2007 laid out in chronological order from left to right. Even as it appears in this paper as an extremely compressed image, knowing the nature of its constituent elements one can easily observe the trend of Popular Science 's content as shifting from written text to predominantly image-based content over time. The trend in Popular Science from text to image-based culture is indicative of a greater trend evident elsewhere in the various forms of media we interact with on a daily basis, such as Facebook. Manovich's work points to the growing importance of images as a means to absorb large amounts of information. As use of computerized media and social networking increases, the amount of information uploaded to and absorbed through these sources also increases. Facebook's structure and the development of that structure shows evidence of privileging the flow of
7 information over static data and the use of images over text as conveyors of that information. The average user creates ninety pieces of content (in the form of uploaded pictures, links, status updates etc) a month. 1 0 The amount of data processed by Facebook grows daily, necessitating shifts in the format of the material to accommodate the consumption of large amounts of information. Although there is controversy over the origination of the idea, is generally accepted that Facebook began as the project of Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004. In the seven years of its existence, the site's format has changed drastically to become more inclusive and to allow for the flow of vast quantities of data. Membership was originally available exclusively to Zuckerberg's fellow Harvard students, then only to those with a college email address. It is now open to all users, although the largest demographic (30.9%) remains users ages 18-24. 1 1 As Facebook becomes more public, its format continues to change in subtle ways which facilitate the flow of information. In its largest reformatting move, Facebook introduced the notorious news-feed feature in September 2006. The news-feed redirects users from the original opening page, their own profile, to a home page, where they can read an infinite list of their friends' activity on Facebook, with the most recent activity at the top of the page. Upon its introduction, the news-feed was attacked for its invasion of privacy and uncontrollability. Users had no say over what actions of theirs were published to their friends' feeds or over whose activities appeared in their own. Although the kinks of the system have been worked out so that a user is now able to control these two provocative elements, the fundamental 1 0 Burbary, Facebook Demographics Revisited 2011 Statistics." 1 1 istrategylabs, 2011 Facebook Demographics and Statistics," 3 January, 2011, http://www.istrategylabs.com/2011/01/2011-facebook-demographics-and-statistics-including-federalemployees-and-gays-in-the-military/.
8 dynamic of Facebook has changed. Whereas before, Facebook was a dark cyber cave in which a user only saw what was directly before her, now one can observe, and is even directed toward the observation of, actions and interactions of other friends occurring all around them. In "An Open Letter From Mark Zuckerberg" posted on the Facebook blog in September 2006, the creator responds to the complaints about privacy and control generated by the new feature, by bluntly stating Facebook's intention to present a flow of information. They are working hard, "trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world." 1 2 In a more recent innovation, Facebook introduced their new profile format in December of 2010. The main innovation of the new profile is a string of miniature photographs at the top of the user's profile page, composed of the five most recently tagged photographs of that user. As opposed to the old profile format in which a viewer was first directed to the information section of the profile with the option of viewing the wall section, the new profile presents the wall, complete with the new photo string, as the primary page, privileging the flow of information, especially visual information, over static written text. The shift that has occurred in the way images are used to convey information is most visible in teenagers today who are developing along with the revolutionary types of social media they are using. "For younger generation, Facebook is not a place to store stuffit's a conversation or a streamIt's fair to say that the younger generation is much more visual and that pictures and comments on pictures are a big deal." 1 3 1 2 Mark Zuckerberg, "An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg," The Facebook Blog Facebook, 8 September, 2006, http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2208562130. 1 3 Anna Leach, "How teens use Facebook: Trends in Social Networking," Shiny Shiny 20 April, 2011, http://www.shinyshiny.tv/2011/04/how-teens-use-facebook.html.
