Insights "Brown Bag" Lecture Series

margot_bouman_brown_bagFebruary 17 , 12-1pm

80 5th Ave, Room 802


The Mise en abyme Effect: Politics and the Fantasy of Total Visibility


Assistant Professor of Art and Design Studies, Parsons The New School of Design


As André Gide and Lucien Dällenbach show, textual and visual mise en abyme narrative structures include flashbacks, the reproduction of a story within the story, a telescoping inward of recessionary space and the placement of a self-contained image within an image. In this talk, I argue that the fantasy produced by visual narratives using mise en abyme both draws attention to itself and embodies the ideal form of an argumentative structure. Certain forms of mise en abyme produce the supposition that total visibility gives rise to total knowability. I choose televisual examples of mise en abyme drawn from sports, and recent Bush-era politics: the discourse produced by refereeing decisions made in the 2010 South Africa World Cup; and the case for war on Iraq made to the UN Security Council in 2003 by then-US Secretary of State, Colin Powell. These examples both assume that by progressively breaking down the evidence into a mise en abyme of smaller and smaller components, the technological gaze can progressively access more reliable knowledge. Both the discrepancies between these non-fictional accounts and their shared base assumptions will help draw out the fantasy elements that they have in common.

Margot Bouman’s research interests include the rhetorical forms of visual culture, avant-garde television, video installation art, and the mediated production of the public sphere. Bouman is working on two book projects: Televison’s Avant-Garde; The Televisual and the Avant-Garde, a historical examination of the unintended consequences of the avant-gardes’ foray into television, and, with Aviva Dove-Viebahn, an edited anthology, Art and the Televisual. Bouman has received research funding support from the Susan B. Anthony Institute of Gender and Womens Studies at the University of Rochester, the Rockefeller Archive Center, College Art Association, and multiple grants from Parsons The New School for Design.

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