Monday, March 17, 2008

A Humumnet (p. 27)

On page 27 of Tom Phillips’ A Humument, Philips is able to create a tragic love story. The page displays a black and white picture of a man with wording at different locations throughout the picture. The page also displays a frame composed of black and honey brown lines surrounding the picture itself. With his choice of words, the placement of these words, and the existence of the frame, Philip is able to tell the viewer the story of a lonely lover.

When viewing the page from top to bottom, the viewer immediately notices a cut out of words at the top left hand corner. Almost leaving the frame the words “That’s the lover” appear. This small phrase instantly reveals that a relationship is being discussed. The fact that the words are on the complete opposite side from the heat and are almost out of the frame suggests that this relationship has failed. The distance between this phrase and the man in the picture suggests that although the relationship has ended, the man is not willing to let go. He holds these words within the border of his frame or life because he is unable to move on. The fact that the words only have one set of quotation marks indicates that in this relationship only one of the two people cared the most about the other one. In this case, the man must have loved his partner intensely, but unfortunately, his love was not corresponded.

The next set of words that are lower down in the picture reveal the man’s way of coping with his broken heart. The caption reads “The lover, and his companions, of the grape”. This indicates that as a result of the man’s lack of companion he has indulged himself with liquor. The “grape”, which is used to make wine, implies that the man is using alcohol to overcome his frustration. Looking at the picture, this set of words is located on the right side of the man, exactly above his heart. This may imply that the man is not thinking about his actions, but is acting with his heart. His heart has taken control and it does not know how to deal with the man’s misfortune so it leads him to alcohol for comfort. The wet and warm feeling that the alcohol gives him, as a psychoanalytic might say, reminds him of his mother’s womb. By recreating his mother’s womb with in him, with the aid of the alcohol, he may feel the love and comfort that he does not find in his reality.

Right at the center of the picture, Philips places a longer set of words. This is the first set of words that touches the man and actually covers some of his features. “He happened to be taking from his pocket, a small photograph of an ancient English lover” is written across the man’s face, completely covering his eyes. The positioning of the words in the picture implies that the man’s action has caused his blindness. From a psychoanalytic point of view, it seem as if the photo of his partner has reminded the man of his castration. The simple glimpse of his partner’s image reminds him that he can not be with her therefore he is unable to function. Being the first set of words that actually touches him implies that it is only through the use of words that he can actually “touch” his partner. For the viewer, it is ironic that Philip uses that word “photograph” with in the photograph of the man. Perhaps Philips does this to show how like any picture, the man’s partner is nothing more than just a memory.

Towards the bottom of the picture, Philips places three different groups of words that happen to be connected by differently shaped lines. The first set of words says, “a certain part of” and it is located on the left side of the picture, touching the man’s throat. The incomplete statement suggests that the man attempted to slice his throat, but unsuccessfully survived. His attempt to kill himself out of desperation was incomplete. Connected to this statement by a wiggly line are the words “the lover”. The wiggly lines suggest the lost of control and the insanity that led him to attempt suicide. The man’s lover caused this lack of composure. Connected to “the lover” by a straight line is the last set of words that read, “was rigid”. The straight line that is approaching the heart indicates that the man is finally able to stabilize his emotions. The words “was rigid” are placed on the far right side of his heart. These words imply that the man’s heart has turned into a solid rock. He is no longer willing to let the sensibility and hollowness of his heart absorb any emotion that may cause him pain.

One final part, perhaps the part of the picture that is first noticed is the black and honey colored frame that surrounds the black and white picture of the man. The frame is the only element on this page that has warm color, which may evoke a sense of comfort. However, the black lines in the frame give the viewer an illusion that the entire frame is eternally in motion around the picture. This may symbolize the feelings of the man. His emotions that have turned his heart into a hot pot of turmoil that eventually stops when the word “rigid” touches the frame, and the man’s heart consolidates into a rock.

In A Humument, Tom Philips is able tell a story by carefully deciding how he displays all of the different elements within the page. The location and placement of the words reveals a different part of the story allowing the viewer to follow it from top to bottom. The sudden mixture of a warm color with black creates an allusion of movement for the viewer that connects back Philips’ story, the story of a man who will no longer love.


Elina R 6 said...

I absolutely loved this assignment. I think that ingeneral, explicating visuals is easier for me than explicating literature. It was cool writing this paper beacuse we had just finished reading the feminist chriticism and everything about my picture, I found, was related to the feminist christicism.