What Are YOU

Looking At?

What Are YOU Looking At?

What Are YOU Looking At?

This project extends a textual theme initiated with My Child Could Have Painted That (2018) that emphasizes a pronoun while satisfying similar interests in viewership, interpretation, semiotics, and ambiguity. The painting also incorporates the conceptual framework rooted in disruptive processes. My primary disruption employed Adobe Photoshop with a projected image onto the canvas. The image was then painted from the digital reference.

In our postmodernist and poststructuralist period, the viewer is privileged in determining a work’s interpretation, value, and ultimate success. By looking at the language version of a mirror, it is interesting to consider what will manifest in the interpretation—what kind of valuation will be assigned? Will it lead to a self-reflection (mirror), disdain, confusion, an attempt to answer the question? In one sense, the question prompts a viewer for an answer and I believe a dichotomy of focus and interest will be experienced between answering the question and focusing on the emphasized word: You.

Every artwork is scrutinized by a viewer’s art historical knowledge, cultural background, education, and life experiences. In this way, every work is not only unique in its autonomous form, it is unique in its perceptive definition, experience, and valuation by the viewer. This project is directly interested in this unique form of experience and how viewership decides a work’s reaction, interest, and analysis.

As a painting it revisits common ground with early conceptual works by Duchamp, Baldessari, and others in challenging and disrupting our comfortable zone of viewership where we accept the categorization of a work as a painting, art, or something outside of this realm. In one basic sense, the question presented on the canvas can be answered as: a painting. For some, it will not be classified as a painting at all due to its textual nature. With its emphasis on semiotics, text, and the word You, the viewer is lured inward to examine the self. In this sense, the work becomes a textual-mirror of sorts and a dialog with the viewer catalyzes a valuation of the self and work simultaneously. In this act of self-criticism, the work has the potential to become reflective of their own internalization of the self, and subsequently be evaluated based on this assessment—whether this is specifically conscious is questionable and an interesting intangible area of exploration.

The phrase is somewhat confrontational, too—"What are YOU looking at?" When we hear this phrase it typically has the context of “Stop looking at me!” Therefore, the phrase itself has potential for eliciting a reaction of turning away. Turning away from ourselves, though, is a bit paradoxical as it is an act of self-intimidation.

Finally, the work also considers Barthes’ concepts of readerly and writerly text. An initial assessment of the work involves a readerly examination as literal deconstruction of its linguistic components is evaluated. However, the intent is that the work becomes writerly, as the viewer interrelates more deeply with the work and begins to write its meaning through self-reflexive interaction.

The title and content of the work provoke the viewer into a dialog about a common act in art viewership. The hope is that beyond the literal presumptions, a dialog between viewer and work present an opportunity to realize the source and emphasis of our valuations, and their link to our own reflections. In this sense, the work satisfies my interest in aporia and paradox by revealing to the viewer that often our own like or dislike for a work is rooted in the psychology of self. The work’s intent to reduce the autonomous art object to a self-reflexive experience invites the viewer to account for interpretation as a product of influence. While experiences, life, and education assist in determining valuation, a work internalized by a viewer becomes part of them and the work’s autonomy is diluted—as, viewership yields a new context for a work. And in this sense, art’s ability to connect and serve as a communal device is deepened and extended beyond the elevated autonomous art object to privilege individual experience. This work takes this notion into the literal and linguistic sphere of experience while borrowing from Barthes readerly and writerly text concepts to force the viewer into a barren vision of self through simple text.

Related Work

My Child Could Have Painted That

To contextualize the concepts involved in this painting an artist statement is provided for consideration.

My Child Could Have Painted That

What Are YOU Looking At?

This painting extends a textual theme initiated with My Child Could Have Painted That (2018) that emphasizes a pronoun while satisfying similar interests in viewership, interpretation, semiotics, and ambiguity.

What Are YOU Looking At?