( [ONLINE] How to See the World ) Ö Nicholas Mirzoeff – chiangshistory.org
And systematized it grows increasingly fungible with whatever other form of spectacle that comes along and offers itself out as a reasonable swap Organizing is practically its own industry now Not to say that revolution is dead but neither is there a template for it What was once spontaneous and emergent is essentially being photocopied and distributed around the world any information in the original image becoming fainter and fainter with each reproduction Only in places where protest is truly subversive can it convey any information The difficult it is to coordinate ahead of time the information it conveysIn this paradigm even what s seen is invisible This is the futility of trying to compete with it for spotlight on its own terms So in focusing on the 99 the Mirzoeff narrative is blind to the substructure that s roping in the 100 percent The final skew of all possible narratives once logged never any cancels out to yield a level plane for stable observation but is always left off tilt not as a remainder this is the composite so that while there re of course still plenty bastions of power worthy of scrutiny there s increasingly something ineffectual and strangely fictive about them Stitched composites become necessary only with growing complexity and only carelessly will these patchwork wholes be taken for one to one translations of some deeper reality if only we had the vantage to see it instead of the pre masticated information consumables for our brains to ingest through our eyes that they are and to which RDA guidelines should strictly apply Technology is discussed throughout the book but always in a woefully subservient role Mirzoeff reveals that the current peak of technological cultural attainment is the camera bolted onto to the social network Technology comes across as a stepstool that we use to reach greater heights of justice or alternatively something elites use to dominate nature At these scales it s no longer helpful to wield technology as a distinct segregated phenomenon In the historical sweep technology should be viewed almost as being alive something which at a certain point conceptually fuses with biological evolution into some greater complex system While no technology isn t all progress it should be seen as part of a progression Mirzoeff gives no hint of any such consideration The resulting book is flat He instructs the reader in how to perceive deep time and two sentences later uses the term developed nations conveying the arguably ultimate Western centric idea that development has peaked that we re at a zenith where our final collective decision will be how to distribute our finite power He wants to make change visible but the book is so myopically rooted in the present that for all the change he wishes to show it s How to See the World that feels static The developed nation designation is a fairly common convention and would be forgiven in this light if this characterization weren t so paradigmatic of the book s message overall There are times too where Mirzoeff doesn t seem to now what he really wants to convey He points out how Google Glass is so expensive that it ll only be available to the 1 percent but by the end of the paragraph it s something that will track masses of users as they go about their daily business I m sympathetic to the privacy concerns but this ind of approach is too ham handed to take seriouslyIf Mirzoeff wanted blow deep time open for inspection he d have seen success opening up to considerations of deep technology deep evolution deep complexity phenomena which come at scales where compression becomes as concerning as oppression Telling your story posting a selfie as these things become and profuse in the technological tubes the pressure is to compress it We repeat the process until we create a template at which point it s easy fodder for an algorithm to mine not for information which is almost absent by then but for redundancy compression s fulcrum Beyond the point where an audience can no longer consume everything that s disseminated there s a shift your audience is now the intermediary to which you re visible as a data point To whomever or whatever else you try to reach profusion of message precludes visibility altogether spinning a glut of signals into a composite humIs there a way still to convey a message in such an environment If there is Mirzoeff hasn t discovered it Whatever resolution there may be doesn t come with taking back power from authoritative vantages learning to see the world as a composite of the seething unseen majority but to realize that at this scale it s consensus that s gone Mirzoeff merely stands from his position as published author to enact an additional authoritative vantage Getting rid of the authoritative vantage brings in something newer than what Mirzoeff is attempting to show With inadeuate respect for deep complexity the opportunity for solutions that might compute our worlds on our behalves while leaving humanity maximally uncompressed in the process as possible is missedAt any scale of vision you can play the semantic game of illusion down to the level of rods and cones it s always just stitched together The uestion is where do you place the import Where do you designate realityMirzoeff finds appeal in the performative aspects of visual culture but performance is a convention a communication template and so the trick of being seen is locating the scarce ground where action is stripped of performance But since performance is undetectable even to the performer and so not something phony or disingenuous that may be impossible We may already be hemmed in by the shedding of performance itself being templated At which point I suppose it d be permissible to read How to See the World by Nicholas Mirzoeff About two thirds of the