Library sesh

Tags: cannibalism, library sesh one, optical illusions, pop culture

12/ 09/ 17

Today's library visit yielded some pretty interesting results; the idea of cannibalism, anthropologically speaking, has been around for a while, but there is not enough documentation to definitely prove its existence as a custom in any society. 


W. Arens, The Man-Eating Myth, Anthropology & Anthropophagy, 1979


This then begs the question of where cannibalism came from in the first place, if it has not been recorded properly through the years. In his book The Man-Eating Myth, Arens does mention that cannibalism and human sacrifice are all dated, when they are dated, to prehistoric times. He does say that this 'merely matches a fictionalised past with a dubious present'. 


W. Arens, The Man-Eating Myth, Anthropology and Anthropophagy, 1979 


It's strange that cannibalism plays such a large role in today's pop culture, given its rather nasty details and hazy past, but the fact remains that society today is somewhat desensitised to cannibalism, thanks to the existence of TV shows like Hannibal and films such as The Silence of the Lambs. Even when was presented with it as a theme my mind immediately jumped to Hannibal Lecter, not to the gory reality of people eating people

Moving on from cannibalism, we then looked at the process of distortion. I found it particularly interesting to look at distortion in the context of a distorted perception, especially as this linked so well with the idea of cannibals having very different perspectives on life to most other people, which allows them to be cannibals. 

Distortion through perception is easy to see through history; take, for example, Hitler's wildly distorted view of the genetic hierarchy between people and their races, genders, sexual orientation etc. There is no doubt that his views were wrong, yet he believed them to be quite the opposite, which allowed him to do what he did with no remorse or guilt. 

Distorted perspective through art is different though, because it usually has a much more accessibly visual outcome; take, for example, Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors.


Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors, 1533, oil on oak panel, 207x209.5cm


This is a piece known particularly for its strange skull, depicted at the feet of the Ambassadors but at a very strange angle. It forces you to change how you look at the painting, to move and squint to actually see it for what it is. I've always liked this piece, I think because I saw it first when I was very little and it just confused me. Really, it still does - there's no proper reason for the skull to be so heavily distorted, and yet it is. 


Another example of distortion is through optical illusions; some may see one thing while others see another, it all depends on perspective. 


Old Woman or Young Lady?


Glass as our process was less interesting to research; a lot has been done with glass and it  surrounds us every day, but it can be changed depending on temperature and lighting, used to encase something to keep it from harm or to trap something within. I think this is the idea I will follow with my piece.  


© Nina Athill, all rights reserved


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