Reading response

Reading Response – Practices of Looking

The chapter of ‘images, power and politics’ inspired me with a new way of observing and thinking. The authors suggest that we all explore our social relationships and meanings through looking. The article also discusses about images, the information it conducts, and how people perceive them.  For instance, mages can contain various information and messages, and different people have different understanding and explanations to it.

The power of image reminds me of the article of Judiths, ‘Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street’, which suggests that media can extend a protest. There is a similar concept of these two articles where in ‘the practice of looking’, there is a story about the photograph taken for a boys corpus enabled an violence-related racist event to be more well-known and could even represent the violence on blacks in that period of time. Without such power of photography, the effect of that event might not be that profound and long-lasting.

Images can also help us define and represent the world we see and understand. “We make meaning of the material world through understanding objects and entities in their specific cultural contexts”. Through examples of paintings by Henri-Horace Roland and Marion Peck, the authors explain how an image can reflect and mimic things whereas an image can also produce meanings through putting and composing thoughts into it.


Henri-Horace Roland de la Porte, still life, c.1765 (source: Google images)


Marion Peck, Still Life With Dralas, 2003 (source: Google images)


Through a series of inspiring examples of images including Magrittes this is not a pipe’, the authors indicate that although an image can conduct information, it cannot stand for the true experience of an object. In addition, by diving into deeper understanding of an image, people are able to experience different stage of the meanings contained in a picture, rather than only seeing the most obvious one. In my point of view, this feeling is that you have an initial understanding when you first look at a painting, and then the understanding will be different and deeper after exploring the story of the painter and his/hers thoughts, and this often is the moment one falls in love with an art piece.

Rene Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) [La Trahison des images (Ceci nest pas une pipe)], 1928-29 (source Google images)


In the section ‘how we negotiate the meaning of images’, the authors suggest that signs are infilled with meanings and these meanings are created under cultural, historical and social environment. People understand an image through common sense and through the regulations of the society. This makes me realize that this has much to do with social equality. Readings last week introduced the concept of Xenofeminism’; it is the similar idea that we should observe and perceive in an unbiased way. Yet this is very difficult for people to do due to through these hundreds and thousands of years human has already constructed a whole system of understanding.

However, many have realized the issues behind such society. For instance, there are a lot of people define themselves as Asexual. To my understanding, this is partially due to their desire of being so, and also due to the fact that they want to break the rules of our society and call for justice. Fortunately, the world we live has become increasingly inclusive and open so that all thoughts and minds are bing accepted as they should have been a long time ago. We will be perceiving things more divergent from the common sense and become more critical; maybe one day people no longer see the sign of bikini as representing women or even, the signs that use genitals to represent gender will no longer exist due to the freedom of choosing and deciding gender in a way that is not based on common sense and biological rules.

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