DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Obviously, I have more than a few art books, I am an art history major and a glorified nerd. Recently, I read an article by Anne D’Alleva.  The Manet (painting of a famous prostitute reversing the gaze) and the Morimura (the artist himself, portraying himself as the prostitute) exemplify gender trouble, blurring the gender lines through his performativity of the gender unassigned to him by society because of his sex.  Butler would love this article, Valenti would love this article.  As previously discussed, Butler believes that gender is performative more so than it is  who we are.  Societal constructions based in our language establish a dualistic binary relationship between sex and gender.  Butler repeatedly in her book calls for the disillusionment of these constructions and tells us how we can do it.  In Chapter 3, she establishes that history tells us how to act and who can give you those ideas, but when this is challenged an  inexorable vulnerability can lead to displacement.  Gender is how we act thus it can be open to perversion, this act stems from representation and can grow into versions of repetition which can be liberating or constricting. Valenti would love this because Manet is challenging academics to look at a whore who dares to look back at them and Morimura dares to glorify that role in a modern sense where prostitutes are deemed even more deviant than they were during the time of Manet.  This “education” proves to these men in the salons looking at Olympia that women have the right reverse the power dynamic.  

In Anne D’Alleva’s article concerning reception theory, she draws upon several scholars of art and literature to discuss the importance of not only the artist, but also of the viewer.  She discusses the symbiotic relationship that must exist and the merits of the ideal viewer.  The two artworks that she mentions to support her arguments are Edouard Manet’s Olympia and Ysumasa Morimura’s Futago.  These two artworks are prime examples of works that establish an ideal viewer, or viewers, as well as a mirror stage.  These two theories assist the art historian to go beyond the biography of the artist and question the relationship of the image and it’s audience.  


            Just as Wolfgang Iser believes there is an implied reader for literature, one must believe that there is an implied viewer of Edouard Manet’s Olympia and a different implied viewer for Yasumasa Morimura’s Futago (114).  In the case of Manet’s Olympia, one might believe the ideal implied viewer is a white and wealthy man of the upper class.  This ideal viewer would appreciate, or maybe question, the bold gaze of Olympia, and possibly even recognize her as the popular courtesan (116).  One must assume the ideal viewer is white because this painting focuses particularly on the luminescent quality of the reclining figure’s white skin.  This quality of her skin and the ultra-white sheets highlights the model’s importance and forces the rest of the objects in the painting to fade into the background of Olympia.  One may not even notice the servant with the flower basket because her figure is given little significance and only serves to bring the focus back to the reclining figure, nor the tiny black cat at the end of the bed.  One might assume the upper class status of the viewer, because the lower classes might find this to be more offensive; after all, a prostitute is shown with more wealth than the lower classes have and the servant is given little recognition.  The ideal viewer can be seen as wealthy for Manet’s practical reasons, for the purpose of this work is not only to entertain, but also likely meant to be sold.  Manet was probably hoping for a wealthy viewer to purchase the work despite the controversy of Olympia daring to look at the viewer.

            The ideal viewer for Morimura’s photograph is not as easy to define.  One might make the presumption that Morimura desires the same ideal viewer of Manet, so that they can simply see the work differently.  Also, one could assume that he intended his painting to be viewed by Asian, upper class homosexuals who have seen Manet’s Olymia and want to connect on a more personal level.  Either of these audiences may be ideal. 

            The ideal viewer of Manet’s painting is established in several ways.  The richness of the fabrics, attention to detail, as well as the technique he employed to create this painting evokes the sense of wealth of the sitter and, vicariously, the viewer.  The connection over affluence sparks the intrigue of the ideal viewer and the lack of clothing of the central figure also attracts the attention of the implied viewer.  This is reflected in Kemp’s theory of blanks, or non-present objects, being as important as the objectified images in eliciting responses from the viewer. That ultimately supports the establishment of image-audience relationship (116). 