way through How to See the World I thought the opening of my review was going to go something likeIf you were to take How to See the World as an embodiment of its own instruction you d think that instruction was incoherently Mirzoeff never sets out his intentions the book veers from one topic to the next and it s not until page 220 that you first come across any directions for viewing the worldI would have meant to be disparaging obviouslyBut then I started to make sense of it and when I finished the book I thought I d better go back and flick through the introduction again just to make sure Mirzoeff had indeed not set out his intentions And it turns out he hadSo am I wasting your time by telling you this I hope notI think it s informative that I managed to forget or not process what I d read in the introduction and I stand by the gist of my one word summary Only incoherent might be a bit strong disjointed might be better And I m not sure that the book s disjointedness isn t intentionalYou see part of the basis for Mirzoeff s instruction is that the world is too big and too complex to be seen clearly and part of the instruction itself is that in order to see the world we therefore need to piece together lots of fragments of informationAnd he says as much in the introduction using the clever metaphor of a 2012 recreation of the famous 1972 Blue Marble photograph of the Earth from space the recreation being a metaphor because rather than being a single photograph like Blue Marble it was actually stitched together from several satellite imagesBut having mentioned Blue Marble in the very first sentence of the book he brings up the reproduction only after having talked in the interim about an explosion of youth across the planet the vast increase in internet connectivity in recent years climate change and selfies I m being a little unfair making a big deal of the disconnectedness of this part but I think it s a legitimate microcosm of the book as a whole you spend most of chapter 1 reading about portraiture forgetting that it s supposed to be a uick history of visual culture as a field of study most of chapter 3 reading about warfare forgetting it s supposed to be about visualisation most of chapter 4 reading about cinema forgetting it s supposed to be about the let s be honest readily apparent fact that most visualising is now done on screens etc etcLooking back through these chapters there are hints of the overall narrative running through them it s just that you have to be paying close attention to find them Now we are trained to pay attention to distractions Chapter 2All action must to a certain extent be planned in a twilight Chapter 3 the sit ins 2All action must to a certain extent be planned in a twilight Chapter 3 the sit ins a link between what was sayable and what was visible Chapter 5Mirzoeff might well protest and I might well just not be very perceptiveBut I prefer to think that rather than How to See the World being a somewhat incoherent embodiment of what I mistakenly thought would turn out to be an incoherent instruction instead it s a disjointed text that s deliberately disjointed in order to give you a chance to practice the very skills #the book informs you you are now going to need. Y and #book informs you you are now going to need. Y and rays in the nineteenth century In today's networked world mobile technology and social media enable us to exercise visual activism the practice of producing and circulating images to drive political and social change Whether we are looking at pictures showing the effects of climate change on natural and urban landscapes or an fMRI scan demonstrating neurological addiction Mirzoeff helps us to find meaning in what we see A powerful and accessible introduction to this new visual culture How to See the World reveals how images shape our lives how we can harness their power for good and why they matter to us In the preface to his marvellous Age of Revolution Eric Hobsbawm noted that the book s ideal reader is that theoretical construct the intelligent and educated citizen who is not merely curious about the past but wishes to understand how and why the word has come to be what it is today and whither it is going It s a fabulous goal and I hope one shared by many of who work in the social sciences and humanities it is certainly the rationale behind the revival of Penguin Books Pelican series with its plan to take the big ideas and best of contemporary thinking to wider non specialist audiences One of the interesting spin offs from the last 30 or so years work in and around thinking differently about culture has been the growth of a much systematic study of visual culture The centrality of the visual to the current world is hard to overstate in our streets we are battered by images signs messages and instructions and that s before we even get to television and the interweb that allows you to read this Nick Mirzoeff a major figure in the field is a fine choice to be the writer bringing these developments to Hobsbawm s theoretical construct The book is divided into three sections In the first Mirzoeff explores what it means to see As with so much else in studies of culture to see seems a remarkably straightforward verb until that is we start to realise just how different are the things we see and that these differences are not just between individuals but are also culturally framed that is we see in ways similar to other people like us He opens these chapters with a discussion of the 1972 photo from Apollo 17 nown as Blue Marble and arguing that it profoundly changed the way we think about ourselves because for the first time we have seen our world from the outside It is hard to overstate the sense of wonder this image evokedYet Blue Marble also encapsulates a profound tension in visual culture between that sense of the single objective