Icons of Transgression

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					Icons of Transgression

   Bent Sørensen
   Aalborg University
     Icons of Transgression
   All iconic representations of actual persons (living
    or dead) are caught in a dichotomy between
    elements of normality/familiarity and elements of
   Manipulation of representations of celebrities or
    famous persons into hero- or other-images can
    either constitute adversarial or collaborative icon
   In adherence with the conference theme of “E
    Pluribus Unum or E Pluribus Plura” it would be
    interesting to examine iconic images that are meant
    to be particularly transgressive and challenge
    stereotypical images of American wholesomeness.
     Icons of Transgression
   I propose to look at specific collaborative, yet
    provocative representations of two 1960s icons of
    transgression: Charles Manson and Patty Hearst,
    and to analyze how these particular images
    simultaneously stylize and sacralize these
    counterculture (anti)heroes, turning the viewer of
    the icons from passive consumers into ardent
    worshippers, consumers or cultural agnostics, all
    according to our ideas regarding the subjects and
    symbols in question.
            Icons - thesis 1
   The commercial icon or pictogram works
    through simplified representation: It is
   The religious icon works through
    embellished representation and through
    symbolic detail: It is sacralised
   Iconic representation of persons combines
    these two modes of representation: It
    presents a stylised and sacralised image of
    the person.
             Icons – thesis 2
   A person who achieves icon status has to be
    recognisable to the majority of a specific group,
    whether that is a subculture (defined through age,
    race etc.), a nation, or the global community:
    Iconicity presupposes familiarity.
   A person who achieves icon status has to be
    extraordinary, whether through his/her
    achievements, or through image. Iconicity
    presupposes transgression of normality.
   Iconicity is only achieved when the person imaged
    represents a combination of familiarity (fame) and
    transgression (cool).
           Icons – thesis 3

   Iconicity is a form of immortality
   Iconicity has a history, i.e. not all icons
    are permanent.
   Icons can become dated, and
    consequently slip out of their apparent
    immortal status.
           Icons – thesis 4

   Icons place us, as viewers and readers, in
    communi(cati)on with the icon
   We are not ourselves icons.
   Icons thus enforce a passive role on us as
    viewers or voyeurs, a role which we may
    resist but are doomed to re-enact whenever
    we communicate with an icon. The relation
    between icon and viewer is thus basically
            Icons – thesis 5

   From the religious connotations of iconicity
    we inherit the position of worshipper.
   From the industrial, service and information
    oriented connotations of iconicity we inherit
    the position of consumer.
   Both these positions are well served by
    dead icons, and by marketable icons, which
    offer no resistance to commodification.
            Icons – thesis 6
   Icons can become overexposed.
   As a result, people may attempt to actively
    resist icons, e.g. by defacing them or
    tampering with them (slander, rumour-
    mongering, gossip, satire, co-optation etc.
    are all possible strategies): The formerly
    passive worshippers become iconoclasts
   All of these activities ultimately serve chiefly
    to perpetuate the iconic person’s status and
           Icons – thesis 7

   Iconicity means a reduction of the
    person behind the icon (the iconic
    subject) to image, to object.
   Iconicity is a form of martyrdom.
   Iconicity is a reduction or translation
    from individuality to symbol
            Icons – thesis 8
   The need for icons is an expression of our
    longing for something beyond our own
    subject-hood, a desire to idolise
   The need for icons is no longer fulfilled in
    traditional religious ways, but has become
    transferred onto other manifestations of the
   The need for icons has not diminished over
    the last 50 years, on the contrary there are
    more icons now than ever, despite the
    acceleration in cultural change.
          Icons – thesis 9

   Iconography reveals by concealing
    and conceals by revealing.
Manson 1
Manson 2
Manson and John Kerry
  Manson as George W’s
ambassador to the Klingons
           Manson's confirmation stalled by politics

           President Bush urged the Senate today to "put aside
                politics" and confirm Charles Manson as
                ambassador to Qo'noS.

           Future ambassador Charles Manson

           "Charles Manson is a good man," Bush said. "Questions
                about his ... management style shouldn't be part of
                the confirmation process."
           The president is dismayed, said White House press
                secretary Scott McClellan, that scarcely three
                months after the first Bird-of-Prey entered orbit,
                Democratic obstructionism has already begun.
           Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has critized the two
                delays that have already occurred as a result.
           "The president deserves to have the person at the Klingon
                High Council that he thinks best to carry out the
                job," Rice said.
Manson Icon
Patty Hearst 1
Patty Hearst 2
Patty Hearst Icon – 1
Patty Hearst heard the burst…

Patty Hearst Icon – 2
           Resource page


    e_Lectures/Oslo.html (abstract for this

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