Archive for the ‘Creative journal’ Category

Feminism studies: Compare and contrast two competing accounts of ‘sexual difference’ – between Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Part 4 – Sexual difference

When P. DE Sagazan questions Irigaray about how men and women are different, Irigaray’s answer was that ‘they are corporeally different’. She articulated that this ‘biological difference’ leads to other differences such as constructing subjectivity, connecting to the world and relating (Irigaray, 2000, p.96). In contrast to ‘biological difference’, Butler argues that these ‘corporeal styles’ (differences) are a sedimentation, which has been produced over time. It appears in sexes that sit in ‘a binary relation to one another’. (Butler, 1988, p.407)

‘Sexual difference’ for Irigaray is heterosexually based, which is the major distinction between her and Butler. Irigaray stated later in conversation that ‘…two genders have different forms of consciousness: one remaining more faithful to the body and to her sensibility, to the concrete environment, and to intersubjective relationships, …the other, constructing a universe of non-natural objects…’ It seems that she clearly separated the idea of ‘sex’ into two genders. Conversely, Butler rejects the heterosexuality of sex/gender division, she claims that heterosexuality (the same as gender) is, as mentioned above, ‘culturally produced’ and can be ‘subverted and dismantled.’ (Stone, 2006, p.7)

Furthermore, Irigaray believed that ‘sexual difference’ is a universal difference, which can serve as a standpoint for understanding other differences. According to her, ‘there are traces of instincts derived from animality and human passions in the relations between women and men’, such as respecting other gender. For her, this can be seen as from the ‘most instinctive to the most spiritual’ – the most spiritual being that which bring humans to respect other differences such as race, generation, culture and so on. (Irigaray, 2000, p.99) So ‘sexual difference’ (which by her means sex difference) obviously was a fundamental difference for her, which Butler denies. Butler stresses the ‘multiplicity’ of ‘sex’ and ‘gender performativity’, which bear cultural meaning with it.


Butler, J. (1988). Performative Acts and Gender Constitution. In Conboy, K., Medina, N., Stanbury, S. eds. Writing on the Body: Female Movement and Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Irigaray, L. and Lotringer, S., transl. Collins, C. (2000). Why Different? New York: Semiotext(e).

Stone, A. (2006). Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Feminism studies: Compare and contrast two competing accounts of ‘sexual difference’ – between Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Part 3 – sex and gender

It seems that Irigaray and Butler’s interpretations of ‘sexual difference’ are based on different starting points. Irigaray focuses on the rejection of female sexuality in cultural theory, and claims that gender is sex based. However, Butler states that it is extremely limiting if one understands gender as a separated model, which is based on sex, and does not take into account other bases of gender identity and different forms of sexuality (Long, 2006). She articulates Merleau-Ponty’s reflections on the phenomenology of perception on “the body in its sexual being”, saying that the human body is “an historical idea” rather than “a natural species.” She is also inspired by Simone de Beauvoir’s notion of “woman”, for which ‘any extension, and gender, is an historical situation rather than a natural fact.’ Butler explains that ‘[Beauvoir] clearly underscores the distinction between sex, as biological facticity, and gender, as the cultural interpretation or signification of that facticity’ (Butler, 1988, p.403).

According to Butler’s theory of sex and gender, one can argue that biological sex does not oppose performative gender. Sex and gender can be seen as an interacted relationship (sex/gender). Sexes can be seen as gendered bodies, which are created by culture. Butler elaborates gender as an aspect of identity, which are created through ‘a stylized repetition of [performative] acts’ (Long, 2006). In this sense, gender can also be defined into multiple assumptions. As Butler states

‘…there is neither an “ essence” that gender expresses or externalizes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires; because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender creates the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis’ (Butler, 1988, p.405).

Even through both Irigaray and Butler agreed that patriarchal power has been influencing and controlling human interpretation of ‘sex’ and gender, one could argue that Butler reveals more possibilities for the understanding of sex/gender. Butler’s notion of sex/gender is sublimated to an intellectual level, which free individuals to define their own sex/gender.


