Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Literature is said to be self-reflexive when the author deliberately draws attention to the fictional nature of the work.
The play-within-the-play is an example. - The UVic Writer's Guide

This term subject of Art history in my College of Art focuses on 'post-modernism'. This era covers the late 1970s to date. It is a response, exaggeration, and/or evolution of the previous 'modernist' period. A characteristic of post-modern Art is that it reflects on Art itself; it is often self-reflexive.

As I will be writing an essay soon about postmodern filmmaking, I will investigate 'self-reflexity' in filmmaking here.

Starting with a diagram drawn by Gloria Withalm

[source: Types of Self-reflexive Discourse in Film]

Above diagram shows where and when film shows the making of film, its vocabulary, or other references to film in general in the film itself. An example I found in the film 'Lost in Translation'

Lost in Translation with Bill Murray, an actor playing.... an actor

In the field of graphic design a well known example of self-reflexity is seen in the advertisement of Droste cacao powder.

Droste girl, an image of an image... of an image etc.

We can find more subtle examples in film, such as those of Mel Brooks.

High Anxiety starring Mel Brooks

"When in High Anxiety (USA 1977) Cloris Leachman (as Nurse Diesel) and one of the doctors have a conspiratorial talk while having coffee and cookies, we can watch them from underneath the glass table in an extreme low-angle shot (which already draws the attention of the audience to the camera). Unfortunately, Leachman is constantly moving around every single item on the table - the cups, the sugar bowl, the plate with the cookies, the coffeepot - putting them right above the lenses, thus forcing the camera to move around constantly in order to correct the framing."

In photography the following picture can be said to be self-reflexive as it shows a picture of a camera of a picture of a camera (and a squirrel).

Finally I like to quote a web blogger by the name of Johnny Moondog about the art work of Lichtenstein:

by Irv Novick and Russ Heath
by Roy Lichtenstein

Thanks for the images provided by David Barsalou.

"The original comics aren’t meant to be consumed as “self-reflexive” images, they don’t rely upon the viewer questioning the medium itself and the aesthetic choices characteristic of the comic book style. The viewer just enjoys these comics. While there may be a secondary reading or appreciation of the original comics (these images are also interesting in a historical sense; they’re not so cheap after all; how do these comics represent gender roles etc…), it doesn’t form part of the comic book panels’ meaning to examine the panels as examples of the process of re-presentation at work. They are comics and they tell a story. The do not say, “Hey! We are telling a story. Look how interesting some of the processes involved are!” They do not reflect upon their own processes of creating meanings and enjoyment."

"But Lichtenstein is going for something else. The viewer is asked to appreciate the way in which the comic book aesthetic provides a particular style of enjoyment. We do not just enjoy the pictures and the scenarios, but we also enjoy being aware of the process by which the comic creates drama and pathos. “Whaaam!” This self-reflexive element to the art is crucial to what Lichtenstein is doing."

What do you think...?

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