real image and the way that we all see differently The opening three chapters explore this tension along the way unpacking what it means to see given this contradiction As Mirzoeff notes it is not just about seeing our word from without but also seeing ourselves which takes him into an engaging discussion of the selfie not as it is often the case as a marker of contemporary narcissism but as a way of framing the world by framing ourselves while making sense of the selfie through other forms of selfportraiture from Velazuez to Cindy Sherman This set of chapters concludes with a discussion not of seeing but of how we might think about seeing including what vision is in an anatomical and neuro scientific way These really are the big ideasIn the second set of chapters Mirzoeff explores where and how we see and how where we are shapes what it is we re seeing He opens these chapters with an unsettling discussion of maps of war and the impact of military looking and seeing on the ways we conceptualise space Whereas the other two foci of discussion here screens and urban spaces might make a lot intuitive sense as for many of us these are the parts of our world that frame what and how we see I find compelling his case that military ways of seeing pervade and to a large degree determine the ways many of us see what s this so banal that we remain unaware of it Mirzoeff s city vision parallels his military vision as constructing and enacting zones of inclusion and exclusion of empire and power and of the walls and barriers physical or not that direct us to enact space and vision in specific ways This is a visual culture of power and authority This then bring him to the final section change Much as I like his discussion of the global changing world of climate change of our understanding of the ways that we might see change especially large scale systematic and slow change I find his exploration of the ways that we might engage with visual culture to bring about change much exciting He draws on film on urban rebellion Arab Spring and Occupy and on culture jamming to discuss how we might visually create something new or even just dissent For him changing the world and visual activism is about an interplay of pixels and action not the ways we usually think about activism but often a good place to start I teach a final year class based in the cultural sociology and the sociology of consumption for sport studies students coaches teachers community development workers managers and journalists many of whom come from a deep rooted positivist outlook and positive engagement with sport as a social practice but in developing a strong visual culture strand through the class many of these students find a dissident voice often that they didn t now they had because the visual allows them to engage with both different aspects of their sporting worlds and to engage differently with those worlds and they finish up being much better critical scholars and in many cases developing a much stronger activist outlook designed not to reproduce but to make better open and democratic the world that is both their hobby and their chosen site of work Various pieces by Mirzoeff and other visual culture scholars appear throughout this class sometimes explicitly often implicitly Learning its codes is a great way to see and act inon the world in different waysMirzoeff is a fine guide the ways to see the world but don t just stop there the book has an excellent guide to further reading Highly recommended for specialist and non specialist readers alike Mirzoeff self consciously updates the late John Berger s Ways of Seeing with a new piece of popular Marxist pedagogy on how to read politics and history into images and how to change politics and history through images Chapters situating the selfie in the #democratizing history of self portraiture explaining the three phases of the modern city imperial divided and global through artistic representations thereof #history of self portraiture explaining the three phases of the modern city imperial divided and global through artistic representations thereof the inextricable relation between railroad and cinema the signal technologies of the 19th and 20th centuries respectively and expounding on contemporary neuroscience to demonstrate that vision is a process involving the whole body and the whole polis are vertiginous mind changing narratives in the manner of the best popular nonfiction they justify Mirzoeff s claims for the omni relevanc This is a rather confused and disjointed book The trouble with writing about visual culture is that it is often stating the obvious to those of us who live within it every day especially to those of us old enough to remember the pre smartphone era and so are aware of the contrastThe power of a visual remember the pre smartphone era and so are aware of the contrastThe power of a visual cannot be underestimated and How to See the World is an introduction to the new academic discipline of the study of visual culture Visual artefacts in the form of fine and decorative arts have been studied in universities for about a century of course and before that in salons and art academies What makes