Butler, J. (1988). Performative Acts and Gender Constitution. In Conboy, K., Medina, N., Stanbury, S. eds.

Writing on the Body: Female Movement and Feminist Theory

. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997
Long, V. (2006). Subjectivity and Gender: Luce Irigaray’s, Judith Butler’s and Riot Girl’s Gender Challenge. Internet (last viewed 10 January 2007).

Heritage, Origins and Otherness

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

I have recently been working on my research file for my option subject ‘cities of modernity’. My study area, at this time, is about ‘Beijing Siheyuan’ (a traditional residency in Beijing which has a history going back 800 years). I could not find much information in our college library so I have been researching on some Chinese websites. Or I could even translate them to English. I thought it would be a way of disseminating Chinese culture to ‘the other’ who had castles (equivalent to residency) in history.

I quite enjoy doing the research as it helps me to obtain my own culture. I was looking at all kinds of national treasures that Chinese have had in history such as paintings, calligraphies and Chinese porcelain and so on. It reminded me, one of the framing art lectures, which I had attended last term. The session was called ‘Heritage, Origins and Otherness’. We were asked to watch a documentary, which is called Stolen Goods National Treasures, directed by Tim Robinson in 2000. The video was about whether should the British museum return national treasures to their original countries.

Some people wonder why people should travel all over the world to experience different cultures and ways of life. One can get a taste of the Greek culture, or a chance to see the best Chinese calligraphy in the world by visiting the British museum. There are, however, others who take on another view, in which they argue that Western Europe should pay respect to countries that they have taken these treasures from by returning their lost treasures. Should this be the case then? It is always difficult to answer such controversial questions when people come from different culture and have different opinions. I have been thinking whether the returning of these treasures would be beneficial to countries where these treasures were originated, and the antiques themselves.

Returning priceless objects to their countries of origin is a way of expressing a diplomatic gesture of friendship. Many people from these countries of origin had been deeply upset when their treasures were taken away. These treasures were symbols of their culture. Therefore, their loss was not only objective, but also a subjective one as in a loss of spiritual values. Moreover, returning these treasures would help settle any long-term disputes created by the act of their displacement and consequently create a more peaceful and tranquil world.

Furthermore, many tourists, and people who are from these treasure’s original cultures believe that the only way to fully experience the cultural effects of these exhibits is to view them in their original cradle. Being in their origin enables these treasures to appear more charming. They would be better staged in their natural condition instead of being in a glass box in London. Culture is the spirit of a race. Without being immersed in its original culture, an antique loses the spirit it was intended to carry. It is all about the restoration of a culture’s spirit rather than the monetary value of these treasures.

However, some superintendents argue that such precious antiques should be preserved in well-built museums that facilitate good temperature conditions and security. Moreover, since Europeans tend to be more experienced in antique preservation, it could be better off for these treasures to remain in their present state. Moreover, risks of damages during displacement can then be avoided.

I am holding an impartial view at this controversial issue. In this civilized and developed era, European countries should return these priceless objects to their origins not only because people should respect each other’s culture but also human dignity as a whole.

Feminism studies: Compare and contrast two competing accounts of ‘sexual difference’ – between Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler

Saturday, February 10th, 2007

Part two – Why ‘culture over nature’

Both Irigaray and Butler agree that culture is ‘over’ nature. Similarly, both of them reject the ‘given truth’, and believe that humans are cultural beings. We engage in activities of transforming ourselves in the material world. However, the term ‘culture over nature’ was elaborated in different ways by these two thinkers.

For Irigaray, ‘culture’ indicates the notion of ‘man’ (the ‘only one sex’) who revalued ‘woman,’ which is therefore a culturally constructed idea (of what it is a woman should be) that appears ‘natural’. Irigaray claimed that, traditionally, the need for a representation of ‘nature’, was seen as good or bad depending on whether it is created by men or engendered by women (Irigaray, 1987, p.96). It seems that Irigaray was trying to describe the power relationship between culture and nature, and also self-awareness among ‘women’. In her book This Sex Which Is Not One, she claimed that ‘ “women” always remains several, but she is kept from dispersion because the other is already within her and is autocratically familiar to her, which is not to say that she appropriates the other for herself, that she reduces it to her own property.’ She focused on the female position in human society and emphasized that women should create their own systems in terms of language, discourses and sexuality.