9 This popular way of viewing photos, as indicative of information related to a person's life, has established both a way of looking and a form of social interaction that differs from the past in its inherent voyeurism towards subjects with whom the viewer often has contact with in the real world. One of the main characteristics of the "internet gaze" developed in response to the growing presence and significance of online images, is the inherent voyeurism of observing a person without their knowledge. Although Facebook is an exemplary apparatus for voyeuristic image consumption, it is far from being the only example of voyeuristic media. It is instead part of a larger trend in various types of media such as reality television and political news towards a focus on the intimate details of a subject's mundane life over participation in greater discourse. MEDIATED VOYEURISM Unlike face-to-face socialization, interactions on Facebook are not necessarily reciprocal. The act of socialization has been dissected and reconstructed as primarily a visual experience, rendering what was traditionally a mutual exchange between individuals in new terms of uni-directional observation of collections of images. While many viewers make their existence known by leaving comments under photographs or using Facebook's "like" feature (by which one's user name and approval are conveyed at the click of a button), it is possible to view an image without providing any feedback to the poster. The subject of the photographs has no knowledge that his or her images have been viewed, let alone the identity of any observers who now have a privileged understanding of the internet personality of the subject of these photos. Clay Calvert, professor of law and media studies, describes the kind of one-sided
10 observation provided by contemporary media in his book Voyeur Nation: Media, Privacy, and Peering in Modern Culture Published in 2001, Calvert's writing pre-dates the advent of Facebook, but the networking site's mechanisms are effectively addressed in his classifications of different categories of "mediated voyeurism," a rising phenomena in popular media which he describes as "the consumption of revealing images of and information about others' apparently real and unguarded lives, often yet not always for purposes of entertainment but frequently at the expense of privacy and discourse, through the means of the mass media and Internet." 1 4 Facebook would fall under the sub-category of mediated voyeurism which Calvert describes as Tell-All/Show-All Voyeurism: a form of disclosure in which the participants willingly share personal information with the camera-viewer, the foremost example of this during Calvert's time of writing being the sensationalist talk show format of Jerry Springer or Ricki Lake. Willing participants tell a listening audience intimate details of their lives for the purpose of entertainment. Under Facebook's "guided tour" which explains the intricacies of the Facebook page, it is explained that "your profile begins with a quick summary of who you are, from what you're doing now to where you grew up. Update your profile to give friends the most current information about you." Users are encouraged to give as much information about themselves as possible, with the reward of virtual interaction or encouragement from other users. Anna Leach's comparison of generational differences in Facebook use explains that for teenagers now, full disclosure is commonplace. "Everything goes on Facebook breakfast, mid-morning pictures they use it a lot more like Twitter with daily random 1 4 Clay Calvert, Voyeur Nation: Media, Privacy, and Peering in Modern Culture (Boulder Colorado: Westview Press, 2000), 2-3.
11 updates. It's also much more personal and of course reflects the concerns of the teenager." 1 5 In return for their contributions, Facebook users often receive comments from their observers, reinforcing and affirming their actions. A very early example of this system of rewards and reinforcement for virtual disclosure is JenniCam, the creation of Jennifer Ringley. In 1996, on her twenty-first birthday, Ringley installed a camera in her college dorm room. The camera took a black and white picture once every three minutes, which it then uploaded to a website where viewers could observe her everyday actions. Although at first there was some censorship regarding when the camera was turned off and on, eventually the camera was permanently on. Viewers were able to witness all the activities occurring in Ringley's dorm room, including sexual encounters, masturbation and "strip teases" which she would perform for the camera. Followers of her website would send her many e-mails positively reinforcing her disclosure. Ringley's project has been described in psychoanalytic terms as loosely enacting Lacan's mirror stage. The mirror stage is a developmental period during which an infant creates a mental understanding of themselves as a unified whole in response to an external image of themselves found in a mirror. English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott developed Lacan's concept of the mirror stage with a focus on the mother's role in shaping the identity of her child. According to Winnicott, "when the infant looks at the face of the mother he or she sees himself or herself only insofar as the mother recognizes the infant." 1 6 That is to say, the mother's reaction to the infant shapes how the infant sees itself. 1 5 Leach, "How teens use Facebook." 1 6 Victor Burgin, "Jenni's Room: Exhibitionism and Solitude." Critical Inquiry 27, (Autumn 2000), 80.
