November 4, 2012

What is a metapicture?

     “Any picture that is used to reflect on the nature of pictures is a metapicture.” (pg.57) I'm curious to know how much of Mitchell's theory is completely accurate. To know if a picture is a metapicture, we need to know what self reference is. “If self-reference is elicited by the multistable image, then it has as much to do with the self of the observer as with the metapicture itself. We might think of the multistable image as a device for educing self-knowledge.” (pg.48)

     Is self-reference something people want to achieve? To be more specific in my reasoning, is it something people want to achieve this day and age? To me, it seems like we live in a society that hides behind computers and text messages. Do we really want a picture of a picture to tell us things about ourselves that we didn't know? It's that moment where honesty comes to play.

      I wonder as well if every picture of a picture is a metapicture. Is a picture we see uploaded on Facebook a metapicture? It is a picture of a picture after all; we observe it on a computer screen. Are digital pictures metapictures as well? We see those pictures on a screen as well. But do we really believe that these pictures induce self-knowledge? When I see a picture that someone posted on Facebook, especially one that I'm in, I do acknowledge that the moment happen. Yet, I don't know if it imparts any new things on me. That's where I question metapictures. What exactly is it supposed to inform us? Is it supposed to inform something that our subconscious wants us to know?


Mitchell, W.J.T. “Metapictures.” In Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual
Presentation. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1994. 35-82.

2 comments:

Kathrynn Ward said...

I am in agreement with you. I am not so sure that I buy this essay, or possibly it is that I don't fully understand what is being said or the conclusion being made. I was not effected by the pictures presented, really at all. I don't think. These pictures on Facebook that you speak of don't really raise new consciousness for me either. To answer your question, I do not think we want pictures to show us something that we don't know. I think not only do we live in the world where people hide behind media and text messages, we also live a in a world of denial. to ourselves mostly, but also to others. Self reference pertains to the self. I think people lie to themselves more than they even lie to others. I don't know if this actually pertains to the essay, but It's what I thought of when I read your post. You raise some valuable questions, ones I have thought of myself before. possibly metapictures bring subconscious realizations and that is why we don't realize.. because it is not immediately brought to our conscious mind?

A Cycene said...

When you give your definition and relation to self-reference according to the article, the first thing I think of is McCloud when he was saying how we look for things in pictures. We self-referentiate in everything and see ourselves in everyday things such as power outlets, or even circles with dots. There are no real images, but we relate them by looking for similarities in them with our own features. I think that in order to understand what is a metapicture, we also need to have a deeper breakdown of what exactly a metapicture is. Is a metapicture something that has self-reference or hypertext in it? Can a picture have hypertext in it? I think so. Thinking back to "Las Meninas", there is definitely hypertext going on. You have multiple images and voices being present. By voices, I mean presences and images. From each person depicted in the picture, there is a different aspect being portrayed-from the princess being pampered and standing idly for her portrait to be drawn, to the bored little girl in the corner with her foot on the dog. They each have their own little worlds going on, but at the same time they are each a part of the same story, and by making up these multiple voices, create a hypertextual metapicture. Perhaps I'm getting too carried away. Instead, maybe metapictures are simply images of events or an ability to perfectly capture and frame something so that it may be repeated and shown exactly in the same context forever and ever. Even if it is a picture to be posted on something like Facebook-the picture was taken once, at a time, place and pose that will never be repeated ever again-it is a recording or duplication of that moment in time. Again, I might be getting off track...simply put, metapictures can be frames to hold a specific event.

Kari K

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