Looking at 99 Cent (1999, Remastered 2004), by Andreas Gursky via the Lacanian Gaze…

In a sea of cheap tat that rises steadily to fill the entire bottom half of the frame, a small figure in a ski mask can be seen. Their eyes are obscured, so whether they return our look is unclear. They make a blot, they disturb the otherwise clustered order. Here, like the cable car (in Cable Car), can we understand this stand-out moment as exemplifying the (Lacanian) “gaze”? That is, a moment that disturbs the landscape, and allows us – through this disturbance – to realise our own subjective perspective and how that functions to complete a visual scene? When I see the blot in the otherwise orderly situation, when I notice that-which-does-not-fit, that-which-stands-out, that-which-makes-itself-known, there is a rupture in the fabric of the landscape. The image positions me as a looking subject, and this positioning is something I am made aware of when the stain becomes apparent. The boy in the ski mask functions beyond the idea of his existence in the space. He becomes a mark which alters the environment he is embedded in. A sinister shift occurs. The 99 cent items which fizz and pop with sugar-rush colours become tethered to a dark undertone, no longer digestible as tasty treats, but empty calories that mask something else, something that could set your teeth on edge. The gaze is brought to the fore, not as an other’s perspective (such as the concept of “the male gaze”) but as that which allows the subject to recognise their seemingly “objective” viewpoint as one which is personally and politically embodied, a revelation that happens only when a stain occurs.

Andreas-Gursky_99-cent

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