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Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism and the Histories of Art by Griselda Pollock Review by: Carol Zemel

The Art Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 2 (Jun., 1990), pp. 336-341 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3045740 . Accessed: 04/04/2013 17:04
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336

THE ART BULLETIN JUNE 1990 VOLUME LXXII NUMBER 2

century Dutch painting was produced for the free market rather than for particular patrons. Schwartz and Bok seem to hold to the assumption that the majority of Saenredam's works were produced on commission. They may be right, but that does not alter the fact that a portion of his works came into being without patronage. From the single surviving letter written by Saenredam, we know that the large Interior of St. Bavo of 1648, now in Edinburgh, was offered for sale to the stadholder Willem II. Willem II did not buy it, and the painting entered the collection of Charles II as part of the "Dutch Gift" via the collection of the Amsterdam burgomaster Andries de Graeff. This painting, whose dimensions alone would have made it a costly piece, was apparently not painted on commission. His having produced a portion of his work for the free market may account for the occasionally considerable changes that Saenredam made following the initial completion of paintings. In the Interior of the Mariakerk in the Rijksmuseum, as also in a painting of the same subject in Kassel, he overpainted the tapestries executed in gold leaf. In three other paintings of the interior of the Mariakerk, the tapestries (likewise executed in gold leaf) have not been altered.10Perhaps he made these paintings for the free market, then "customized" them after having found takers. The Amsterdam and Kassel paintings were presumably sold to Protestant buyers who did not wish to see the tapestries - relics of the Catholic past of the church. Naturally, my view is entirely speculative, though that would hardly render it unsuitable to this monograph; Schwartz and Bok themselves rarely refrain from far-reaching conjectures. It is somewhat surprising that the authors remain silent on the subject of the patronage of the large Interior of St. Bavo in Philadelphia (dated 1631, not 1628). Some years ago, Josua Bruyn expressed the opinion that the richly clad group populating the church interior represents Frederik V Palatine and his wife, Elizabeth Stuart, and their entourage being given a tour of the church. Might the painting have been a gift from the city of Haarlem to the "Winter King"and his wife? The fact, in any case, of its representing a guided tour seems beyond question. In conclusion, a few words are in order about the organization of the book. The authors have declined to present a complete catalogue raisonne. This is understandable, as ninety-five percent of it would have replicated the catalogue published in 1961. Instead, they have preferred to assemble a handlist, assimilating only the most important publications since 1961. Plans of all of the churches that appear in Saenredam's work are included, and the vantage points from which he worked are duly noted. The book also includes a list of archivalia bearing on Saenredam, and extensive genealogical charts. An important feature of the book are the reproductions; all of the paintings but one are reproduced in color. The single exception is the panel in the collection of the Institut N6erlandais in Paris, where reproduction rights for an Ektachrome picture were denied on the grounds that the painting "has suffered over the years from so many bad and inaccurate colour reproductions," that they preferred it not be given another try. The publisher and authors have responded by stating (p. 309): "Despite the numerous limitations of photography, lithography, and color printing, we believe our reproductions to be reasonably accurate in terms of the actual colors of Saenredam's paintings. When possible, the proofs have been compared with the originals and corrected." I have taken the occasion to compare the repro-

ductions with originals in Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Of the thirteen plates checked, a mere six could be said to be reasonably accurate. It is regrettable that current technical conditions apparently yield no better results. That the index and the cross-referencing of the book are riddled with so many mistakes has nothing to do with technical conditions, but rather reflects a tight schedule and the pressure of deadlines: the book was presented to the Dutch press on the ninth of June last year, to coincide with the painter's birthday. The English edition, to appear this spring, will have suffered less from these pressures. For other reasons, too, the English version will be superior to the Dutch; fifteen of the sixteen chapters were originally written in English and then translated - here too the original may be preferable to the reproduction. This does not mean that the book in the form reviewed here is not a more than welcome publication. It is a beautiful book, which contains much new information, provokes discussion, and will surely stimulate further research. This is cause for gratitude.
ROB RUURS

Kunsthistorisch Instituut Universiteit van Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands

GRISELDA POLLOCK,Vision

and Difference:

Femininity, ills.

Feminism and the Histories of Art, London and New York,


Routledge, 1988. Pp. 239; 53 black-and-white On the cover of Griselda Pollock's Vision and Difference, Mary Cassatt's image of a woman looking through opera glasses announces one pole of the book's discursive terrain. With looking as its subject, At the Opera stages the activity and conditions of spectatorship. In the foreground, the woman seen in profile leans forward, intent; a man in a distant loge watches her; while the viewer of the painting becomes a passive, third term in a triangle of intersecting but never interacting gazes. Represented as the agent of her own visual pleasure, the "subject of her own look," as Pollock puts it (pp. 75-76), Cassatt's opera-going matron surveys the world of the modern and confidently joins the masculine world of spectatorship. The woman's activity and the painting's emphasis on agency are central concerns of Pollock's feminist art history. The beautiful faces of models and movie stars in the centerfold photo-essay (pp. 115-119)is another. Fifteen iconic close-ups expose the 19thcentury origins and the enduring status of an ideal femininity, a depersonalized configuration whose standard no woman in Western culture can escape. As a group, these pictures set forth another term of Pollock's project: to demonstrate the construction of femininity as a particular kind of gender difference - passive, receptive, seductive. Images like these serve as evidence of the ways in which women are also "not-women" in representation, but signs of something else, objectified vehicles of masculine mastery and desire. Playing ironically on women's "silence"in history, on our "absence" as signifieds, Pollock lets this collection of beautiful women "speak for themselves." I begin with pictures - strategically placed by the author as signs of the book's activist character. At the heart of Pollock's approach is the feminist conviction that women's place in history is always a socially constructed and negotiated condition. Thus, despite real constraints on their activities, women, in historical accounts, are not prisoners of social and cultural forces, but active negotiators of their own lives. That sense of agency enlivens the text; Pollock's are not only insightful analyses, they are empowering.

10

Bulletinvan het Rijks"Vanschets tot schilderij," Cf. E Lammertse,

museum, xxxv, 1987, 80-90, esp. n. 14.

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BOOK REVIEWS

337

This comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the author's previous publications. Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology' reminded us that women artists were not so much hidden from history as always present but in some secondary status. The task Pollock suggested was to consider their position structurally and relationally, to ask how the social categories "women" and "artist" intersect at given moments to allow or inhibit a woman artist's choices and possibilities. Old Mistresses is virtually a primer on "how-to-do" feminist art history. The collection of essays (two previously published) here in review develops approaches initiated there through complex and detailed argument. Vision and Difference is centered firmly on art-historical practices seen as coincident with bourgeois, capitalist culture. What is at issue, however, is not history, but method. "Wecannot ignore the fact," Pollock writes, "that the terrains of artistic practice and of art history are structured in and structuring of gender power relations" (p. 55). In those terms, her book is a model for scholars of modernism and contemporary art, and a stimulating guide to problems, issues, and questions for those working in pre-modern periods. The book is useful as a tool to target art-historical hegemonies and to raise crucial questions like: what constitutes evidence7 how do we define art production? who is the art audience beyond patrons and critics? who looks at art objects? how do they look? The title, Vision and Difference, declares the book's purpose and range: linking constructions of sexual difference to modes of visuality, and indicating how these have been legitimated within histories of art. Beginning with a survey of methodological frameworks, Pollock's chapters move from an examination of femininity in 19th-century French and British art to consideration of contemporary feminist art and strategies for change. Each chapter examines the practices of art history through detailed analyses of specific art-historical topoi - from modernity's spaces, to beauty and pleasure, to artists' muses and models, to documentation and evidence - all of which programmatically define the patriarchal terms of the discipline. These set a particular agenda. "The political point of feminist art history," Pollock states emphatically, "must be to change the present by means of how we re-present the past" (p. 14). The project is ambitious and difficult. But as Linda Nochlin puts it, "Feministart history is there to make trouble. . . . At its strongest, a feminist art history is a transgressive and antiestablishment practice, meant to call many of the major precepts of the discipline into question."2 Many feminist scholars have called for sweeping changes,3 but it has remained for British

women (Pollock, Tickner, Garb, Adler, Nead) to theorize and frame a comprehensive feminist program.4 If feminist art history is to undergo any fundamental change, key structures, such as the centrality of the art object, the fixities of art history's boundaries, the privileging of the artist-genius, the invisibility of the viewer, as Lisa Tickner lists them,5 must be unveiled and examined. Given both the political character and theoretical complexity of Pollock's project, it would be disingenuous not to see the contribution of Vision and Difference partially in that light. A glance at American publications and academic programs tells us that feminist art history in this country lags well behind feminism in literary criticism and the social sciences.6 Save for recent volumes of October and interdisciplinary journals like Genders and Representations, there is hardly a hospitable scholarly forum for deconstructive feminist approaches to the visual arts to compare with British publications like Block, Oxford Art Journal, or Art History. And beyond the orthodoxies of our academic community, feminist art history must contend with the machismo of America's cultural "triumph"and criticism since World War II.7 Seen through our journals, scholarly presses, and granting agencies, feminist art history has engaged in largely reformist or corrective activity. The American-British distinction is perhaps best described by the literary scholar Carolyn Heilbrun's account of American and French feminist critical practice. American feminism, she writes, is developed around an experiential model of women in the social or political arena - women left out or denied access to education, institutions, jobs - while French (and in our context, British) feminism is based on the notion of language as a male construct in which women are silenced, unable to find expression within the patriarchal structures of language, and of representation. Heilbrun quotes the critic Elaine Marks: "American feminist critics see women as oppressed by sexism, 'their voices unheard within the dominant culture,' whereas for French critics women are repressed, equivalent to the unconscious and therefore not representable in language."8 Broadly put in these terms, we can understand our efforts to change art history by correcting the canon; we have had more difficulty changing the codes. American feminists have been readier to insert gender into traditional iconographic and stylistic frameworks, or to provide "background" data on woman's history rather than develop a methodological critique. Notwithstanding the contributions of Nochlin, Duncan, Lipton, and Lippard, much of our important work floats unanchored as singular studies, and too often these are accommodated at the margins of an accretive liberal history. By now, the lack of theoretical framework has resulted in a scat-

1 Co-authored with RoszikaParker,New York,1981. Pollock'sFraming Art and the Women's LondonandNew Feminism, Movement,1970-1985, is a collectionof criticaltextsby various York,1987,editedwith Parker, feministwriterson contemporary art. I want to thank EuniceLiptonand KathleenCorriganfor discussion and criticismof issues in this review 2 L. Nochlin, "Introduction," Women,Art, and Power,New York,1988,
XIII.

and P. Mathews,'"The Feminist mappedby T. Gouma-Peterson Critique


of Art History," Art Bulletin, LXIx,1987, 326-357.

5 Tickner,94. LindaNochlincalls for analysisof thatlag. See Women, Art andPower, xvi, n. 2. 7 Feminist analysesof Americanmodernism's "highmasculinities"-Ab- areunderway in theworkof Ann andMinimalism stract-Expressionism Gibsonand Anna Chave. See Chave's"Minimalism and the Rhetoricof this article Power,"Arts Magazine,January1990, 44-63. Significantly, in a non-academic art and art appeared journal,gearedto contemporary criticism. 8E. Marks,quotedin CarolynG. Heilbrun, a Woman's Writing Life,New
York, 1988, 42-43.
6

3 In one of the first Americancollectionsof feministart history,Norma Broudeand MaryGarrard the "possibility of alterations of art suggested andits theory"; Feminism andArt History: historyitself,its methodology Questioningthe Litany,New York,1982,vii. 4 Most recentlyby L. Tickner,"Feminism, Art History,and SexualDifart history is usefully Genders,III, Fall 1988, 92-128.Feminist ference,"

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THE ART BULLETIN JUNE 1990 VOLUME LXXII NUMBER 2

tered revisionism rather than a problematizing of feminist procedures and concerns. It is here that Vision and Difference makes a ground-breaking contribution to the field. Though the text does not presume a reader familiar with theoretical literature or principles, these essays set feminist art history and contemporary feminist art firmly in an interdisciplinary theoretical framework. Theory is essential for any activist practice, Pollock argues, because theoretical paradigms that include gender as a structuring principle offer pathways through the revisionist habit of recovery and absorption. Reminding readers of "the political responsibility of working for the liberation of women," Pollock asks rhetorically: "What sense are we to make of information without a theoretical framework through which to discern the particularity of women's work?" (pp. 14, 55). At times this makes for a bumpy ride. Vision and Difference negotiates the confluence of theory, specific analyses, and feminist practice with some awkwardness of language. But feminism is an embattled practice, and at its most elaborate, Pollock's is the language of political parti pris. While some readers will find the tone bossy and the syntax prolix, others no doubt will find her writing an audacious1and thrilling call to arms. Beginning with a survey of effective theoretical frameworks and methodologies, Pollock targets two bastions of resistance to feminism within contemporary art history: bourgeois liberalism and the progressive left. The structures of mainstream art history are familiar: the narrow focus on the art object, the valorization of the artist-genius and his creative processes, and the invisibility of the spectator. But the omission of consideration of gender from most "progressive"art history and its formulations of modernity raises the ante and the heat of Pollock's arguments. Her pointed example is T.J. Clark's now infamous call for a social history of art which nonetheless dismissed feminism as a "cheerful diversification" or gadfly methodology that is "hot-foot [along with other approaches] in the pursuit of the new."9 Indeed, Pollock's approach is enthusiastically diversified. "Feministinterventions in the histories of art," the opening chapter argues, are best served when problematized through a range of theoretical models - Marxist formulations of class and ideology, Foucauldian discursive structures, linguistic theories of signification, and psychoanalytic models of the development of sexuality and subjectivity. With visual art construed as a signifying practice, as a fluid, constructive force rather than a reflection of an already existing reality, and with the psychodynamics of the gaze proposed as a structuring matrix for gender identities, the field for intervention broadens, with more avenues for action and more possibilities for change. After suggesting their promise for feminist art history, Pollock demonstrates these approaches in four closely argued chapters. "Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity" uses gender and class

frameworks as well as discursive positionality and models of the gaze to reconsider Impressionism as modernity's founding terrain. Building on T.J. Clark's mapping of modern Paris and its representations as a zone of leisure and shifting class identities,10Pollock returns to Baudelaire's "The Painter of Modern Life" (1859) and his account there of modernity construed through eroticized urban spaces-boulevards, bars, cafes, and popular entertainments. Yet, Pollock contends: The significant spaces of modernity are neither simply those of masculinity, nor are they those of femininity, which are as much the spaces of modernity for being the negative of the streets and bars. They are . . . the marginal or interstitial spaces [the theater, the garden, the park, the brothel] where the masculine and feminine intersect and structure sexuality within a classed order (p. 70). In two remarkably telling grids, Pollock diagrams the public and domestic zones represented in Impressionist painting, and differentiates the representation of theater and home in paintings by bourgeois women like Cassatt and Morisot from those by Monet or Renoir. What made such pictures compelling icons was not the social modernity they "reflected,"or even the sexual promise they displayed, but the sexualities and social differences they encoded and defined. Pollock extends her analysis to show that the central terrain of the modern, the site of masculine power and viewing pleasure, was not only staged through the sexual presence of working-class women, but also through the presence of bourgeois women shown at home or in public as domestic or maternal figures, effectively de-sexed (pp. 69f).11 This may be hard stuff to swallow, even in a revisionist framework. As Pollock's appearance in a recent television series made clear, liberal art history is readier to acknowledge bourgeois women's limited access and confinements than it is to admit that definitions of modernity are grounded in women's position as signifiers of powerlessness and difference, or that modernism's major victories, from Manet to Picasso, were won "across the bodies of What Pollock's analysis discloses is the patriarchal mawomen."12 neuvers of modern bourgeois culture, how the very definition the experience and the image - of modernity crucially depended on dual axes of difference: separate spheres and restricted spaces to confine bourgeois women and to define their femininity, and a further consolidation of difference through class, that consolidation centered on working women's sexuality. With the focus of the argument on space, production and consumption figure here as well. Here, Pollock's remapping of modernity updates what we may call "traditional"feminist readings, namely that the limitations of education and activity imposed on bourgeois women artists necessarily affected the kinds and that the Impressionist enthusiasm of pictures they produced,"13

9 T.J. Clark, "On the Conditionsof ArtisticCreation,"TimesLiterary is dismissedalong with "for24 May 1974, 562. Feminism Supplement, " approaches. sub-Freudian malist, 'modernist,' [sic], filmic,and 'radical' focus of Pollock'scritique, Clark'smasculinistMarxismis a recurrent most explicitlyin chaps. 2, 3, and 7. elaborated
10T.J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and

in Impressionist of Workand Leisure Nurse:The Construction Painting,"


Women, Art, and Power, 37-56.

of class and His Followers,New York,1985. Foran earlierformulation Enof the modernizing the visual coherence city, see G. Pollock, "Stark counters:ModernLifeand UrbanWorkin Van Gogh'sDrawingsof the
Hague, 1881-83," Art History, vi, 330-358.

of this positionin the segmenton Impressionism 12Pollock'sdeclaration series"Artof theWestern andPost-Impressionism in the PublicTelevision in an unknown followedby an announcement, World" was immediately the opinionsof all art historiansand effecwoman'svoice, relativizing statement. tively disavowingthis disturbing derived fromNochlin's article,"Why 13A positionrightly ground-breaking in Women, HaveThereBeenNo GreatWomenArtists?" (1971),reprinted
Art, and Power, 145-178.

