“Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” In these two pointed statements, from the 1972 work Ways of Seeing, the late, great cultural theorist John Berger summarised the conditions under which women have been—and still are—remodelled as objects of sight. But can this dynamic of looking be disrupted or even overturned?
This question is of vital importance in a world that remains hostile to women—in which the valuing of women as no more than the sum of their skins, their surfaces, underwrites the full spectrum of gendered aggression and violence, from street harassment to domestic abuse. This month’s PEACEtalk will pursue the possibilities of resistance to the reigning visual order by looking in new ways at images of women culled from the history of photography in the past two centuries: pseudoscientific images of “hysterical” women, portraits of the female nude in art photography, the iconic forms of Hollywood stars suspended on billboards, and a host of other object women.
PEACEtalks with Dr Alix Beeston: Saturday 13 May
About the speaker: Dr Alix Beeston is a scholar of modern and contemporary literature and visual culture. Her work has appeared in a number of international scholarly journals, and her first book, In and Out of Sight: Modernist Writing and the Photographic Unseen, will be published by Oxford University Press in early 2018. She has taught extensively in the Department of English at the University of Sydney and the Department of Art History at the University of New South Wales. Alix is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Anglican Deaconess Ministries, as well as a Postdoctoral Researcher affiliated with the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
About PEACE: PEACEtalks is a monthly event hosted by Paddington Anglican Church aimed at serving the community by promoting and cultivating deep conversations about life, the world and everything. ‘PEACE’ stands for ‘political, ethical, artistic & cultural engagement’. As such, our events seek to take all of these areas of our shared humanity seriously in a world where such things are often marginalized. We also seek to demonstrate the ways in which spiritual and theological reflection enable us to look at all of these important areas afresh.