12 On Facebook, the user creates an identity for themselves which is acknowledged and affirmed by other internet users, cementing that identity. In this interpretation of online identity, the responses of viewers to a Facebook profile are elevated to a dangerously high level of impact in identity formation, on par with the role of a mother shaping her infant's view of itself. Online interaction can easily fulfill a person's need for encouragement and affirmation, leading to a dangerous dependency on the approval of others. Ringley grew very attached to her enthusiastic viewers. After leaving her dorm room, she installed a web camera in her apartment, explaining that she "felt lonely without the camera." 1 7 Given that the camera was installed at a transitional period in Ringley's lifethe transition from her parent's home to college and then to her own apartmentit is tempting to see her actions as a continuation of the mirror stage. During a later period of identity development, Ringley looked to her viewers for positive feedback to shape her identity. "From our side of the screen, the camera is a window. From Ringley's position, her camera is a mirror." 1 8 The negative aspects of this interaction are difficult to articulate. It seems vaguely wrong to give so much power to outside viewers and to sacrifice privacy for the small rewards of digital interaction. Constant observation places the subject in an exhibitionist role, regardless of whether they want to be there. Although Ringley has claimed ""I don't feel I'm giving up my privacy. Just because people can see me doesn't mean it affects me," 1 9 she would sometimes acknowledge her viewers' existence by performing strip teases for the camera. The danger of this performance became clear when Ringley 1 7 Burgin, "Jenni's Room," 80. 1 8 Burgin, "Jenni's Room," 80. 1 9 Burgin, "Jenni's Room," 78.
13 received threats of physical violence via e-mail in response to one of her erotic dances. Nicole Polizzi, a member of the cast of the popular reality television show Jersey Shore describes the feeling of being constantly watched and its motivations toward selfdestructive behavior: They have cameras everywhere, all the time... You're always being watched. You kind of get a little paranoid, because you're like, 'Who's watching me?'... It's trippy. it messes with your head. But that's why we go crazy. That's why we fight with each other. That's why we drink. We're living in a house for two months with that shit. We can't have cell phones, TV radio or internet... There's no normalcy. It's like a prison, with cameras. The only time we're not on camera is when we're in the shower, and that's why we all take three-hour showers, just to get away from it all. 2 0 The idea of constant observation turns life into a performance and people into constant performers. Facebook guerilla Carlos San Antonio' Perez is a Tulane University student who targeted Facebook's power of control in 2005 by deleting the Facebook walls of some of his fellow students. In interview with his school paper, Perez explained the goal of his actions as pointing out the folly of giving so much authority to the electronic reinforcement of others. "The wall is a very important part of a person's Facebook personality. It is even more important than the number of friends that a person has. In this space, a person's friends can make a person look loved. With a wall that is 10 messages long intact, a person looks very loved. This is important in terms of [the idea that]: YOU ARE WHO OTHER PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE. If your generic Facebook 2 0 David Chiu, "Snooki: I'm Doing More Spinoffs," NBC Los Angeles 5 March, 2011, http://www.nbclosangeles.com/entertainment/television/Jersey-Shores-Snooki-Im-Doing-More-Spinoffs117452018.html.
