In the past we've done a couple of posts about people seeing a resemblance to Hitler in kittens, teapots and houses (Fun with Hitler) and the non-imaginary use of Hitler's name and image in India and Thailand (Hitler Branding), but a recent little faux pas in Switzerland has us dusting off the "Hitler" tag once more.
First of all, what's up with Hitler and coffee? Back in April a kerfuffle erupted when coffee mugs sold at the Zurbrüggen chain of furniture and housewares stores were found to bear a likeness of Hitler, collaged-in among roses and calligraphy. Now, this is illegal in Germany, so the question remains: how did these end up on the shelves? They were made in China where people don't even know who Hitler is (yes, it is possible). Someone from the chain probably purchased them without seeing, knowing or caring what was on them. OK, but someone else unpacked them and put them on display -- at this point, didn't anyone notice something amiss? Did they care? They were on the shelves three days before it came to the store's attention. Anyway, an apology was issued, gift certificates offered, an investigation opened....
Forward to October. Swiss coffee drinkers get a bit of an extra jolt when they see that Hitler is decorating their coffee creamer. The company that produces the containers was alerted after a startled customer sent an image of the Hitler creamer to a European newspaper.
“I can’t tell you how these labels got past our controls,” a spokesman
said. “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes
and dogs — nothing polemic that can pose a problem.” Yeah, our usual völkisch images were subverted! Some others featured the portrait of Mussolini.
Apparently these creamer lids came from a third party called Karo Shipping, who took the design from a brand of cigars that has been on the market for two years. Thing is, the creamer company apologized immediately, but the Karo spokesman was surprised at why it was such a big deal. And this image has been on the market for two years!
Reminds me of Vini Luardelli, a vineyard that sells a "historical line" of wine with images of Churchill, Che Guevara, Stalin and various Nazi figures, including Hitler (over 30 Nazi-themed labels). These too have caused outcry and legal troubles, but apparently the line represents 50 percent ofthe vineyard's sales.
So, it's curious. People will use anything to sell a product. The furniture store and creamer guys were horrified, but Karo and Lunardelli don't really care. Are they pro-fascist? Maybe. But they probably just see an opportunity to make a buck. Is this wrong?
Can we joke about these things? When Seinfeld made an episode about catching shit from relatives because he was making out in the cinema -- at a showing of Schindler's List -- was this wrong? Will Holocaust jokes ever be funny? Is it stupid to even ask?
I find all of this rather humorous is a sick kind of way, but I understand why people are outraged. What interests me is that some companies will bend over backwards to apologize for the accidental inclusion of a Hitler image on their products while others will use it intentionally -- and make a decent sum of money doing it.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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In "light" of our last post, it's worth pointing out that the real Illuminati symbol, the circumpunct, not only resembles an eye, but a breast....
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
|Mírame a los ojos cuando te hablo, 2014|
Qu’est-ce que le Surréalisme? (What is Surrealism
Generally, a regular guy scoping out a woman is gonna try to steal a sideways glance or ogle from afar; unseen, you can get away with it. But what happens when you're caught in the act? Uncomfortable, to say the least. A bit embarrassed, maybe even ashamed. A sort of visual violation has been thwarted. And what if rape is, as is said, a crime not of sex, but of power?
But why this talk of violation and rape? Juxtapoz refers to Buron's work as "sneaky surrealism" and that's the trigger. LoS has dealt with the conflation of the breast and the eye in a number of posts; the Gid's introduction to the subject featured Magritte's Le Viol from 1934, in which the replacement of the nipples with eyes is reversed. Le Viol means "The Rape."
In the painting, a woman's face has become transformed into a nude female body. Her mouth is a vagina, her eyes have become breasts. The organs of sight and speech have been rendered into the principal objects of male lust. Blind and mute, Magritte's feminine form is rendered powerless. Thus, the rape. His interest in the concept was such that he painted other versions in 1945 in 1948, both also entitled Le Viol. He also drew it for André Breton's Qu’est-ce que le Surréalisme? in 1934 and a second drawing from 1945 was discovered relatively recently. Though the head is "facing" slightly left as opposed to right, the drawings most closely resemble the 1934 version. This page includes a more thorough interpretation of the iamge.
Qu’est-ce que le Surréalisme? (What is Surrealism
|Le Viol, 1934|
Contrast Magritte's painting with Burón's photo, which reverses the metamorphosis; Burón imbues the female form with power by turning the breasts into the watchful guardians of her image; interesting too that the lower part of the torso is revealed to such a point that her sex must lie but a millimeter south of where the frame ends. The gateway is out of sight. After all, it's self-evident: the photographer controls what we see....and what we don't.
In at least two posts (The Eyes Have It and There and Back Again), we've looked at the iconography of two Sicilian saints: Agatha carries her breasts on a plate and Lucia carries her eyes. In this Medieval Catholic context, the women are victims, martyred for refusing the advances of an unwanted pagan suitor. In a time when women were the pawns of men, who used marriage to create alliances and in all cases to consolidate their power, the breasts and eyes are inert, disembodied. Sex between a royal couple might have little to do with love or desire but everything to do with providing an heir or to consummate a marriage -- a deal brokered by others. In either case, for reasons of power. Is it such that we can call this rape?
