Blurred faces 3 of 4
Why do we see so many artists using the convention of a blurred, obscured or defaced face?
Works like the one above (Untitled, by Ted Basdevant), or the “modern vintage collages” that are so popular right now, often seem to use commercial photography as their source or “base” image.
Conveying: A critique of the aesthetics of the found images? A state of mind? Commentary on how we perceive photography as fact?
Some artists, like Eugenia Loli, say upfront that their manipulations of commercial photography are indictements of capitalism and consumerism. In her case, a head replaced by some other object is a pretty blunt way to symbolize shopping on the brain.
If an artist sees a subject as representing an unjust or illegitimate power, obscuring the face of the subject symbolizes the person’s lack of humanity. It transforms them into something terrifying, hollow.
The Tate’s current exhibition, “Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm,” deals with this creative method in its last room as a transformative inconclast gesture. The previous rooms look at destruction of art in the history of political and religious upheaval.
The thing that frustrates me is that I want more from these works. I want a blueprint. How do we get to the alternative the artist imagines? This art doesn’t seem like it’s taking us there.
The art, so often defacing women’s images (but frequently men’s, too), feels violent and misogynistic. It feels unfocused and not truly creative, in the sense that something new is made.
And in the iconoclast’s judgement of power, there’s a stark absence of compassion and mercy. They don’t seem to ask you to contemplate the subject as both frightening and pitiful, maybe vulnerable.