14 profile is successful, you will have people reinforce your image on your wall. People are threatened when their wall full of people affirming who they are is destroyed." 2 1 What Calvert's essay and Jennifer Ringley's project do not cover is the possibility of real-life acquaintance and interaction with the voyeuristic object. In 2001, Calvert was still operating under the principle idea of anonymity in media interactions. For him, "media technologies both capture the images that are the subject of this book and allow us to watch them without ever requiring our interaction with the people we view." 2 2 Although Jennifer Ringley received many e-mails from her followers, they were from people who she did not know in the real world. In her own words, she was "inhabiting a virtual reality" 2 3 running parallel to, but ultimately a distinct entity from her material world. Social networking sites raise the question of the integration of the virtual with the "real" world. The images viewed on Facebook are for the most part not strangers. Facebook takes the real world as its basis for the online social network which it tries to construct. But one-sided interactions with a person's cache of online images can create a skewed relationship between the viewer and subject. THE FIGURE IN PAINTING Computerized image viewing raises many questions regarding privacy, voyeurism and objectification that can seem overwhelming when thought of as a new frontier broached by advancing technology. It is helpful however, to consider voyeuristic new 2 1 Tulane Hullabaloo, "Campus Spotlight: Carlos San Antonio Perez," 18 March, 2005, http:// thehullabaloo.com/2005/03/18/campus-spotlight-carlos-san-antonio-perez/. 2 2 Calvert, Voyeur Nation, 4. 2 3 Burgin, "Jenni's Room," 88.
15 media in light of other historical voyeuristic media. Particularly, I would like to compare the dynamic of the digital nude to that of the female nude figure in French Modernist painting. The period of time from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century saw dramatic changes in painting in general and the way the figure was addressed in particular. Painters were working in a context of rapid modernization and increase in technology, with improving photographic technology creating a similar crisis of representation as the challenge presented by computerized images. As the position and power of women in society changed, their depiction in painting was problematized and transformed. An example of the dehumanizing conventions of the female nude can be found in the work of Adolphe-William Bouguereau. His representations of feminine beauty quickly become entangled with violations of sexual objectification, an offense either historically viewed as no offense at all, or excused under the respectable guise of academic or classical depiction. Bouguereau's 1886 painting The Return of Spring (fig 14) is an example of this trope. The painting shows a nubile young girl, a personification of spring, naked in a field being caressed by a collection of cherubs. Despite the classical allegory and style which supposedly justify the painting academically, the image remains a sexual objectification and dehumanization of the female body. The girl's contrapasto posture with her arms crossed over her chest, is indicative of slight resistance to the caresses of the angels and the gaze of the viewer. However, her expression, with eyes closed, head tilted slightly backward and lips parted is a suggestive sign of surrender to both angels and viewer. Nipples peak through the crevasses of her crossed arms, and the
16 splayed fingers resting on her shoulders seem more of a sensory delight than a defensive measure. Despite her attempts to cover up her supple flesh, she is overcome with sexual significance. In contrast to Bouguereau's idealized nymphs, the works of his contemporaries, Edouard Manet and Suzanne Valadon, depict actual women in the modern world. As T. A. Gronberg writes in a retrospective of the artist's work, "Manetwas fascinated by femininity in the context of the modern city, whether in relation to prostitution, barmaids, his circle of women friends or women's clothing and fashion." 2 4 Two works in particular, Djeuner sur l'herbe (fig 15) and Olympia (fig 16), experienced dramatic public receptions that have greatly impacted opinions regarding the portrayal of the female nude. The first of these paintings, Djeuner sur l'herbe was rejected from the Salon for its shocking subject matter in 1863 and appeared instead in the Salon de Refuss with the rejected works of other artists. 2 5 The painting shows a group of four picnicers, two clothed men and two unclothed women, seated casually in a wooded setting by a stream. Viewers were shocked by the indecourous nature of the subject matter which shows unclothed women in the company of modernly dressed men, with no excusing pretense of allegory or myth. Instead, Manet supposedly had the objective "to do a modern Giorgione, taking inspiration from the Concert champtre, 2 6 a well-known scene depicting two female nudes with two clothed male musicians. The shock value of Manet's painting despite the acceptance of Giorgione's earlier work points to the scandalous nature of depicting nude figures as actual people not obscured by myth, 2 4 T. A. Gronberg, Manet, A Retrospective (New York: Park Lane, 1988), 28. 2 5 Gronberg, 12. 2 6 John P. O'Neill, Manet 1832-1883 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983), 168.