Stone argued that Irigaray could be seen to use the concept of nature in two main senses. ‘Firstly, the ‘nature’ of something, for her, denotes its defining character or essence – in the sense men and women are said to have different natures.’ (Stone, 2006, p.5) Besides that, Irigaray denoted ‘nature’ as character and essence of human – she believes that men and women have different natures.

One could argue that by encouraging and also emphasizing female positions, ‘sexual difference’ for her is to distinguish male and female identities or positions.

However, Judith Butler questions the notion of natural, biological or true gender identity. She stepped further than Irigaray’s analysis by explaining the hidden ‘reason’ behind why ‘nature’ was understood as natural. She claims that culture is continuously changing and gender is a constructed idea. As Long stated,

Butler contends that culture requires gender to be inscribed upon the body…gendered bodies are created. Gender is a facet of identity created through a stylized repetition of acts. Gender performance and prescription is internalized as a form of self-discipline. (Long, 2006)

For instance, Butler also argues that ‘heterosexuality is a cultural artifact, which can be subverted and dismantled’. She explicated ‘Phenomenological theories of human embodiment have also been concerned to distinguish between the various physiological and biological causalities that structure bodily existence and the meanings that embodied existence assumes in the context of lived experience.’ (Butler, 1988, p.403) This explanation reflects what Stone stated about Judith Butler’s idea that bodies do have a natural character, but one of multiplicity (Stone, 2006, p.6).


Long, V. (2006). Subjectivity and Gender: Luce Irigaray’s, Judith Butler’s and Riot Girl’s Gender Challenge. Internet (last viewed 10 January 2007).

Butler, J. (1988). Performative Acts and Gender Constitution. In Conboy, K., Medina, N., Stanbury, S. eds. Writing on the Body: Female Movement and Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Irigaray, L. (1987). Sexual Difference. Transl. Hand, S. In Whitford, M. ed. (1991). The Irigaray Reader. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Stone, A. (2006). Luce Irigaray and the Philosophy of Sexual Difference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Considering the relationship between Internet and Globalization

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

Technology has radically transformed global culture, and also the way that people are reflecting on that culture. The new political, economic and cultural atmosphere has been illustrated by the concept of Globalization.

Globalization interconnected the world on many different levels, such as the complexification of economic relations and the ‘levelling effects’ (Thanks Ed!) of global culture. The Internet can be seen as a promoter of global culture. In other words, the world is rearranged into ‘networks’ of relationships. In fact, technology plays an important role as it amplifies the mobility of goods, services and so on. Moreover, the effects of distant events like the tsunami in 2004 and the war in Iraq show the other side of globalisation, and its fluidity through new media technology.

From a certain critical point of view, Globalization and the Internet are illustrated as a new Imperialism as they are symbolic of the west and they accelerate homogeneity (i.e. people all download the same music from the Internet and wear the same brands). In this respect, the Internet is described as an enormous supermarket whose duty is to dominate ‘the other’ by using high technology. Of course, this does not only apply to products , but also involves the cultural industry. However, there are some who hold optimistic views on this issue since each individual can possibly produce any kind of techno-culture and also ‘use the net to achieve greater control over globalizing influences’ (J. Slevin) in this public sphere.

The Internet itself may be seen as an invention for accommodating citizen’s needs in contemporary society. Globalization has been criticised as one of the outcomes of it. Some may consider Gobalization as the inevitable outcome while others may see it as an accidental phenomenon. Instead of defining the essence of this issue, we had better focus on its possibilities in the future.

