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  • Writer's pictureJaz

'Even before Enlightenment...'

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

Yooo I’m so pleased. Despite stress-related illnesses taking their toll a lil, I’ve finally gotten the DSLR training, and can take out any cameras if I need to. Small victories. I also plan on getting the studio training done this month – cutting it a bit slim, but it should work out.

I’ve also decided on how I’m going to depict the eyes in my work. One of my favourite edits that I made to a “found” photo was one where I drew around the “border” of the eye – like a window-frame for the window to the soul. As a result, I’m going to remove all the detail within the eye, leaving a white, blank space. Then I’ll draw a golden “border”. Hopefully that’ll be the thing to help me get over the issue of the possessed-looking eye (my mum had also made this comment). I’ll do a Draft Two very soon.

The Philosophy Lectures have proven helpful too. Being able to articulate what I’m looking at as the ‘Sociology of Space’ is quite a relief, as it’s opened me up to a whole school of thought. We went over Henri Lefebvre’s work.

Basically, all space is socially constructed, which is fascinating because even the physical buildings we exist in are socially constructed. They're a result of taste and economics and politics.

There are three types of space:

1. Perceived Space: the most commonly understood notion of space (spatial/physical).

2. Conceived Space: mental space; social space as experienced [physically/emotionally/intellectually/ideologically]; how a space is interpreted as "safe".

3. Lived Space: spaces of representation; lived social relations of users.

Space can also be divided into:

1. Absolute Space: a physical space in constant negotiation; fragments of nature, but often stripped of naturalness, evolving into a relativised space (which is why physical space is socially constructed).

2. Abstract Space: or 'space of accumulation' - wealth, knowledge, technology, money, precious objects, works of art and symbols.

Based on his ideas around space, I can say that ‘Eyes’ is focusing on Conceived Space, and what is conceived as 'safe' by those who do not commonly wield power in a society.

I am also focusing on Abstract Space, and the accumulation of 'objects' that are more readily available than physical space.

And then someone brought up Michel Foucault’s ‘Heterotopia’, which helped me articulate Black spaces a bit more.

Foucault describes a Heterotopia as a [discursive/institutional/cultural] space that is somehow 'other'. It exists as a parallel space that contains 'undesirable bodies'.

A heterotopia serves two functions:

1) To create a space of illusion that exposes every real space (Heterotopias of Illusion)

2) To create a real but 'othered' space (Heterotopias of Compensation)

(Foucault, 1967)

Foucault doesn't use this to look at minority groups per se, and I know Foucault was speaking more about institutions (hospitals, boarding schools, prisons, and even the military) but I think that Black spaces can suit this theory because of the ways in which they are intentionally created (white flight, council housing & tower blocks*, underfunding, over-policing, racial profiling in housing, etc.). As a result of these things, Black people are pushed out of society, to the margins (the ghetto/the “hood”) to be further exploited (bad landlords; schools run by people with no attachment to community; white and Asian people capitalising on community, creative, and entrepreneurial funding created for Black people) and punished for their perceived “deviance” (over-policing, deportations, scapegoating, unemployment). I would strongly argue that places like Ladywood, Newtown and Lozells qualify as heterotopias for this reason.

You could ask almost any Black person and they could tell you of an instance they felt othered. They walked into a space and were treated like they didn’t quite belong there. Whether it was being mistaken for a cleaner, being asked if they were lost, having security called on them, or even via silent resistance (glares, whispers, individuals distancing themselves). It is almost as if the individual has escaped from the heterotopia they were put in. Imagine someone’s mere presence causing such a reaction.

Foucault, when talking about the sixth principle of a heterotopia, made mention of the colonies. In his speech, he talks about them – almost romantically –

‘I am thinking, for example, of the first wave of colonization in the seventeenth century, of the Puritan societies that the English had founded in America and that were absolutely perfect other places. I am also thinking of those extraordinary Jesuit colonies that were founded in South America: marvellous, absolutely regulated colonies in which human perfection was effectively achieved… existence was regulated at every turn. The village was laid out according to a rigorous plan around a rectangular place at the foot of which was the church; on one side, there was the school; on the other, the cemetery… Everyone was awakened at the same time, everyone began work at the same time; meals were at noon and five o’clock, then came bedtime…’ and so on and so forth. (Foucault, 1967)

To me, this is an example of a group of people being infringed upon, deemed “abnormal” or “deviant”, and coerced/overpoliced into behaving the way their oppressor has deemed fit.

Because of a history of slavery and colonisation, and its subsequent legacy, Black people in Occidental society tend to hold a 'lower' status to a white majority, and are not provided with adequate opportunities or resources to contest this (Lull, 1995). This places us in a subordinate position, left out of conversations of what is valuable, tasteful, and 'normal' (Philo, 1990). The tastes and beliefs of the 'normalised' leak into popular culture, resulting in the 'othered' being either feared, pitied, or laughed at (Barry, 1986).

'Even before the Enlightenment, and pseudo-scientific discourses emerging from it, Europeans and Americans ascribed stereotypes of deviant sexuality and social pathology to black and brown bodies.' (Mask, 2016: 16)

Britain is a white space, due to population percentages and a colonial legacy. This legacy manifests as an unsafe or unwelcoming space for Black people, who are then labelled as 'other' or 'deviants', and coerced/disciplined into cultural assimilation or punished further.

Black people are far more likely to be excluded from school, graded lower, arrested, given prison time, admitted into a mental institution, unemployed, and have complications during childbirth than their white counterpart behaving or performing in the same way (Eddo-Lodge, 2017).

*tower blocks are often implemented with the excuse that it helps house an overpopulated people. Being tower blocks are in Black and brown areas, and ‘Luxury Apartments’ are in whiter, more middle-class, or gentrified areas, this just screams “Eugenics” to me. Flats exist for Black and brown people because there are too many of them, but flats exist for middle class people (the middle classes are racialised as white) because houses are expensive, or houses take a lot of upkeep, or the to help the modern metropolitan blah, blah, blah.

On a less depressing note, I managed to confirm four models for my second draft. Also – more as a note to self – if I don’t get the studio training in time for whatever reason, I should consider finding an alternative shooting location and alternatives to shooting with arris (I’m having issues with obtaining the necessary training/permissions to access them).

Also, if I don’t get the studio, it may be worth downsizing on the amount of subjects I use for my final shoot… we’ll see…

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