17 history, or allegory. The model for both Djeuner sur l'herbe and Olympia Victorine Meurent, was a painter in her own right and an active member of Parisian society at the time of the paintings' debut in 1865. 2 7 The recognition of voyeuristic objects in images as actual people with whom one may interact in the real world is not a new product of advancing technology. The same shock and scandal of Manet's paintings applies to the paintings in my thesis, which show painterly depictions of nude New College students in the context of a campus gallery. Olympia shows a nude woman reclining before the viewer, propped on her elbow and gazing directly out of the painting. Although the woman is understood to be a prostitute, her surroundings which include a maid with an armful of flowers, rich fabrics draping her resting place, and the bracelet, necklace and slippers that she wears all point to her affluence. The woman's hand lies in her lap, proprietarily covering her genitals. Although the subject is conventionally seen as sexually available both by nature of her profession and the conventions of the female nude, her pose, gaze and affluence contradict this availability. Similarly, Suzanne Valadon's paintings are often described as progressive or nonobjectifying depictions of women for the very fact that depict women as thinking feeling people engaged in thought or activity, rather than using the female body as a metaphor for fertility and sexual submission. Such is the case with Valadon's painting Female Nude (fig 17), in which a young woman sits on nude on a bed reading a book. Unlike Bouguereau, Valadon does not display the woman as a sexual object. Instead, she seems 2 7 Gronberg, 28.
18 to be comfortably seated in her own home engaged in a mental activity. She is qualified as a human entity rather than reduced to an object displayed for sexualized viewing pleasure. Valadon's work in depicting progressive versions of the nude female body is especially potent given her history as a figure model for painters such as PierreAuguste Renoir and Puvis de Chavannes. It was well understood at the time that "in the artist-model relationship there seemed to be a natural' elision of the sexual with the artistic: the male artist was both lover and creator, the female model both his mistress and his muse." 2 8 The conflation of the male artist's sexual and creative energies placed his usually female model in a vulnerable sexual position. As Rosemary Betterton points out in her article "How Do Women Look? The Female Nude in the Work of Suzanne Valadon," for the artist's model "the parallels with prostitution are clear; a model also offered her body for sale, she was usually of lower-class origin and dependent upon her middle-class client', her rates of pay were low and established by individual negotiation." 2 9 This is a very similar situation to the images of nude figures available today, which are usually within the realm of pornography. For Valadon, the model-artist relationship often followed the "popular myth" of "the model's exploitation as the object of the artist's gaze le[ading] directly to her exploitation as his sexual object." 3 0 Of her first modeling job for the artist Puvis de Chavannes, biographer June Rose records that their exchange was based on much 2 8 Rosemary Betterton, "How Do Women Look? The Female Nude in the Work of Suzanne Valadon," Feminist Review 19 (1985): 11. 2 9 Betterton, "How Do Women Look?," 13. 3 0 Betterton, "How Do Women Look?," 12.
19 more than business. "Marie-Clmentine herself sometimes referred to Puvis as her lover, and after Valadon's death her second husband alleged that he had found a legal document in which Puvis promised to support Valadon financially by regular payments." 3 1 Some of her known lovers included the painters Renoir, Puvis de Chavannes, Wertheimer and Miguel Utrillo. 3 2 This collection of romantic partners, consisting of various painters for whom she modeled as well as other artists, composers, and writers who were members of the Montmartre nightlife, soon led to pregnancy at the age of eighteen. The perceived sexual availability of female models is reflected in the rendering of the female form in much of the artwork produced from these sexualized artist-model relationships. "Auguste Renoir, for whom Valadon modeled in the 1880s, was alleged to have said: I paint with my prick,'" 3 3 a view evident in his images of female nudes such as The Bathers (fig 18), for which Valadon modeled. In this painting, four female nudes appear in a natural setting, two standing thigh-deep in a pond while two others dry themselves on the bank. The poses of the women are stylized and appear consciously arranged for viewing consumption. It is clear that they are not casually carrying out the act of drying off, but are artfully displaying their bodies in a sexual manner. The idealized brushstroke and color palette support a sensual viewing of the image. Valadon's work resonates with my own artistic project of The Profile series. This body of work is comprised of interpretations of photographic self portraits of my 3 1 June Rose, Suzanne Valadon: The Mistress of Montmartre (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), 43. 3 2 Mary Anne Caws, "Suzanne Valadon: Beyond Model and Mother," in Glorious Eccentrics: Modernist Women Painting and Writing (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 25. 3 3 Betterton, "How Do Women Look?," 11.
