From The Scream to Hello Kitty: Reading Memes and Images of Faciality in Global Visual Culture

By Janice Brown.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online September 12, 2015 Free Download

When Harlan Ellison penned his celebrated sci-fi horror fiction “I have no mouth, and I must scream,” (1967) the notion of mouthlessness entered contemporary culture as an ultimate posthuman cri de coeur – that is, as an image of a silenced trauma that cannot be expressed or effaced. Seemingly writing against Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and its subsequent renderings in works by Lichtenstein, Warhol, and others, not to mention the scream paintings of Francis Bacon, Ellison introduced a concept that counter-intuitively served to intensify the representation of violent corporeal sensation rather than constrain it. This paper explores the image of the scream as it relates to (post)humanist literary and artistic representations, such as those of Ellison, Munch, and Bacon, with reference to the theories of Gilles Deleuze on sensation and the face. It will also examine the proliferation of the image throughout global visual culture through the work of Richard Dawkins on the meme and memetics, and will consider how this image has been reconfigured, particularly in contemporary network culture, where memes, or replicating cultural entities, such as the image of ubiquitous pop character icon Hello Kitty and her mouthlessness, can both reveal and conceal a variety of affective, uncanny phenomena.

Keywords: Memetics, Artworks, Horror Fiction, Faciality, Japanese Visual Culture

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 6, Issue 3, September, 2015, pp.9-23. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online September 12, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 516.738KB)).

Prof. Janice Brown

Professor, Asian Languages & Civilizations, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA