For as long as I can remember, I was always told that the story isn’t about me.
In high school, my teachers would time and time again remind us that using ‘I’ in an essay or short story was almost like shooting ourselves in the foot. We were told that using ‘I’ lessened the value of the work and that the pure focus should always be about the research and the content.
Now here I am, in my final semester at University and I am finally being told that using ‘I’ isn’t such as bad thing. According to Ellis, authoethnography allows the researcher to “analyse personal experiences to understand cultural experience.”
When I think of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film, Godzilla, I immediately visualise images of destroyed Japanese towns, a fire-breathing monster and terrified people. The classic combination for a Sci-Fi Horror film.
Before today, I hadn’t watched any of the films under the Godzilla umbrella because I wasn’t allowed to watch it.
Growing up as a young ethnic-Australian girl in the late 1990s, my parents Italian/ South American parents were strict in regards to what we watched. At the time our television screens were filled with Japanese manga and cartoons with slight undertones of violence and destruction. My mum banned my brother and I from ever watching shows and films like Godzilla or Japanese manga or cartoons because there was too much violence for impressionable young children.
After watching Gojira, i’m glad I didn’t watch the film when I was younger.
Through the lens of the New Historian Literary Theory, Godzilla was created as a product of the historic events which it was created in. If I was to have watched the film when I was younger, all I would have seen was scenes of destruction and over-dramatised acting. I wouldn’t have appreciated the history and underlying themes that capture the culture’s struggle surrounding the events that took place around WWII.
When Godzilla opens with bomb noises, you already know it's going to include a theme of nuclear warfare! #DIGC330
The film was different to what I had expected. It deeply explored the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs which ravaged the Japanese towns causing years of after effects, contamination and radiation. It also played on the social anxieties surrounding the U.S atomic bomb of Castle Bravo which detonated in 1954, the same year Godzilla was released.
Godzilla itself was a motif for the unstoppable effects that the atomic bombs continued to have on the Japanese population.
Could the unstoppable nature of Godzilla refer to the unstoppable nature of nuclear warfare and its unstoppable effects? #DIGC330
Upon watching the film, I came to notice the theme of Human vs. Self where the community (human) vs. Godzilla (self) . Godzilla is a representation of the persona that humanity has created with the intention to be the better version of humanity and take over, in turn causing destruction.
This draws parallels with Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein where the monster becomes a product of its creator. In this case, Godzilla is the product of humanity and its desire to have control. It plays with the idea of humanity tampering with technologies beyond their power so much so that they create a monster.
This is accentuated by the films nior and its black and white nature. Godzilla seems to come out from the shadows in certain scenes where the lighting techniques added to the dramatisation of the film.
Overall, I really enjoyed the film and how it played with certain themes, issues within Japanese culture and history as well as advancements in science and technology.
This film presented the fears, struggles and lives of Japanese people who were forced to live with the effects after the war and radioactivity. Thus, it provides a window for western audiences to view these struggles through the film.
Art is ever-changing and evolving in response to the current state of the world. It is in this state tracking nature that art too reveals the code; encoded by the artist and decoded by the audience—thus the codification of history and values represented through art.
‘Marilyn Monroe’, created by Andy Warhol in 1967—discussed in the first lecture—was an artwork that changed the face of art as the ‘mechanical reproduction of art changed the reaction of the masses toward art’ (Benjamin. W 1998). It was here that Pop Art was born, challenging the conventions of artmaking practice by using a tool of mass media—the silkscreen—in order to ‘bring art back to America’ (Warhol. A). In this, Warhol aimed to democratize the work of art where the entirety of the public can view, respond and decode art that was created for them and by them.
After World War II, Pop Art emerged in response to the consumeristic and materialistic values of the 1960’s where a disposable income; fuelled the economy, mass media and pop culture became the language of the masses. Marilyn Monroe was a pop culture icon, actress, model, singer and icon during the early 1950’s. After her overdose which shocked the world on August 5th 1962, Warhol harnessed the conversation centred around the icon to create an everlasting code to join his celebrity/death series within Pop Art.
With the audiences language rooted deep into American values and ways of life, Warhol appropriated a public shot of Monroe taken by Gene Korman for her film Niagra and coded it into a silkscreen oil painting consisting of the repetition of the single image. The repetition of the same subject matter was only made possible by the new technique of the silk screen which challenged the traditional practices of artmaking—thus the instrumentalisation of the human process of painting to create an algorithm of repetition. Warhol created “a precursor of a perfect and universal hybridization of art, of a new aesthetics after all aesthetics have disappeared.”(Baudrillard, J 1983). For the first time in art history, Pop Art invited all to decode the artwork as it resonated deeply within their individual lives thus removing the class segregation. This opened up a world of possibilities for the future of art and artmaking practice as cultural and citizen language—one obsessed with pop culture—became the code universally decoded by all. However this meant that the code was drastically altered.
Technological change meant that the mode of extracting the code too also changed. Andy Warhol, as a trained commercial artist in adverting wanted to merge the gap between high culture—theatre and artwork—with low culture—advertisements and pop culture. Much like Duchamp whom used the gallery space to showcase a ready-made urinal in a different perspective, Warhol too used the gallery space—which was accustomed to the showcase of original and high culture works of art—to display a time capsule of the values of an everyday American citizen through commercial art practices. Therefore, every person was able to decode the artwork as their values were the language.
The use of silkscreening allowed for repetition but also variation enticing perspective. The use of the same template allowed for colours to be changed creating an aesthetically pleasing work. However, with this process there are also limitations that hinder artistic creativity and breadth to explore. The art period Abstract Expressionism that preceded Pop Art was one characterised by line, colour and shape painted without form or strict planning. Pop art juxtaposes this with a strict template restricting the creative flow typically given to artists such as Jackson Pollock. The use of a silk screen—which was the means for mass production to create advertisements—limited the artworks potential to be accepted within the high-art world. Art critic, Lawrence Alloway whom gave Pop Art its name stated that the movement was ‘the lower end of a pop-art to fine art continuum’, meaning that it wasn’t as freely accepted within the art world.
The process of creating very similar artworks or copies of ‘Marilyn Monroe’ which spread across the decade created a fear of the loss of aura. Walter Benjamin stated that ‘the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition’(1998). Thus, the use of the silkscreen deters art from its natural form of oil on canvas and pushes it toward the workings of commercial production familiar with that of mass production, challenging what it means to be art. Although, in contrast to Benjamin, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ becomes the tradition as the values of society are compressed into the code of block colours, the use of appropriated images and grid format. These characteristics of Pop Art exemplified within ‘Marilyn Monroe’ transcend time and become a code ultimately used to tell the tale of the past to those in the present time.
Although, is it really providing an insight into the past if it is not an original?
Andy Warhol blurs the line between original and representation. On the surface, ‘Marilyn Monore’ is merely an image of Marilyn herself, the repetition of the same public shot of Marilyn Monore, and a reproduction of the first ‘Marilyn Monroe’ silk screen artwork. However, the artwork has become a reference point, one with its own values overextended into reality to stand on its own where it now exists as ‘its own pure simulacrum’(Baudrillard, J, 1983).
“It is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum: not unreal, but a simulacrum, never again exchanging for what is real, but exchanging in itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference.” (Baudrillard. J,1983)
Consequently, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ becomes a code in itself, a visible display of the values of the early 1960’s. Pop Art, as an avante-garde artform at the time was laced with limitations such as the lack of artistic freedom, the fear of the loss of originality and the aura and the rejection from galleries. However, amidst this, it was interwoven with affordances allowing the language of the audience to become the code, allowing all to understand thus paving the way for artistic licence for new artmaking practices.