Mirror Staging

Selfies and first person shooters as post-patriarchal narratives in the eye of the I

In the course of the Neolithic revolution, the cultural process that developed in patriarchal society spawned narrative structures, most notably tragedy, to channel trauma caused by systemic aggression and subjection. Yet pre-patriarchal narratives, as found in cave paintings and in residues of contemporaneous myth, suggest a different form potential and attest to the existence of another power structure effecting both gender and private property. Just like the pre-patriarchal narratives in cave paintings, new media narratives are rarely based on written language but on images and the perspective of the I. The omnipresence of selfies and self representation on one hand, and radical subjectivity in p.o.v. operated games may form a narrative turn, and point to a fundamental patriarchal crisis. Since Laura Mulvey’s essay Visual Pleasure in Cinema, scopophilia has been seen mainly as men watching women in the context of escapism and voyeurism. The image of women was almost entirely controlled and created by men for men. Selfies on the contrary, heavily employed by younger women, photoshopped and posted in social media, have turned the image making around. In selfies one can rediscover the art historical iconography of the portrait and representation of women, yet deprived from its original perspective. Nudes, mother with child, group and family gatherings, representation of status and power dominate in selfies as they did in painting, photography, only now it is women that create and maybe control the images of themselves. In return the male gaze has turned to the object-based virtual narrative spaces of games to execute violence and to experience complete subjectivity and visual pleasure. Virtual reality is still predominately a men’s world, often misogynous in story and discourse. Both, selfies of the ‘I’ in reality, and the subjective in virtual reality dominate current perceptions of the world and center around the ‘I’. Since our understanding of the world is communicated through narrative, often story based narrative, the permanent presence of the ‘I’ creates a new definition of the other, a new solipsistic ontology: there is no other if no ‘I’ is present. This narrative turn overwrites not only writing-based patriarchal story structures of a protagonist (a Non-I) that we i-dentify with, but also stands in opposition to the pre-patriarchal image based narratives of cave paintings where men had essentially no presence.