Vol. 4 No. 21, September 2000
Reply to Wood
_Film-Philosophy_, vol. 4 no. 20, September 2000
I want to thank _Film-Philosophy_ for inviting me to respond to the review
of my book, _From Text to Hypertext_. I would also like to thank Aylish
Wood for what I see as a fair and thoughtful review overall. I think Wood
is correct in noting the ambivalence in the book regarding any judgement I
might have about the deconstructed subject, the book's expression of a
'tension between the sense of loss implied by the decentering and
fragmentation of the subject, versus the new possibilities that such a
process might provide'. I do see this as an immensely complicated problem,
opening up all sorts of possibilities and pitfalls, and, no doubt, various
sections of my book imply different evaluations. But I hope at least I've
effectively described how the problem of the subject and the issues related
to it arise from some specific works.
Let me respond to a couple specific points. Wood, in discussing my use of
twentieth-century theory in dealing with early painting, says:
'_The Wedding of Arnolfini_ was painted in the early Renaissance when ideas
about the individual were only coming into being. How appropriate is it,
then, to read this painting through late twentieth century ideas about
It seems to me that any theory that only worked when it was applied to
works by authors or artists who might be aware of the theory (who might
consciously or unconsciously incorporate the theory they knew) would be
compromised, so applying a theory to works that came into being prior to
the theory would be a necessary test of the theory's value. But also, it is
precisely the fact that works like _Arnolfini_ and _Christ Giving the Keys
to St Peter_ were painted at a time 'when ideas about the individual were
only coming into being' that makes them so interesting, at least to me.
These works show a kind of groping toward representing a coherent subject,
but they are also a little messy, a little incoherent in going about it.
Secondly, Wood is incorrect when claiming that Barbara Kruger's images 'are
directed towards the female viewer'. In fact, I state explicitly that the
gender of the individual addressed (the 'you' of her verbal slogans)
varies, though the gender addressed in the work I discuss most fully,
untitled but identified as _You Are Not Yourself_, is female (see p. 22).
Wood is right to imply that my claiming that the works 'are only directed
towards women' would be incorrect, but I never made such a sweeping claim.
There is the (implied) individual addressed by the verbal slogan, and there
is the real audience of Kruger's work. It would be most precise to state
that the gender of the individual addressed by the verbal slogans is
sometimes female, sometime male, though the audience of the work as a whole
would naturally include individuals of various sexes and genders. In other
words, the slogan 'You are not yourself' addresses a female; 'I am your
reservoir of poses' addresses a male. But both works (including both their
images and slogans) are going to be viewed by men and women.
I don't know about the gender category issue. I thought my section on
Kruger (pp. 19-25) brought out some of the complexities and instabilities
of gender categories, at least in relation to the category of woman.
Obviously more could be said about the instability of gender categories, a
lot more. Still, I don't think that it's quite accurate to suggest that I
don't even 'allud[e] to the difficulties of' such categories.
Thanks again for the review, which, in spite of these relatively minor
points, I thought was very much on target.
University of South Florida. USA
Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 2000
Silvio Gaggi, 'Reply to Wood', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 4 no. 21, September
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