Under the vigilant eye
by Adelaida Pardo
In this meditation on the control that the gaze exerts on women, Adelaide advocates for a subversion of the established order that operates within ourselves.
The eye, an exposed watery sphere, semi-naked, lets light pass into the darkness of our biology. It projects light on the retina, generating electrical impulses that stimulate different parts of our brain. Thus, with the first rays of light that cross it, sight is born. From that moment, the eyes are almost never stationary, always in constant movement they sweep from one side to the other of the visual field making a kind of general scan of what is being seen. The fixation only exists for a a fraction of a second, and then we move the view, jumping from one point of attention to the other, over and over again, repeatedly. When with the sight we meet a pair of eyes, unconsciously we pay them our greatest attention, almost as if they were magnets or honey and us bees. Still, when we unexpectedly run into the eyes of a stranger, we often look down. If unconsciously the other's eyes attract us so much, why are they so consciously intimidating? For this is responsible The Gaze.
The sight is not the same as The Gaze; this one installs itself much later in our imaginary. Slowly, without asking for permission, it seizes us completely, engraving itself deep inside. The Gaze is an idea, a cloy one. It is the idea that one has about “their gaze”, that which is the other’s and which they execute on oneself. It is what I imagine the other sees in me; is the illusory assumption of the judgement that the other may exert by looking at me. So when we look at each other in the eyes, we are both exposed. So much exposure turns unbereable, it seems easier to avoid the look rather than sustain it. The tenacious force that hides behind The Gaze lies on the fact that it is not what it seems: it is not an external element that is exerted upon us and it is neither a force that we exert on our surrounding. The Gaze exists exclusively inside each of us, and is exerted exclusively from there, without truce. Unintentionally, every time that we look at each other with open eyes, we are the perfect excuse to feed the other’s illusion and our own; making The Gaze a little bit more invencible and making ourselves more blind, more asleep.
The Gaze is not the same as “my gaze”. “My gaze” is something else. To begin with, it is not just one. It is conformed at the same time by how I look at myself and how I see otherness. Here, seeing and perceiving get mixed up. There are as many “my gazes” as there are beings. They can all prevail beyond time and be triggers of ideas, just by capturing, teaching, learning, listening or looking at them – they are destroyed only by oblivion –. The Gaze is the agent that censors “my gaze”, that is its great power, and we don’t suspect of it. Its voice resonates so hard within ourselves, that from within, its influence arranges the world and ends up confusing what I am with how I look. It is thus revealed as fearsome something that appears simple: The Gaze is an agent of control. It is urgent to subvert it.
Today is the day after the end of the world. Yesterday we were asked if we wanted the blue pill or the red one, and we chose already. None of the foundations on which we have built is immovable. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to dismantle the established order that operates within ourselves. So, in order to subvert it, we must subvert ourselves. This is why, at the age of 32, I picked back up an old childhood trend: to ask. Only this time I ask myself. Ever since, I have been finding myself in front of a paradox – product of the elusive nature of the mind. The mind doesn’t like to be moved out of its confort zone, so, in the game of questioning, very often, the fundamental question is that which eludes it.
In order to liberate “my gaze” I must unmask the efects that The Gaze has had on me. It is at this point that The Woman and The Gaze converge, and John Berger’s words resonate with power (Ways of Seeing, 1972):
«A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another....
One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object -- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight». ― John Berger, Ways of Seeing.
As I think about women, I think about myself as well.
Today, the day after the end of the world, I discover that the question it’s not ‘What is revealed with each image?’ but instead ‘What is hiding behind the camera: a vigilant eye or a subversive eye?’
Berger. J. (1972). Ways of seeing. U.K.: Penguin
Photography & Text
Published in 2018
Volume 1, Issue 12