Gid's initial post also features an 18th-century engraving of a woman with an eye in glory representing Reason in the place where her breast should be. Perhaps there's a pun involved, the areola being the circle of flesh around the nipple proper and the aureola a radiant cloud of light around a sacred personage. Not so odd when you consider Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830), in which Marianne rallies the troops, leading with a prominent exposed breast. Then there's Honoré Daumier's 1848 sketch entitled The Republic, in which Marianne nurses two children. This is the state and it's values, foremost among them Reason, which nurtures and elevates the people. The breast leads, the breast nurses, the breast is generous. A controversial re-boot of Marianne as recent as 2011 had to be replaced because her prominent set was causing a bit of a ruckus in the villages. "I made the breasts prominent to symbolize the generosity of the Republic" said the artist. In this case, the breast symbolizes a form of power.
In our previous posts, we talk a little about why the eyes and breasts are conflated, but we suggest reading our source, N. Hilton's Before the Milk of the Word: Nipple-Eyes, for a more thorough treatment of the topic. He deals with Magritte and our Revolution-era engraving. The association is not really as outlandish as it seems. Imagine a kid's drawing with a circle and a dot in the middle; basically the same simple pictograph one would use to represent an eye or a breast. But it is much more than a visual metaphor. A nursing baby gets a windshield full of tit....before gazing up into its mother's eyes and letting out a satisfied belch, fed and secure. Primordial images, an association all breast-fed kidlets make from day one. Also makes me think of the time I was talking to a colleague and must have been staring chestward, because she said, "Hey, my eyes are up here!" And lo and behold, during my second run through this text I discovered that Burón's photos is called Mírame a los ojos cuando te hablo: "Look me in the eyes when I talk to you." When I talk to you. Not you talk to me. When I (eye?) talk to you....
But I'm just being lazy; read the Hilton article; he or she gives a good overview of the subject.
Then there's Ken Russell's Gothic. Required viewing for the budding bohemian/AP English film geek. One of the more disturbing hallucinations brought to the screen include the following; Percy Shelley is licking lips lustily over Claire Claremont's breasts and Blam! They're staring back, bub:
I seem to recall Claire is acting out Shelley's fantasy, "baring her breast and entreating him to look into her eyes", but when her nipples blink he turns away in terror. Those haggard peepers would set anyone off a bit of nipple play for a while I'd wager, but it's worth stating the obvious: the transformation of the nipples into eyes re-calibrates the balance of power.
Then there's this image I scanned from an article in a French magazine about sexual predators on the Internet. I uploaded this before in an article about Little Red Riding Hood but didn't include it in the original article. The eyes are rather wolf-like, which could indicate that women need to become like hunters themselves, in order to root out and destroy those who might otherwise prey on them. That this is all represented by the eyes is perhaps tied to the natural fact that the hunter always tries to see everything while remaining unseen to its prey. It's much more likely that the hunter will be successful if its prey isn't aware that it's being stalked. In this image the usually oblivious mammary becomes something vigilant, determined, if not a tad menacing.
Anyway, I don't have anything more to say on these images with regard to eye-nipple iconography than I've already said. Burón's photo struck a chord with me and since she was gracious enough to let me use it, I wanted to share it in terms of this question of power, that hadn't really occurred to me before.
I'm not much of an art critic, but I find her work to be at turns playful, sultry and erotic. She often reassembles the female form in a way that brings to mind the dolls of another Surrealist, Hans Bellmer, but without the undercurrent of violence and sadism his work emanates. On the contrary, her work is serene and not self-exploitative, she always remains in control of her image. She often looks the viewer right in the eye; in some, her camera is turned towards you. This is especially effective in a shot where she lies naked, her back to the viewer. But while she is out of focus, the camera in the foreground, trained upon the viewer, is not. Her camera, her eye, thus serves, in a manner we've already evoked, as a kind of protection. She is vulnerably naked, she can't even see you. But her camera can. You might ogle, but will probably turn your head when you realize you've been caught in the act. The viewed voyeur vanishes.
You can check out more of Burón's photography on her flickr photostream at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/040710/
On a final note, a post script if you will, this makes me think of an organization based NYC called Hollaback!, whose goal is to end street harassment by, among other means, filming or photographing people who catcall, leer or make unwelcome advances, then putting it on the net. (Full disclosure, I'm an old friend of their Deputy Director's partner). In Burón's photos, she reminds us that she decides how and when she can be approached; she is in control of her image and thus, her physical body. A scene often used in cinema is that of the underling squirming uncomfortably under the silent gaze of another character; it's a perfect representation of both character's perception of the power relationship between the two. The women in Hollaback! want to be the ones doing the looking. Looking someone in the eye can be discomfiting and that, in the end, is powerful.