11 Wet accountof thisterrain,see L. Nochlin,"Morisot's Foran analogous

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BOOK REVIEWS

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for quotidian subjects created a hospitable space for pictures of domesticity by Morisot and Cassatt.14Revising her own analyses of the oblique spaces depicted in Morisot's and Cassatt's pictures as metaphors of women's social confinement or marginality, Pollock cautions against homologous arguments in which style is read as a reflection of experience. Such a reading, in this context, suggests an essentialized, female authorship, as if women necessarily represented their social experience. Though her argument is somewhat cryptic here, Pollock offers the notion of a constantly negotiated positionality,15 that is, women working, shaping, and being shaped by the terms of professional practice. This view of art production avoids a sort of squeeze play between the exaggerated subjectivity of the artist-genius, on the one hand, and the "death of the author/artist" position, on the other, whereby the woman artist loses her distinctive place as subject, so to speak, and instead functions as a conduit of discursive codes. In this way, a historical producer, whether Suzanne Valadon, Berthe Morisot, or Auguste Renoir, positioned through specific discourses of class and gender, replaces the transhistorical persona of a mythic creator. Equally enmeshed in the spaces of femininity is the issue of spectatorship. Art-historical accounts of a public rarely extend beyond critics and patrons. Pollock enlarges the art audience to consider women as lookers and consumers. Her discussion of works like Cassatt's At the Opera or possible responses to Manet's Olympia uncovers the ways in which the (bourgeois) woman spectator is un-imaged and un-imagined, and becomes, ironically, a sort of agent of image control.16 Perhaps no document of the period bears this out more poignantly than Berthe Morisot's letter to her sister reporting her sense of uncertain identity and confusion at the Salon of 1869, where Manet's Balcony, for which she posed, was on display.17Unlike the woman reading, conventionally an image of eroticized feminine reverie, the woman looking is a disruptive figure whose activity illuminates the sexual positionalities assigned to spectatorship and objects of spectacle.18 This is an important question, announced years ago in Carol Duncan's speculations on the responses of a bourgeois collector's wife to her husband's Fauve and Expressionist pictures of lowerclass nudes.19In this instance, Pollock relies on a reading of pictorial spaces to elaborate the position of the female gaze. She proceeds from a psychoanalytic framework frequently used in feminist film criticism.20In that model, a woman spectator's experience is split between masochistic identification with the female figures objectified in an image and a sort of spectatorial transvestism through which we assume the mastering positions of the male gaze, which deliver visual pleasure in this culture. Deftly playing
14See Pollock's Mary Cassatt, London, 1980. We know that the critical

with this paradigm, Pollock argues that the spatial manipulations in pictures by Morisot or Cassatt, like At the Opera, escape the trajectories of mastering gaze, and become instead "the locus of relationships" (p. 87).21 The argument closes the chapter, but it is a promising breakthrough for further investigation and analysis. For rather than "naturalizing"the female gaze as an essential part of women's experience and art production (the homologous argument), Pollock's argument avoids the trap of binary opposition - men look one way, women another - and suggestively demonstrates the possibilities of theorizing and locating the gaze and spectatorship outside the desire for mastery. After a chapter charting the spaces of femininity and feminine agency, two chapters on 19th-century British painting explicate its objectifications. What used to be called the image of woman is effectively reformulated as "woman as image."22Chapter Iv takes Elizabeth Cowie's Post-structuralist essay, "Woman as Sign,"23 as a model to demonstrate that "woman" is not a biological or "natural"condition, but a category formulated in discourse. Accordingly, Dante Gabriel Rossetti's pictures of Elizabeth Siddall and the texts written about her do not represent an existing person; rather, "Lizzie Siddal" is formed within this "regime of representation" as an embodiment of the feminine, a category of difference that serves to refine another category - masculinity. The chapter underscores the character of that historically constructed femininity: frailty, passivity, purity for bourgeois women; for working-class women, unbridled or unsocialized sexuality. Pollock describes the ways in which the figure "Siddal"is bolstered and authenticated by our belief in various kinds of evidence - letters, memoirs, archives, and a succession of art-historical texts. Cautioning against the search for the "real"Siddall, and the impossibility of finding the "reality"behind the sign (the social historian's impulse, after all), the analysis reminds us that all forms of authenticating evidence - from the archival documents to memoirs - are themselves discursively formed and ideologically framed. What is unsettling here is not only the elusiveness of the "truth," or the fact that we can never "get to" the figure within the sign. It is the realization that such pictures are not simply images of women but signs of difference, and so markers or negative templates of masculinity. The implication that women in such instances are not actually "visible" in representation, and that our real selves are always somehow negotiated through figures in masque, seems to leave women captive, with no way to escape the masculine discourses of femininity, to take charge or to formulate ourselves through the obscuring network of signs. This, for example, is the artist Cindy Sherman's project when, making and Garrard, Feminism guardPainting," Artforum,1973,repr.in Broude
and Art History, 293-314.

and art-historical limitedand emphaseson these painters'"femininity" The Formation of a shapedtheirsuccess.See T. Garb, " 1' Art f6minin': CriticalCategoryin LateNineteenthCenturyFrance," Art History,xii,
March, 1989, 39-65.