20 Novocollegian peers. I obtained these photographs through electronic exchange. Unlike the images in the Screen series, these photographs are consensual depictions submitted to me by the subject. While the Screen series focuses on the political problems of agency and objectification in representation, similar to the issues raised by paintings for which Valadon modeled, the Profile paintings are a survey of how the subject contextualizes his or her own body within the composited climate of voyeuristic media and figure painting and thus are tied closely with Valadon's own depictions of the female nude. WORK I began my investigation of transcoding between internet images and figure painting by painting images from the internet that are typically seen as explicit material, including pornography and images that had been removed from Facebook for exceedingly graphic content, namely nudity. Paintings in the Screen series address issues of sexual objectification of the female form. In the world of digital representation, the nude figure is rarely addressed except in terms of explicitly sexual context, such as pornography. Despite the digitization of social interactions through networking cites and blogs, the body as of yet is apparently too crude a subject for the cyber world. Instead of being explored, the body is made explicit and given a confined realm of obscenity. Digital iterations of the body reify an inherently sexualized view, that when rendered in the medium of oil painting references the traditional problems of that medium in terms of voyeurism and sexual objectification of the nude figure. In these paintings, the camera behind the source images takes on a predatory tone.
21 Paintings such as Bike Slut (fig 3) are intended to make the viewer uncomfortable with the questionable lack of agency of the subject. I relate the screen series to a context of images which also seem exploitive or predatory. Photographer Sophie Calle has made a name for herself from following people and photographing them. Her work capitalizes on the intrusive ability of the camera lens to capture small private details of people's lives not normally displayed, and the viewer's desire to see through the mediated gaze of the camera. Calle often plays the role of a voyeuristic detective. Her piece Suite Venitienne' is a collection of photographs resulting from her experience following a man from a party in Paris to Venice without his knowledge. In Venice, Calle followed him around the city and photographed him for two weeks. In a later project again in Venice, Calle worked as a chambermaid in a hotel. While cleaning the guests rooms, she would photograph their belongings and slept-in beds, imagining their identities based on the environments they created for themselves. "For each room there was a photograph of the bed undone, of other objects in the room, and a description day by day of what I found there." 3 4 The resulting black and white photographs (fig 19) are a candid and sterile version of a person's identity, resembling photos of a crime scene. Calle balances the guilt of voyeurism with the satisfaction of discovery and the vicarious thrill of examining someone's life unobserved. The contemporary painter Elizabeth Peyton also voyeurism in the form of celebrity. Her paintings are large scale depictions of pale thin English rock stars based on photographs from celebrity media, such as tabloid magazines. Although Peyton attempts 3 4 Digital Art Resource for Education, "Sophie Calle," h ttp://www.iniva.org/dare/themes/space/calle.html.
