The The Digital Sublime of Feminine Spectacle in Busby Berkeley's "Footlight Parade" and Roy Lichtenstein's "Nudes with Beach Ball": Female Flesh Represented as Conceptualized Kinesthesia in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

By Chia-wen Kuo.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 18, 2014 $US5.00

Roy Lichtenstein once explained that the use of chiaroscuro through Ben-Day dots in his art is a maneuver to emphasize the gap between reality and convention. Female flesh in his works, such as “Nudes with Beach Ball,” becomes conceptualized in a kinesthesia of light and shadow, and is also embodied through the quantity of the Ben-Day dots. Similar features also pervade in Busby Berkeley's musicals, such as “Footlight Parade”, in which female bodies become impersonalized modules of lifeless objects, such as a flower or a waterfall. Despite the criticism that Berkeley's representation of female bodies has received as a visual fetishization of women on screen, his works actually contain a pleasure of Kantian disinterest, as the female flesh is quantified into a form of desexualized purity, which is almost sublime and beyond any ideological bias. These hyper-feminine spectacles in Berkeley and Lichtenstein’s works deliver a postmodern transcendence by concealing the traces of human endeavors during the process of making art. In the age of “mechanical reproduction,” human flesh loses its aura and gets quantified for the awe of the digital sublime, which was prophesied by Berkeley during the thirties and consummated by Lichtenstein in the nineties.

Keywords: Kantian Disinterest, Digital Sublime, Quantification of Mechanical Reproduction

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 5, Issue 2, August 2014, pp.7-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 18, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 724.365KB)).

Chia-wen Kuo

PhD Student, Department of English, National Cheng-chi University, Taipei, Taiwan