Fora fullerdiscussion of experiential andpositionaldifference, seeTick15 Art History,and SexualDifference," 99-110. ner, "Feminism, 16See hercommenton the presence of bourgeoiswomenspectators at the Salon as exacerbating Olympia'sscandalousimpact(n. on p. 54).
17Correspondence de Berthe Morisot, ed. D. Rouart, Paris, 1950, 47.

20The fundamental texts are L. Mulvey,"VisualPleasureand Narrative Cinema,"(1975),and a modifiedversion of that position in idem, "Afon VisualPleasureand NarrativeCinema," (1981),both reterthoughts - Theorising and M.A. Doane "Film and Masquerade the Female Spectator, Screen, xxiim, 1982, 74-88.
21

printed in Visual and Other Pleasures, Bloomington, 1989, 14-28, 29-38;

18The gendered conditionsof spectatorship in 19th-century art are taken in theiranalysesof DegasandValadon, up by E. LiptonandR. Betterton
as well as Nochlin, in Women, Art, and Power. See Lipton, Looking into

Forexplorations of this issue in televisionand film that are usefulfor art history,see L. Gammon,"Watching the Detectives:The Enigmaof theFemale andJ. Stacey,"Desperately in The Gaze," SeekingDifference,"
Female Gaze: Women as Viewers of Popular Culture, ed. L. Gammon and M. Mashment, Seattle, 1989, 8-26, 112-129.

Degas, Los Angeles, 1987; R. Betterton,"How do WomenLook?The FemaleNude in the Workof SuzanneValadon," in LookingOn: Images
of Femininity in the Visual Arts and Media, London, 1987, 217-234.

22See Pollock's1977 reformulation of the image of woman as sign, reprinted in Framing Feminism, 132-138. 23Cowie, M/F,1, 1978, 49-63.

19C. Duncan,"Virility and Dominationin EarlyTwentieth VanCentury

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THE ART BULLETIN JUNE 1990 VOLUME LXXII NUMBER 2

that positional difference ironic, she masquerades her "selves" through mocking photographic scenarios of melodrama, carnival, and art-historical "master-pieces." The process produces a slippage, a glimpse of a place beyond the charade. If women are such "mimes"or such ironic players of femininity, the French feminist Luce Irigary suggests, "it is because they are not simply resorbed in this function. They also remain elsewhere. .,24 Chapter vi extends the issue of woman as ... sign to the representation of a woman's face as a fetishized icon of desire and difference. Proceeding again from Laura Mulvey's account of fetishistic scopophilia (pleasure in looking) in narrative cinema, Pollock brings these terms to bear on Rossetti's images of largeheaded, female figures in bowers. These iconic pictures of an ideal of feminine "beauty"both arouse and allay anxieties about sexual difference in the masculine spectator. Such pictures, Pollock argues in "A Photo-essay: Signs of Femininity" (Chap. v), were obsessively repeated by Rossetti, but they are everywhere in the culture as screens for a fetishized articulation of bourgeois sexual difference and masculinity. Again, femininity is unveiled as a signifying mechanism through which sexual difference is demarcated, managed, and controlled. The argument winds through an elaborate network of psychoanalytic paradigms from Freud to Lacan on looking, fetishism, and the gaze, as Pollock uses the theoretical structure to deconstruct one of the central mystifications of art history and femininity - beauty and the pleasures of mastery it provides. A final, stirring chapter on British feminist art and its strategies takes visual pleasure as a central concern. The importance of the issue is announced early in the book: If Marxist studies rightly privilege ideology, feminist analyses focus on pleasure, on the mechanisms and managements of sexualized pleasures which the major ideological apparatuses organize none more potently than those involved with visual representation (p. 14). Pollock acknowledges that pleasure is a "problematic concept" for feminists. Indeed, an ambivalence about pleasure haunts Vision and Difference, as it does many feminist texts. When Laura Mulvey proposed "the destruction of pleasure as a radical weapon," she called for an end to the narcotic "ease and plenitude" of narrative cinema, whose visual formulations (like those of many paintings and photographs) reinscribe the visual objectifications of the male gaze. For most of us, this was a liberating and inspiring call.25 Much of the pleasure in visual representation, after all, as the previous chapters have shown, is the pleasure of male mastery and involves the objectification and demeaning of women. The issue, then, invites two sorts of concern. First, what is the place of pleasure in a critical feminist practice? Second, and far more problematic, is what pleasure means for women, and how we can use those meanings to reformulate desire. Pollock turns to the strategies of "distantiation" and pleasure 24 ThisSex Which Is Not One, trans. Powerof Discourse," L. Irigary, "The C. Porter,Ithaca,1985, 75. See also T. Garb'sdiscussionof femininity
and masquerade in "Unpicking the Seams of Her Disguise . . . Self-Rep-

