Category Archives: 305MC
Spectacle: Choose a recent media product; a videogame, TV programme, film of new story; which has both memory/history/the past and power as key themes, or key aspects of it’s narrative
“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived had moved away into a representation.”
– Guy Debord
Unforgiven displays past and memory through various things. The first is of the character of Ruth’s younger sister, there is a faded clip of her sister running, shown at the side of Ruth’s head like a memory. The dying policeman is seen as a flashback and it is clear it is in the past because of the old style uniform and the floor of the house is dirty; like it used to be when it was a working farm. This is supposed to be an explanation for the ghost in the present day.
The flashback of the police photograph of Ruth is obviously old as it is a “mug-shot” and is black and white, it is used to connect different parts of the story; his realisation that Ruth is the woman who killed his father. The photograph of Ruth’s sister as a child is clearly old since it is taken on an old camera judging by the poor quality and it is creased and folded. This shows how close Ruth was and still is to her sister, since she kept the photograph with her for the years she was in prison.
Finally, there is a flashback to the events 15 years previous. This is obviously set in the past due to the old police car, Ruth having a different hair colour, the windows are old and dirty, the dead policeman is alive and the house is yet to be renovated. The purpose of this is for an explanation of what happened; especially because the whole three episodes are situated around these events.
Power is represented in both visible and invisible ways. The first is at the beginning of the first episode, a prison is a clear owner of power. The prison and the prison officer are extremely important in Ruth’s life, as they have been the controller of her for 15 years. However, Ruth is being signed out of prison, so she now has the power over her own life. The responsibility has been given to her. The signing of the release forms show the transfer of power. The car crash Ruth witnesses reminds her of the power she now has over her own life; and represents how strong this is; but it also shows the lack of power the girl involved in the crash now has; responsibility for the preservation of her life has now been given to the ambulance crew.
There is a strong emphasis on the power of the mind/imagination in that the woman believes supernatural things are happening in her home. This is shown by her eventually ending up sitting outside so as to not be alone in the house which shows how much her mind has controlled her. This is invisible power; although she voices her concerns, she has little or no control over her mind and physically she can do nothing. This is represented as an extremely powerful thing, as towards the end it is revealed it was simply in her mind (and slightly her son’s fault) and her imagination had built it up to be something it was not.
The unseen power of grief is represented also, as being strong in controlling someone’s course in life. The son’s whose father was murdered let grief take control of their lives. Instead of becoming what they wanted to be, their grief overtook them and did not allow them to reach their full potential. This is shown by the characters working in dead-end jobs.
Peer pressure and parental pressure is invisible but powerful. The character of Lucy feels outweighed by her course-mates and has a fear of letting her parents down. This pressure bears so much power on her that she attempts to take her own life.
The great power of memory is invisible, but achieves visible results. To begin with it is shown as keeping Lucy from her sister Ruth, as she has memories she just cannot reach within her mind. However, when these memories become clearer, they re-unite the two sisters. Lucy’s family also has the power to keep the sisters apart. They keep information from her and do not encourage these memories. But their power is over-ridden by Lucy’s powerful memories once they are unlocked.
Finally, Ruth has the powers of knowledge and strength. These are shown as immensely powerful because she has been able to keep the secret that Lucy pulled the trigger not her even, though it meant she went to prison. This power is so strong she does not ever reveal the truth. This can also be seen as a power of love, love for her sister.
The sense of past is similar to my object in that both share memories of family and childhood. Both share memories that can be unlocked. ‘Unforgiven’ is not connected to me of my life in terms of story, but it matters to me because I enjoyed watching it. The narrative structure appealed to me, in that there were different stories that linked together and it was all on the edge of something that happened in the past.
I think Debord is suggesting that in modern society we see everything in our lives as a spectacle. Once major things were considered spectacles, but now we see minute occurrences as major events when in actual fact on the grand scale of things they are simply insignificant. Now, things that have happened aren’t just regurgitated accounts of events, they are created in one’s mind as a representation of what happened; things omitted, things exaggerated; to become something more than they once were when telling someone else. Things that are created, especially within the media are there to impress and amaze. Nothing is original and everything has a sense of hyper reality.
Power: think about what the differences are between your archive and the “official” ones that define public culture.
‘Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society.’
– Michael Foucalt
I visited Chris Steele Perkins: ‘England, My England’ at the gallery in Aberystwyth Arts Centre. It is a photographical collection that he has compiled over four decades. The photographs outline how England has changed in his eyes, but not through major technological developments or significant points in history, but through the under-privileged; who they are and why and how the make England who it is.
The photographs were chosen by the curator, because they record the small changes in community rather than large societal changes. They address minorities, but from an impartial view. For example, a black youth club in Wolverhampton (1978), an elderly couple at home (1975) to a party girl in the 1990’s and a girl with cerebral palsy in 2009. Things like this are similar to a personal memory bank; nationally you might remember the ‘teddy boys’ but personally you remember seeing a boy too young to be one yet. Society remembers the old summer fêtes, but you remember the man climbing to the top of a lamppost dress in a bald wig and geeky glasses.