            According to Ernest Kris, art “requires the participation of both artist and spectator.” (110) Therefore, there must be something that establishes a relationship of the ideal viewer and the photograph of Yasumasa Morimura.  Since it is a photograph, and not a painting, there is a humanistic connection that is not present in Manet’s Olympia that ultimately assists the creation of an image-audience relationship.  The gaze is not a representation of a gaze but the actual gaze of Morimura establishing a deeper relationship with the ideal viewer of the artist and subject.  Since the ideal audience is harder to define for Morimura’s photograph, the establishing element of the relationship between the ideal viewer and the artwork are also hard to define.  If the ideal viewer is exactly that of Manet’s: a white, wealthy, upper-class man, then the “shock factor” of the image is multiplied.   The ideal viewer has just begun to accept this shocking image of a nude female daring to look at her viewer when Morimura decided to change the race, gender, and possibly the sexual orientation of the subject of the artwork.  This assumption, however, provides that the viewer come with “pre-understanding” as described by Roman Ingarden (113); in this case, a memory of Manet’s Olympia.   If one assumes that this image is meant for the common man, this relationship is established through the use of photography, the universal and common way to capture images.  If one assumes the connection between the inclusive group of Asian, male, homosexuals, then the establishment of the relationship is directly associated with the subject and artist. 

            One must believe that the implied viewer is client rather than a lover.  This can be assumed because the subject is not clothed except for her heeled slippers and jewelry. Also, this can be assumed because the servant is bringing flowers, which appears as display of the client’s wealth.  The subject’s positioning is intriguing because the upper body is open and revealing, but below the waist she is more modest and reserved.  Her facial expression displays neither excitement nor seduction, leading one to believe that it is a wealthy client who is welcome that is the focal point of Manet’s subject’s bold gaze.  Beyond the first few glances, this assumption is verified through the intricate details.  The reclining figure has done her hair with a flower, and has taken the time to put on jewelry, but does not bother with clothes because the client comes for something that does not require any.  If it were her lover and not her client, one would assume there would at least be a light in her eyes or even a slight smile. Instead, her eyes appear apprehensive and her mouth emotionless.  She seems to be prepared but not wanting; therefore the ultimate ideal viewer is a client who is welcomed. 

            The attitude of the Morimura photography is different; consequently, the status of the ideal viewer is also different.  As the subject, he seems more wanting of the viewer that he expects to be coming.  His facial expression is what verifies this assumption.  The eyes seem to pull the viewer in and his lips are pouted, evoking a seductive expression.  Morimura’s upper body looks stiffer and tighter than Olympia’s, because he wants to look his best.  The lower body seems more relaxed even as his hand covers the genital area.  The jewelry and his hair were set purposefully as if he expected the viewer.  This helps establish the fact that his ultimate viewer is a welcomed lover.  The care and the intricacies of his facial expression and body language proves that he is open to the visitor and is pleased that the visitor is viewing him.  Butler would love to see this strong of an example of gender perfomativity counter to the binaries often established.  

            The reception theory of Ernest Gombrich states the importance of perception is clearly prevalent within these works (113).  The artists have taken their own interpretations of these works, but one must value the fact that their ideal viewers can be similar and have similar perceptions.  The differences of their individual perceptions provide for the differences between their viewers.  However, the perception of the viewer, whether ideal or not, is the ultimate reflection of the artwork in the culture. 

            Clearly, the mirror stage is present in these two images. The viewer does not seem to view their self in the artwork directly, but they do feel a connection to the work.  Morimura most definitely used Manet’s Olympia as a basis image for his Futago.  Although some details are incongruous, the overall effect of Futago is a mirrored image of the whole self of Olympia.  There are several differences in these paintings that one may attribute to race and gender that affect the dynamics of the mirror effect.  Most obviously, Morimura, who was his own subject in his photographic rendition of Manet’s Olympia, is a man.  This affects the mirror image of the body.  He is leaner, has no curves and is more muscular.  Also, his race affects skin color as well as the some of the details of the picture.  He has clearly chosen a kimono to replace the intricate shawl, and a seated, waving cat to replace standing one—both of these depictions have significance in Asian culture (116). Cultural implications are evident. 

            Overall, these two images reflect Anne D’Avelia’s idea that that two similar artworks can have two different implied viewers. Also, they can mirror each other in certain respects, but diverge in others.  These help reinforce D’Avelia notes that gender, expression, details, and race, all play roles in developing the image-audience relationship.  They also reflect our class work exploring the troubling of gender norms and the gaze.  

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.