Alexis L. Boylan

“We are surrounded with imagery, some of it voluntarily and most of it not. Everything we see in this visual environment—color, the moon, a skyscraper, a stop sign, a political poster, rising sea levels, or a picture of Kim Kardashian West—somehow becomes readable, commonplace, and approachable. What causes this to occur? How do we function in our visual surroundings? This book from the Essential Knowledge series from the MIT Press provides a road map for navigating the complexity of visual culture by presenting methods for pondering what it means to gaze and see—and what is at stake in doing so.

It has always been the dominant and the dominant that have shaped visual culture. This book offers ideas for using the visual as a weapon to promote change that brings people together. Alexis Boylan investigates how we interact with and are controlled by what we see using historical and modern examples, such as Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z visiting the Louvre, and the first photos of a black hole. She starts off by asking: What are visual culture, and what issues, concepts, and conundrums drive our approach to the visual? She then asks, “Where are we permitted to see it, and where are we standing while we look”? Who then: whose bodies have been in or not in visual culture, and who is permitted to view it? Finally, at what point does the visual become independent of time? When do we get the information we require?”