advocated by the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht26to address the first issue and to characterize the art of British feminists. Unlike traditional realism - the kind whose spaces and spectators are manipulated by Cassatt and Morisot Brechtian modernism depends on disjunctive effects (like those of collage, montage, or image-text combinations), which interrupt passive, voyeuristic satisfaction in the image, and instead demand engaged self-reflection from the viewer and awareness of contending registers of form and meaning. Through these techniques, the wholeness of an image shatters, and its seamless perfection or single point of view appears illusory and contrived. For the viewer, this critical "distantiation"or "making strange"of familiar cultural fragments results in a "displacement of ideology" (p. 170) and, in the feminist project, a disruption of formations of femininity. Pleasure, Brecht counseled, is crucial to this enterprise. Pollock quotes the artist Mary Kelly on its effects. This [pleasure] acts as a kind of "capture"of the viewer which precedes recognition of the analytical texts. For me it's absolutely crucial that this kind of pleasure in the texts, in the objects, should engage the viewer, because there is no point at which it can be a deconstructed critical engagement if the viewer is not - immediately and affectively - drawn into the work (p. 180). Rather than lulling and soothing, or simply affirming wellbeing, pleasure here paradoxically carries and helps perform a distancing critique. In Kelly's Post-Partum Document, for example, the range of assembled materials - from stained diapers (for many critics, the shocker in the show), to a child's scribbles and typed diary log of the child's development - are remarkably engaging when set beside abstruse Lacanian diagrams and arranged in the pristine spaces of an art gallery. Pleasure in this sense seduces us for a higher purpose or cause: Post-Partum Document deconstructs motherhood; Kelly's Interim takes on women's middle age. Effective as it is critically, this is pleasure as a kind of "bait." But what of the second concern, pleasure itself and its visual meanings? "Daring to break with normal [sic] pleasurable expectations in order to conceive a new language of desire,"27 as Mulvey's call continued, is difficult and daunting. The pleasures of the body always seem to trap women in naturalized binary oppositions or as objectifications of masculine desire. In the effort to avoid representations of a "vanilla-sex" idealism or essentializing celebrations of "the feminine" - women's nurturing, pacific natures, intuition and emotionality, or even the dispersed sexual pleasures of the female body theorized by French feminists Hd14ne Cixous and Luce Irigary28- feminists have had to face the perplexing question: must all of our pleasures be guilty ones? If the primary zone of pleasure is the body, how might representation of the (female) body deliver pleasure and escape the fall into patriarchal signification and voyeurism? 26B. Brecht,"Theatre Brechton or Theatre for Instruction," for Pleasure ed. J. Willett,London,1978,69-76.Pollockdrawson theoretical Theatre, debatesthat appeared throughthe 1970sin the BritishmagazineScreen. Brecht's Brecht? by S. Henry,"Whose positionsare usefullysummarized
Memories for the Eighties," Screen, xIx, 1982, 45-59. 27Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure," 15-16. 28 L. This Sex Which Is Not Irigary,"WhenOur LipsSpeakTogether," One, 205-218.

in the Case of MarieBashkirtseff," resentation Block, Winter1987/88,


79-86.

25Foranotherview, see F.Jameson's A PoliticalIssue," where "Pleasure, asideas positingsometranshistorical he setsMulvey'sargument (because in its formationsof pleasure,and therefore inevitability psychoanalytic) for "menof good will"andseparatism at bestonly "guilttrips" producing
for women. The Ideologies of Theory; Essays 1971-1986, ii, Minneapolis, 1988, 61-74.

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BOOK REVIEWS

341

Pollock's argument turns again to paradigms of signification and positionality. Taking the body as a sign, she writes, it can be manipulated from that level. Thus, Kelly's Interim heightens the range and variety of negotiated positionalities of the sexual woman. Through pictures of fetishized objects of clothing, diaries, fashion and romance magazines, and medical illustrations, she articulates the body and discloses the ambivalence, anxieties, and pleasures of middle age. But Interim's images of pleasure are never delivered without the "distantiating" counterpoint. Like many pleasures for women, they are mixtures - combinations of humor, fantasy, sensuality, anxiety, and loss. This is also the case, I would argue, for Sherman's masquerade: a lush, costumed photo-drama renders old roles ironic and uses their familiar pleasures to develop new combinations of visual play and risk. Even Cassatt's At the Opera is not without wit, as it playfully sets the woman spectator's activity against a belittled masculine voyeur. These works propose women whose pleasure and sense of agency is signified as complex, multiple, proliferative - not simply as castrating threats to masculine mastery. Traditional pleasures are a high-stakes investment, not easily relinquished. As things stand, we need to be mindful of their complexity and of the threat a new language of desire signals to the old utopian story of pure delight. If the central domain of pleasure is sexuality and the body, the task for feminist art and art history is to destabilize the fixed visual categories of difference, to reinscribe women's sexuality where it has been erased, and to visualize signifying systems of sexual agency and relationship in that eroticized field. Pollock's essays organize the project with theoretical frameworks, analytic models, and usable strategies. Vision and Difference is a needed and major contribution to feminism and art history.
CAROL ZEMEL

State University of New York Buffalo, NY 14260

DAVID FREEDBERG, The

$39.95

Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1989. Pp. 560; 189 black-and-white ills.