Feminism studies: Compare and contrast two competing accounts of ‘sexual difference’ – between Luce Irigaray and Judith Butler

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Part 1 – The notion of ‘sex’

In order to compare and contrast the term ‘sexual difference’ between these two thinkers, it is necessary to define Irigaray and Butler’s notion of ‘sex’. In ‘This Sex Which Is Not One’, Irigaray criticized Freud’s concept of the ‘binary opposition’ of sexuality. She theorized, ‘another system is needed, a system that will privilege the feminine as much as the masculine and will be based on the multiplicity of sexuality’ (Harmon, 1996). By pointing out the ‘multiplicity of sexuality’, Irigaray explained that from the historical interpretation (Freud’s concept of Binary opposition), if male sexuality is based on having a penis (a single sex organ) and female sexuality is based on having ‘nothing’, and then the binary opposition could be one of ‘penis/nothing, clitoris, vagina’ (Harmon, 1996). It is clear that the ‘sex’ for Irigaray is not only ‘one’ – the ‘one’ indicates an active, male, patriarchal culture. What she argues against is the historical idea that women are passive, whose desire and pleasure have been situated in males. As Harmon stated, Irigaray suggested constructing a new system for women, which ‘will privilege the feminine as much as the masculine and will be based on the multiplicity of female sexuality.’

Judith Butler does not draw a clear line between sexes. She agrees that humans have natural characters but also claims that ‘sex’ reveals multiplicities to humans, who then need to be considered as ‘cultural products’. She contends that:

…there is a sedimentation of gender norms that produces the peculiar phenomenon of a natural sex, or a real woman…this is a sedimentation that over time has produced a set of corporeal styles which appear as the natural configuration of bodies into sexes which exist in a binary relation to one another’. (Butler, 1988, p.407)

Butler focuses on the relationship between ‘natural’ sex and ‘performative’ gender. She believes that sex is a gendered body, which bears cultural meanings. She states that ‘the acts by which gender is constituted bear similarities to performative acts within theatrical contexts’ (Butler, 1988, p.403). It seems that ‘cultural products’ play an important role in constructing different sexes. For her, sex is also not ‘only one’, but also not only two – it is the multiplicity. Sex is never ‘natural’ for her, but can be seen as a culturally transformed gender. ‘Gender performativity’ can be seen as a way to represent different sexes. Irigaray responded to and rejected the historical consequences (the binary opposition of sex), whereas for Butler’s ‘multiplicity’ this is irrelevant, but now it directly explains it’s own genesis.


Butler, J. (1988). Performative Acts and Gender Constitution. In Conboy, K., Medina, N., Stanbury, S. eds. Writing on the Body: Female Movement and Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Harmon, B. (1996). Luce Irigaray. Internet (last viewed 10 January 2007).

why do I chose Sexual Poetics as my special subject

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Since I chose Sexual Poetics as my special subject, I have been considering writing about female art in China. Or to be more specific, the application of feminist theory to art in China as feminism is an exclusively western phenomenon.

In order to find more information in relation to feminist theory in China, I have observed some of the websites which introduce this theory to China, especially how Chinese women deal with this western philosophy. Many important philosophers have been introduced to China, such as Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler. However, it seems that the essays that introduced these writers generally attempted to introduce western thoughts directly from translations rather than elaborate them from Chinese perspectives. The critical articles on the subject of feminism in Art are also difficult to find.

I hope I can study this subject matter in depth, to be able to understand more contemporary theories which are happening in the west. However, my aim is not to apply these theories to the Chinese side. Instead, I think one should encourage oneself to be critical toward contemporary issues in order to develop one’s own thoughts.

Flaneur: mystery and the man in the crowd

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Flaneur: mystery and the man in the crowd

Flaneur means walking without direction. It is also a key word that is often used in writing about 19th century art. Watching the movie Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), it was as if we were taken back to the middle of 19th century, to the ‘boulevard’ in Paris. As 21st-century spectators, we could see how the French filmmaker crossed time and space, in order to represent an allegory of post-war Paris. Furthermore, We may consider whom the majority of the spectators were and how the movie was filmed at the time, by which I mean, to demonstrate an old narrative as if it displayed a contemporary reality.