22 to elevate the exploitive and invasive tone of these images by celebrating the subjects as artists, there is a sinister tone to the dripping backgrounds, eerie wateriness of her marks. In interviews she claims that her "pictures and these people [are] a real moral stand for personal freedom," 3 5 but the distracted gazes of these celebrities convey a darker sentiment of the limiting aspects of constant observation. But Peyton's choice of subjects is usually limited to artists and performers, people with practiced and polished performances of their images accustomed to observation and invasions of privacy as a necessary evil of their success. Her paintings are observations of subjects very good at and very comfortable with being observed, to the point of inviting observation. To the viewer unfamiliar with the subjects, the paintings display a range of poses and styles that resonate with visual history, both in the form of art historical representations of the nude figure, and digital self-portraits. To the primary audience of the New College community, the knowledge that these figures are people whom they may recognize influences their mode of looking in a way that directly references the paradigm of voyeurism cultured by media like Facebook. In January of 2011, I sent a message to the New College student moderated e-mail forum. The message made the proposal that for anyone who sent me a nude photograph of themselves, I would make a painting based on that photograph to include in my senior thesis gallery show. I received two immediate responses of nude photographs from eager participants, and several expressions of interest with hesitation. In response to the barrage of questions about the purpose of the photographs and specifications for format, I 3 5 Elizabeth Peyton, interview by Laura Hoffman, 8 October, 2008, Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton http://www.newmuseum.org/elizabethpeyton/.
23 sent a second message specifying that the format was entirely open, but the image must be sent as an e-mail. I also included a link to a webpage which described the various places where e-mail is saved and the legal restrictions regarding access to e-mail. I see the paintings in this series as responses to a sociological survey on representing the nude figure. Given the previously described climate for creation and consumption of digital images on Facebook, how do my peers who are for the most part immersed in this cyber culture choose to represent themselves as a voyeuristic object? Given varying levels of knowledge of the history of depictions of the nude figure in painting, how do the participants in this survey respond to visual problems of pose and composition, and what allusions do they make consciously or unconsciously? This project questions the values associated with digital images versus artistically rendered images, pitting the degenerate connotations of nude pictures on the internet against the respected position of the nude figure in painting. I am also taking advantage of the small community at New College. With a student population of about 800, it is sure that some of the viewers will recognize the subjects of the paintings. In the same way that Facebook presents friends and acquaintances as objects for voyeuristic observation, these paintings depict recognizable figures to the audience in a more blatantly objectified light. The gallery space then becomes a site of interaction between virtual and physical realities and a realm of hybridity between cyber and physical realities. OPTIMISM Over the course of this year, I have often been troubled by the negative implications
24 of advancing photographic technology, both in terms of the increasing conventions of voyeuristic image consumption and the ways in which digital images problematize the status of the art object. Because for most images their final state is a digital form, the photographic image is no longer hampered by concerns with proper materials, physical space, or degradation through time. and Most of the images we view on a daily basis no longer exist as tangible entities, but as one of a multitude of frames viewed in quick succession through the apparatus of an electronic screen. This freedom from physicality increases the speed with which images are created and viewed, along with the magnitude of images created. Camera phones with internet capability have made both the digital camera and the web ever-present. and the uploading of images to the internet a nearly instantaneous act, so that digital recording of an event is nearly simultaneous with its occurrence. As the time required to create and disseminate an image shrinks, the number of images available grows exponentially, leading to an overwhelming flow of constantly updated images. In choosing to pursue the title of "painter," I have tied myself to a visual medium grounded in physical material and the consumption of timeboth in the sense that paintings take time to paint and that they ideally exist as a valued art object preserved through time. In our current age of informationalism, material and temporal persistence have both become compromised qualities. The nature of the visual image is moving from a static observation of form to a continuous thread of changing information. Where does this shift in the nature of visual stimulation leave the art object, which is by nature of physicality a single image, valued for its material endurance and human manipulation of physical substance?
25 However, it is my hope that the later series in this thesis presents a positive conception of the creative aspects of technology. E-mail and widespread digital photography capabilities have created the potential for a connected web of visual thought. Every Facebook voyeur is also a voyeuristic object. We are not confined to the role of passive observer of trends toward objectification, but have the immediately accessible ability to respond to these trends. To return to Donna Haraway's concept of hybridity, we now exist within a fluid system of information where we are free to play with meaning and identity.