It is widely accepted that Eastern Europeans recently became discontented with their own lives in part because of the steady flow of televised images of a certain unrehearsed material abundance in the daily lives of Western countries. It is no less widely believed that the American South modulated its resistance to political change because of its revulsion against the way it was perceived in the North, as seen in televised images of spontaneous violence against blacks demanding their civil rights. These are examples, among countless others, of the power of images to change human reality. Nor can it be doubted that the power was exercized by images, rather than descriptions of conditions coveted or condemned: it was "seeing with their own eyes" that conveyed perceived truth to consciousness and brought changes to the way viewers decided they must live. These are vast and complex variations on a theme set by Rilke in a famous poetic response to an archaic torso of Apollo. And changing lives in this and similar ways have been among the motives of artists in many different times. William Holman Hunt's The Awakening Conscience surely was intended to awaken, or at the very least to strengthen, moral consciousness in its viewers. Guernica no less surely was conceived as a transformative image, meant to cause shock and in-

dignation toward the perpetrators of the outrage it memorializes. It goes some distance toward understanding the title of David Freedberg'sremarkable study (or, really, his set of linked studies) that he has in mind by the power of images nothing so commonplace as any of these examples. His subject is the power credited to images felt literally to have a life of their own-images felt, though all the while recognized to be painted or drawn or molded or carved, to behave or to be capable of behaving as if alive. Some of these powers are of an uncanny order, as when we feel that the eyes in a painted image literally follow us as we traverse the room, and sometimes of a spectacularly uncanny order, as when tears are believed to flow down the painted cheeks of saints or blood from painted wounds or milk from the painted breasts of a wooden virgin into the rapt mouth of Saint Bernard. Votive offerings and voodoo fetishes - where operating on the image is felt ipso facto to be operating upon the things represented by the image - are further cases of empowered images, as Freedberg uses this concept. It is his thesis that the relationship of viewer to power-possessing image is virtually universal; that this relationship forms a natural component in our overall relationship to images even today; and that this mode of experiencing images has been lost sight of, to the detriment of our understanding of art, by art historians and aestheticians and critics who tend to discriminate sharply between high and low art, and to understand high art strictly in terms of formalist criteria. He repeatedly asserts these theses, though with very little advance in argument, as he instead places before our gaze group after group of empowered images from various cultures and various times. This is a fascinating, important, and at the same time a frustrating book, largely in consequence of the powers that images have, but that fall somewhere in the vast space between the somewhat spooky powers dwelt upon by the author, and the formal organization of works of art, which Freedberg takes as the only alternative to images seen as if virtually alive. None of the powers sketched in my opening paragraph, for example, play any role at all in Freedberg'sconsiderations. Nor, for those of us who believe in the artistic importance of content, do the powers Freedberg defends so fiercely have much to do with our interchanges with works of art. (Thomas Nast's caricatures of Boss Tweed brought down a corrupt government, but not because they winked, grinned, or stuck their tongues out.) The frustration of the book lies in its disjunction - either you relate to images claimed to possess such powers as lacrimation and lactation, or you are some kind of formalist, numb to the magical power of art. But almost everything interesting about art lies somewhere between these disjuncts. In an attempt to clarify the kind of pictorial representation I believe Freedberghas undertaken to address in this book, I would distinguish it as one of two possible conceptions that, borrowing a distinction from the Scholastics, I shall designate immanent and transeunt representation. The Scholastic distinction was between two orders of causation: it is transeunt causation when cause and effect are separated as distinct events, as in the classroom example of the concussion of billiard balls. In recent decades, the distinction has been revived because it is felt that the power we have over our own bodies exemplifies another kind of causation altogether: it is immanent causation when an agent raises his arm, not by doing something that causes it to rise, but directly, simply by raising it. The idea of immanent causation was introduced to block infinite regressions, and it is the kind of causal power that "first causes" are supposed to have. In parallel with this, a transeunt representation is one in which the subject is distinct from the image representing it, as in simple, unmanipulated photography or eidetic imagery. It is transeunt representation when, at

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