"visual culture as a field a new departure is its focus on mass and popular "culture as a field a new departure is its focus on mass and popular which now has an unimaginable range and volume in the age of digital media How to See the World takes us through some of the perspectives this new analysis can take How to See Yourself takes us fairly speedily from classical portraiture to modern artists such as Cindy Sherman and the ubiuitous selfie The emphasis here is on how the self is radically unstable and a matter of performance rather than essence in tension with traditional social categories How We think about Seeing is an update on brain science and what it tells us about perception and processing of visual information we see with our bodies not simply the retina Further chapters look at the story of mapping for military purposes from the nineteenth century to the contemporary drone early film and its conjunction with industrialisation and the train the rise of the modern megacity the changing climate and mass political protest All of these areas of life have generated exploited and explored the expressive and interpretive capacities of visual culture To orient oneself in the modern world we need to develop skills in reading images from street art to museum housed installations to instagram snaps and video clips circulated as memes To be active participants in our own culture we need to be adept at using these visual codes ourselvesI had some problems with this book not least in finding some definition for the discipline itself It draws on many other subjects presenting some established tropes in a slightly altered format the ideas on the performative self for example are familiar from feminism and gender studies the psychology of perception is central to Gombrich s Art and Illusion and the survey of the giant city draws heavily on authors like Mike Davis Mirzoeff acknowledges a debt to the work of John Berger itself drawing on Walter Benjamin Sometimes the book felt like familiar ingredients given a slightly new twist rather than an exciting new departur. Every two minutes Americans alone take photographs than were printed in the entire nineteenth century; every minute people from around the world upload over 300 hours of video to YouTube; and in 2014 we took over one trillion photographs From the funny memes that we send to our friends to the disturbing photographs we see in the news we are consuming and producing images in uantities and ways that could never have been anticipated In the process we are producing a new worldview powered by changing demographics one where the majority of people are young urban and globally connected In How to See the World visual cu.
Nicholas Mirzoeff ´ 4 SummaryE Visual culture is so vast that it surely takes in just about anything from a school whiteboard to a weekend watercolour Unsurprisingly the book as a whole felt like a disparate gathering of thoughts on subjects the author is interested in and on which he is clearly very well informed rather than a clearly demarcated area of discourse It s not always easy to find a thread running through a chapter rather one item seems to auto suggest another Divided Cities for example uses this suggestive heading to hurtle us through Berlin the American South South African apartheid and Israel Palestine in a few pages with some fascinating images along the way but without time to look in any detail at any of these scenarios In these stretches the book reads as a seuence of riffs rather than an over arching compositionDespite these reservations perhaps I was looking for a traditional thesis style work I must admit found this a riveting read Mirzoeff has an immediately engaging style unencumbered by theoretical jargon Every page offers some fascinating nugget of information such as the surprising but convincing link between Impressionism and industrial smog He conveys a passionate curiosity and is an example of an academic for whom the wall between intellectual observation and practical action is like other walls mentioned here one to be dismantled He is clearly fascinated and inspired by social protest movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy and sees in the visual traces such collective actions produce a hope for the representation of popular interests in a world in which the 99% are generally excluded by corporate media Visual Culture is for Mirzoeff something we should do not simply study Only through imagining the effects of climate change can we hope to address it and this imagining necessarily takes the form of the actual making of images The record of mass protest in Egypt stands as an example of visual artefacts which the regime cannot erase The commitment to action in the book makes it a refreshing change from the traditional world of art criticism often confined to a reflective discourse within the space of the museum If the structure of the book doesn t fit the usual academic conventions perhaps that is part of the point Once we have learned how to see the world he concludes we have taken only one of the reuired steps The point is to change it An introduction to Visual Studies and the importance of image in the modern world this is a pretty fascinating book It starts out with self representation from the self portrait to the selfie and continues on to explore how images were and are important in the way people see themselves others and the worldThis is also a really political book in a good way it explores how images are not innocent of political content and towards the end explores how social networks and the current capacity that so many people have to create their own images have led to popular movements propelled by visual culture from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movementsAll in all it s an easy and important read that even if it doesn t bring anything specially new to the table at least condenses it all in one place contextualizing so much of the visuals of modern world in the political and aesthetic history of humans Erudite all over the place and brilliant Interesting topic and examples but I expected or had hoped for a structured aproach Now the book is all over the place which made it difficult for me to take something with me except for some interesting facts and stories Less powerful than I expected though still a jouissance reading Hardly structured and unfocus How to See the World provides a bunch of visual interpretation and genealogy of arguably the new discipline visual culture However though