The exhibition reflects on how some things in a community that were once accepted are now rejected, whereas some things remain a part of life – despite perhaps being unhealthy. The children doing PE in their underwear in 1976 is acceptable then because they were poor and could not afford uniforms, but now this would be unacceptable and seen as an outcry whereas the old lady struggling to heat her home on a coal fire in 1975, which really is an outcry and rather inhumane seems to still exist today – the rising cost of heating bills and no rises in pensions. The ‘adults only’ sex show at a fair in the 1980’s would not happen today, yet the party girl in the 1990’s stumbling around drunk still occurs today and it arguable which is the most harmful.
Despite these, there are images that show England for who is it; the crowd celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee, a scene on the beach of a typical British holiday, a family portrait; mum and three girls, one of which looks rather cheeky!; an English picnic, a farmer in a field, a handful of men in a stand supporting their local team. So many things that show England for what it is; a place of community and spirit, support and love. Chris Steele Perkins felt that it was these memories that should be captured; these are the types of memories that are precious to people.
In regards to the gallery itself, I feel quite at ease there. Since I worked in the Arts Centre, I feel comfortable in there. The gallery is there for everyone, so it is there for me, but I would not say it reflects me. The Arts Centre does, but not the gallery; galleries have never really been something I was interested in or particularly valued. However I would say that I value the gallery at the Arts Centre, since it is part of the building and is for everyone. All types of people go there and due to it being right next to the theatre hall, patrons visit the exhibitions in the intervals of shows.
A gallery has a position of authority to display whatever exhibitions it chooses by whichever artists they want. However, they can be limited by how experimental a collection is, or if it may be by a controversial curator. Often galleries do not allow for up-and-coming artists as they need a well-known name to attract visitors. If I were to create my own collection, I would be able to use new techniques/equipment that a gallery may not risk investing in, and I could be as experimental as I wished. I could also make my collection a digital one for display online which would allow people all over the world from different walks of life to access it without any great effort. It would also allow for online sharing; probably through social networks and blogs; but I would be unable to charge unlike a gallery had the authority to.
‘Memory can’t be stored, ready for retrieval like images on a videotape […] memory is fallible, dependent on mood and circumstance, and subject to distortion.’
– Margaret Murphy
The object that is important to me; and others in my family; is our static caravan. It was bought by us in 2004 and is basically our second home. The caravan is located on a site in mid Wales, with a five minute walk to the beach. It provides us with somewhere we can escape to whenever and for however long we choose. A sense of freedom and flexibility. This caravan is not our first; our first was situated on the caravan site next door and bought when I was barely two. Our caravan now always reminds me of our previous one, especially since the site we were on is adjacent.
The old caravan is a symbol of my childhood. It reminds me of when six weeks in summer stretched out before me, a time for not just a break from school, but endless days of sun and playing out. It also gave me priceless time with my grandparents. The six weeks would be filled with playing outside in the sun, from my plastic Wendy house with dolls tea parties, to being chased around the caravan! Then on rainy days, games with toy cars, pretend shops and picture playing cards. It was a time when I thought being able to stay up until 9.30pm on a Friday night was dad on his way to us was the best thing ever; but him leaving Sunday night was a time for tears, I was soon distracted by mum or nan or grandad with a board game to play though. I even achieved a milestone in my childhood there – I learnt to ride a bike. Friends were made, memories were made, and most importantly – I grew up.
The caravan now though, not only evokes these memories, but it is filled with plenty more. This one is a much more relaxed time; except for when me and my best friend were here in half terms! Here, I have learnt why it means so much to my parents; a place to escape, which is ours, no-one else’s, to do with what we please. There are no check-in times or check-out dates or booking fees. No planes to catch or receptions to book in. It is our base, we can explore the rest of Wales, but we will always have this place to come back to. Unfortunately, nan and grandad don’t come here, but it’s ok because I only have to look up to our old pitch to remember all the good times we had. Here I can reflect, read and be inspired, in a place we can call home.
Mum’s view of our caravan: “It meant that we could enjoy a leisurely family holiday whenever we wanted. A home from home by the sea something I had always imagined but never thought I would attain. Freedom for Amber to have the bucket and spade holiday by the sea, without the constraints of renting. The caravan gives me memories of Amber running around on the beach making sandcastles and digging moats around them so the sea could fill it. Playing with her new friends on the caravan site and learning to ride a two wheeled bike; setting of at the top of the site and by the time she got to the bottom coming back so excited that she could really do it. Real family holidays, like I remember from being a child, when it always seemed to be sunny.”
Both memories and what the caravan means to us are similar. We both feel a sense of freedom – not having to book our holidays etc. It also generates for us memories of my childhood. For mum though, it reminds her of when she was young and makes her content that I got to have family holidays like those she enjoyed as a child.
I feel Murphy is partly correct in her statement. Memory is dependent on mood and circumstance, on how you felt at the time, where you were and what the memory means to you. But I think that this helps you to log and store the memories, like images on a videotape. You can remember certain feelings or where you were and recall the memory. However, if those feelings occur again or you revisit a place, those memories can be evoked spontaneously.