We live in a world that might best be described as a panoply of gestures. Contemporary culture is so given over to experiencing multiple things at once, that a gesture is merely the limit of what a person in this context can comprehend. Through social media, we are exposed to innumerable status updates, news feeds, and images. The rapidity with which this information comes to us causes the individual receiving it to search for what they think is intrinsic and discard the rest. Regarding the images that people place on their social media profiles, the person reviewing the images instantaneously resolves the questions raised by their viewership; ie. person at a bar, person entertaining friends, person meeting someone famous, person’s new artwork, etc. The quick resolution of this rather large dataset means that the mind is compressing what it receives, or rather, is making assumptions. The effect is two-fold, the image-makers must distill what they want to say into a carefully curated presentation so that the viewers make the right assumptions about the message being relayed. Nothing in this correspondence is experiential in the traditional sense because there is no physical interaction between the message bearers and the message receivers. In fact, the message receivers generally have no direct attachment to the message bearers other than occasionally having met them firsthand. For instance, the person viewing the photo of the people in the bar is usually not one of the people photographed, nor were they in the bar at the time, and oftentimes, they don’t know anyone in the photograph at all. This is the nature of the Spectacle: a detached observation of an event that you have no connection to, which you perceive of through an oddly metaphysical window that subverts the real world onto an imaginary plane.
Some would argue that human beings are essentially social creatures. However, while socialization is undoubtedly intrinsic to human cohabitation, it is an internalized motivation to distinguish oneself from “others” (people, businesses, the environment, etc.) that drives modern civilization and distinguishes humanity from most of the rest of the natural world. As early as six months of age, human beings exhibit a behavior known as the “Other-Race Effect”, or ORE, which can be summarized as the diminished capability of a person to recognize faces from races not one’s own.* Flaws involving facial recognition between humans of different races have been observed and hypothesized about since 1914**; is it possible that humanity’s tendency toward elevating itself above other things is a relatable feature? What about in art, could the misrepresentations of one race/sex by another be an extension of this inherent problem of the mind with perception?
“The results reported here offer empirical support for this general hypothesis and specify three particular processes that can be found in imagery, namely Figural, Symbolic and Mimetic. In the Figural Process an image descriptively depicts the scene or object referred to by the stimulus word. In the Symbolic Process an image illustrates (stands for or symbolizes) the concept communicated by the stimulus word. In the Mimetic Process an image is constituted of the envisioning and/or enacting of a human experience or behavior suggested by the stimulus word.” (17)
From “Definition and Measurement of Three Processes of Imagery Representation: Exploratory Studies of Verbally Stimulated Imagery” A study by Mary Marks, Desmond Cartwright, and John Durrett, Jr; 1978, for the Institute For the Study of Intellectual Behavior.
The above quote was the general findings observed in the scientific study conducted by Marks, Cartwright and Durrett, Jr. to determine how mental imagery is stimulated by different words and word sets, and how connotation affects the response. They tested their hypothesis by constructing tests designed to (more…)