theoretically the thread between selfie and Anthropocene is interconnected Mirzoeff all over the place writing style makes it feel like a disjointed patchwork unrelated Anyway it is interesting to rethink the correlation between representation and visuality in terms of political activism as uite often we see visuality merely just a form or a method of representation However the uestion raises after reading this book is according to the factoid and visual analysis provided in this book is visual cultures the study of representation as it encapsulated in the afterword as Visual Activism How to see the visual culture outside the framework of representation How to See the World starts off very literally contrasting two images of the Earth the 1972 Blue Marble image taken from a camera aboard Apollo 17 and NASA s updated 2012 Blue Marble a composite rendering stitched together from a number of digital satellite images but which by all appearances was taken from a single location at a precise moment The message here out is that at
One Vision Cametime vision came a single authoritativeentitled vantage while it s now a democratic unified rendering that we must work at seeing Nicholas Mirzoeff offers himself as a guide making visible the composite of today s unseen layersIt was a surprisingly taxing process for me to understand Mirzoeff s overarching theme here given it s apparent straightforwardness and it was only in the second half of the book that I was able to piece it together the hurdle being that when I think of a whole at global scales at least being fashioned from parts I think not of unity but of an emergent order which is messy probabilistic relativistic and ultimately provisional So what I thought he was getting at with is introductory Blue Marble evaluation was that we re moving towards a distributed world of provisional truths It was disappointing to finally discover the simplistic message he was really getting at since his model of a unified whole seems less encompassing than the emergent order model Mirzoeff never reveals that surface simplicity of the unified image is the interface for the complexity hidden below and that as this complexity grows the interfacing entry points multiply with it And so while intermittently interesting the book is far consistently short sighted and problematic turning territorial skirmishes over fa ades into an epic scale war making lots of fuss about unseen worlds with no acknowledgement of the mammoth complexity that undergirds the battlefieldMirzoeff early on takes as inspiration China Mieville s novel The City the City in which two cities exist coextensively while remaining invisible to one another I believe that s the gist I haven t read it It s the formulation Mirzoeff paints onto our world and he spends the rest of the book demonstrating how to see the composite whole of this unseen world although it s not clear to whom the phenomena of selfies worldwide unrest and protest and climate change clashes are invisibleHe charts a historical course which is making possible this world wide democratic composite image At one time self portraits were possible only for skilled painters Portraiture generally was available only to society s elite and although they didn t paint their own pictures their wealth and power spoke for itself they didn t need to instruct the artist to paint them in a very specific light their power therefore effectively guaranteeing control of their image Cameras enabled self portraits on a somewhat wider scale but only in the last few years has the selfie risen to prominence letting the image taker claim control over their image bolstering the information content in the process by any performative aspects entailed in the picture capture From here Mirzoeff plots the course of reclaimed image authority to Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring offering and lauding protest movements as the global composite of these self owned imagesMuch of this echoes broader contemporary discussions of narrative control the image here replacing narrative and the self empowerment that comes from everyone gaining the ability to tell their story I find all of this problematic not in a curmudgeonly way if I can try to claim control of perceptions about myself with this ind of caveat it does seem somehow humane but the claim seems to be that at some critical mass once everyone has their story told all that s dismally unseen will become visible to the world and to the light of justice I d say that has things reversed To tell a story is not the same as having it heard and taking a selfie is not the same as having it seen Profusion is the mechanism to make things invisible not of bringing them to the fore In humanizing billions by disseminating billions of stories story becomes a mass commodity In whatever aspects it may formerly have been useful narrative becomes tainted by association and we migrate into a world of partial and fake truths Try posting a selfie online and seeing if you feel like your story s been told or whatever nameless grievance has been redressed Cameras aren t documentary devices #they re no longer the tools of artists They ve become #re no longer the tools of artists They ve become As protest becomes. Lture expert Nicholas Mirzoeff offers a sweeping look at history's most famous images from Velezuez's Las Meninas to the iconic Blue Marble to contextualize and make sense of today's visual world Drawing on art history sociology semiotics and everyday experience he teaches us how to close read everything from astronaut selfies to Impressionist self portraits from Hitchcock films to videos taken by drones Mirzoeff takes us on a journey through visual revolutions in the arts and sciences from new mapping techniues in the seventeenth century to new painting styles in the eighteenth and the creation of film photograph. ,