26 Bibliography Betterton, Rosemary. How Do Women Look? The Female Nude in the Work of Suzanne Valadon." Feminist Review. 19 (1985): 3-24. Brustein, Joshua. "American Internet Use Catches Up With TV Use." The New York Times. 13 December, 2010. Burbary, Ken. Facebook Demographics Revisited 2011 Statistics." Web Business. (7 March 2011). http://www.kenburbary.com/2011/03/facebookdemographics-revisited-2011-statistics-2/. Burgin, Victor. "Jenni's Room: Exhibitionism and Solitude." Critical Inquiry 27. (Autumn 2000). 77-89. Calvert, Clay. Voyeur Nation: Media, Privacy, and Peering in Modern Culture. Boulder Colorado: Westview Press, 2000. Caws, Mary Anne. "Suzanne Valadon: Beyond Model and Mother." Glorious Eccentrics: Modernist Women Painting and Writing New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Chiu, David. "Snooki: I'm Doing More Spinoffs." NBC Los Angeles (5 March, 2011). http://www.nbclosangeles.com/entertainment/television/Jersey-Shores-Snooki-ImDoing-More-Spinoffs-117452018.html. Digital Art Resource for Education. "Sophie Calle." http://www.iniva.org/dare/themes/space/calle.html. Gronberg, T. A. Manet, A Retrospective New York: Park Lane, 1988. Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and SocialistFeminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Socialist Review (1985). 149-181. Istrategylabs. 2011 Facebook Demographics and Statistics." (3 January, 2011). http://www.istrategylabs.com/2011/01/2011-facebook-demographics-andstatistics-including-federal-employees-and-gays-in-the-military/. Leach, Anna. "How teens use Facebook: Trends in Social Networking," Shiny Shiny (20 April, 2011). http://www.shinyshiny.tv/2011/04/how-teens-use-facebook.html. Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001. Nielsen Media Research. "What Americans Do Online: Social Media And Games Dominate Activity." (2 August, 2010). http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/what-americans-do-online-social
27 media-and-games-dominate-activity/. O'Neill, John P. Manet 1832-1883 New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983. Peyton, Elizabeth interview by Laura Hoffman. (8 October, 2008). Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton http://www.newmuseum.org/elizabethpeyton/. Putnam, Chris. "Faster, Simpler Photo Uploads." The Facebook Blog Facebook. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=206178097130. Rose, June. The Mistress of Montmartre: A Life of Suzanne Valadon. New York: St. Martin' s Press, 1999. Tulane Hullabaloo. "Campus Spotlight: Carlos San Antonio Perez." (18 March, 2005). http:// thehullabaloo.com/2005/03/18/campus-spotlight-carlos-san-antonio-perez/. Zuckerberg, Mark. "An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg,." The Facebook Blog Facebook. (8 September, 2006). http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2208562130.
23 Screen series 1 Dinah Juergens, Key West 2010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches. 2 Dinah Juergens, Bachelorette 2010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches.
24 3 Dinah Juergens, Bike Slut 2010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches. 4 Dinah Juergens, Rabies 2 010, oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches.
25 5 Dinah Juergens, Montreal Massacre 2010, oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches. 6 Dinah Juergens, Facebook Slut 2010, oil on panel, 24 x 24 inches.
26 7 Dinah Juergens, Eighteen plus 2010, diptych, oil on panel, 24 x 2 4 inches each. Profile series 8 Dinah Juergens, N 10216344 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches.
32 9 Dinah Juergens, N10221415 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches. 10 Dinah Juergens, N10217919 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches.
33 11 Dinah Juergens, N10217830 2011, oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches.
34 12 Dinah Juergens, Party in the USA 2011, oil on panel, 40 x 48 inches.
35 Images Cited 13 William Huber and Lev Manovich Software Studies Lab, 125 Years of Popular Science 14 William Adolphe-Bouguereau, Le Printemps (The Return of Spring) 1886.
36 15 douard Manet, Djeuner sur l'herbe, 1863. 16 douard Manet, Olympia 1863.
37 17 Suzanne Valadon, Female Nude 1922.
38 18 Pierre Auguste Renoir, The Bathers 1887.
39 19 Sophie Calle, L'hotel, 1981.