“This is where all the famous paintings are.” People gather in the main Impressionists room in the National Gallery of London, photographing themselves in front of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous work, Sunflowers, but mostly ignoring his other equally celebrated artwork, Chair, and completely missing the artists who influenced him such as Pissarro.
This selfie enthusiasm is new; the Gallery only started allowing photos in August 2014 – and very reluctantly. The Wire reported the dismay of art critics at the time:
“I have to say, a bit of my soul died each time someone photographed a piece or even worse, took a selfie without actually looking at it with their own two eyes.” (Art History Newsletter)
“The last bastion of quiet contemplation is now to become selfie central, where noisy clicking smartphones and intense flashlights will prevail over any ‘eccentrics’ who want actually to look at art. The gallery used to be a haven where looking at pictures was prioritised. Now it will all be about taking your own pictures.” (Michael Savage, author of the Grumpy Art Historian blog)
The idea of “emotion work” recognises that our feelings are shaped by society. Our culture determines how we understand, discuss and act out our emotions. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild has conducted decades of research on how emotion work impacts our jobs. For example she studied how flight attendants are expected to remain calm while irate passengers are rude and make excessive demands. Flight attendants are not paid for this emotion work. They are expressly paid to provide customer service. The additional emotion work is taxing on their personal health and psychological wellbeing. This type of invisible emotional labour affects people in different jobs, but especially impacts women.
Hochschild writes in the journal Contexts:
“Over the last 40 years, the number of service sector jobs has grown. By my estimate, some six out of 10 of those service jobs call for substantial amounts of emotional labour. This work doesn’t fall equally upon the two genders; roughly a quarter of men but half of women work in jobs heavy in emotional labor. Emotional labour has hidden costs, and these fall more heavily on women.”
The work that individuals put into managing their own and other people’s emotions is therefore gendered. Women are conditioned to remain calm, placate others and even smile as clients take out their frustrations on them. Customer service workers are dehumanised because their job expects them to put up with abuse. This type of work takes a heavy emotional toll on women, especially in caring professions.
Office settings also involve a level of emotion work; we see in the way we treat others. The TV show How I Met Your Mother humorously depicted “the chain of screaming,” which is how each level of the management hierarchy yells at their subordinates to alleviate personal grievances instead of dealing with problems in a constructive manner.
We zip through Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and back home to Canberra for this visual sociology, so strap in for a look past January-February 2016. Get ready for some hardcore existential public art, profound reflections on racism and injustice and lots of gallahs.
A visual sociology of my weekend trip to Amsterdam during my secondment in London! Learn more about the Stendhal Syndrome Pavillion, the psychological condition elicited by artworks. The Oasis of Matisse was wonderful, but offers an opportunity to apply the sociology of gender. The Zero Exhibition recreates an experimental exhibition from the 1950s and 1960s.
Lore by Bangarra Dance Theatre brings the dance, culture and stories of the Torres Strait Islands to broader Australian audiences at the Sydney Opera House. In this gorgeous and uplifting show, Elma Kris plays the lead and she is just exquisite. Some of the songs are in the Ka La Lagau Ya language. My favourite parts are the beautiful turtle egg sequence as well as “Freezer” with the dancers emerging from the chilly freezer in the supermarket in contrast to the hot air outside. Continue reading Bangarra: Lore
The 26th of January is Australia Day and a national holiday. Various events happen all over Melbourne, but some of these recognise that this day raises important issues about Indigenous culture in Australia. Protests over colonialism have been ongoing since Europeans settled in Australia in 1788. On the 26th of January 1938, 150 years after the decimation of Indigenous people began, William Cooper (leader with the Australian Aboriginal League) together with Jack Patten and William Ferguson (the Aboriginal Progressive Association) declared the first “Day of Mourning,” a day recognising the history of colonial violence and dispossession. Survival Day events represent the resilience and contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who collectively make up the world’s oldest, continuous culture.
I attended the Share the Spirit festival, hosted by Songlines Music. This event has been running at the Treasury Garden since 2002. Together with similar events in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and elsewhere, they are amongst the biggest Indigenous cultural events in Australia. Continue reading Share the Spirit: Survival Day 2015
In the 2011 Australian Census, there were over 107,300 Latin-Australian migrants. The majority were born in South America (almost 87,700 people); the second-biggest groups were born in Central America (14,900 people); and a smaller proportion were born in the Caribbean (4,7000 people). Continue reading Latin Summer Festival
Built in the mid-1800s to imprison offenders during Victoria’s goldrush, it staged 10 documented executions, the last held in 1876. It was decomissioned as a jail in 1990, having since undergone several transformations: as a hotel, tourist attraction, school camp, conference centre, and most recently as a community radio station. Although it is a Heritage Australia site, the Mount Alexander Council recently sold it, and parts of the gaol will apparently undergo residential development.