Another significant idea in the film is about the position of women during the time the film was portraying. The main actress was a ‘courtesan’ who is very independent as she interacted with men. Another example of her independence is her gaze, as an attractive woman who made strong eye contact with men and felt confidence, instead of flirting. The film also gives us an idea of what women would like to gaze at and how women presented themselves through history.

Review on Turner prize 2006

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

As a spectator, it is always easy to judge a piece of artwork, but not to compose one. About this year’s Turner Prize, I guess many people have already made their own mind about who is going to win, and the most important thing is who is going to take the 25,000 home. The Turner Prize, is it held simply as a competition, or does it pretty much contain a commercial value? Were the artists asked to make art-works for the prize or did they actually art for the art itself? From an artistic point of view, instead of predicting who will be the winner, I would rather prefer to discuss what kind of interpretations I had through their artworks, and try to figure out why their works are so significant among contemporary art practice today.

When I arrived at Tate Britain, the first thing that I addressed myself to was the balance of the competition this year. Among the four short listed, there are two women artists who were selected in this year. It seems that Women artists are very much valued at this time. It also indicates that the character of today’s women artist has become more perceptible and vivid. Tomma Abts, came out with her pure and rational paintings, whose size are exquisite and make viewers feel not overwhelming indeed. However, her paintings are also sensitive which implicates the significance of variety, spirituality, mercuriality and also contains mellowness. Immediately, I did an on-the-scene interview at the gallery. People had extreme estimations of her work. Some were highly appreciative; of course, there ware some who could not believe that she could be selected for this competition because a BA artist did the paintings likely. It is good to be controversial which can be seen as another character of contemporary art.

Rebecca Warren is also a women artist, who brings a new historical view towards sculptures and installations. From the image of the perfect Greek statue to the beautifully structured features of Renaissance sculpture, the standard value of western sculpture has already inherited old generations, and is rooted in people’s mind. Currently, when people realize that it seems every object must be polished in today’s urban space, our lives are very much occupied by materialism, Warren’s sculptures denied all these. She refuses to shape the sculptures in a formal way. She left them in a free atmosphere. It seems that she wanted to let the sculptures grow in a natural environment. Her sculptures were primitive-looking and undorned. When you actually walk into her exhibiting space, you may not be highly satisfied or even confuse about whether those pieces are unfinished or less enjoyable, nevertheless you may miss the moment when you were in the room because the reality is that we often miss the infinite feeling, the simplicity and hopefulness.

‘Can you draw a picture of God?’ according to Mark Titchner, his work was very much influenced by his childhood. From his ‘ how to change behaviour’, I was aware of the combination of western and eastern philosophy. From an eastern point of view, I recognized a sense of rebirth and transmigration. The relationship between nature and industrialization, the individual and the community are also signified through his work. Furthermore, his work is also very interactive. As a spectator, when one look at an artwork, the physical reflection comes first, and then through the interpretation we analyze and theorize the meaning of it. A powerful piece may change the way of your brain works and end up affecting your philosophy of life. Titchner helps us to experience and analyze our view of life through his view and art.

Phil Collins invites you to his ‘talk show’. The documentary was filmed in Turkey which were spoke about the ‘before and after’ of plastic surgery. By experiencing the shows, people share life experiences through each other’s stories. However, the argument here is that unless you have been filmed, would you act the same? And what kind of role do media play today? What is going on behind the screen? Let us discover it! He even moves a talk show studio to the exhibition, which factually presented the mysterious space (the studio behind the screen) to the audience. The experience now is not only on the surface but also reach to the beneath, to its essence. It is more like a three-dimensional documentary that one can observe on the screen, can discover the processing of it, and you are also a guest who had already been invited to the show.

It seems that the unlimited possibility of contemporary art has been fully experienced in this year’s Turner prize. They all embodied with personalities and characters. They are all professional but also personal. If there must be a winner, he or she will win because of the historical time but not the accomplishment.