Defaced Posters: Eye-Gouging and Oedipus

I take many photos where the representation of eyes are a key element. Indeed I have blogged about this theme on several occasions. Usually, the eyes I am drawn to are all-seeing and observant. Sometimes it is a single eye, a fragment of a torn or folded poster. It has also been a mystic 3rd Eye. This post is about something different. In these cases the eyes have been removed, sometimes deliberately, or defaced.

When I think about graffiti I usually associate it with drawn or written element that has been added to something that already exists. In terms of a poster of a face this could be the addition of facial hair – a unibrow or a Hitler moustache. In the photograph below – a detail of an Venetian exhibition poster – some round John Lennon spectacles have been crudely drawn on a holy child – possibly baby Jesus:

I was struck by this sighting below whist walking through a London Underground station. The advertisement had been defaced with a series of cuts. I remember feeling at the time that these cuts were quite violent, and felt compelled to photograph the image despite the rush hour crowd milling past me:

In the following photos, rather than adding something to the eyes, the eyes have been deliberately gauged out. The image below reminded me a bit of a Surrealist work:

Seen in Soho, London:

Below, a couple of photographs taken in Tel Aviv during the Israeli election campaign in September 2019:

I remember loving the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini primarily for their sensual impact – the visuals and the soundtracks used to overwhelm me to the point I rarely took in the narrative. I was a teenager when I first came across his version of Oedipus Rex. In the film, as in the original Greek tragedy, Oedipus gouges out his own eyes after realising he committed both incest with his mother (who has just killed herself), and patricide. Red blood flows from his blinded eyes, self-inflicted by using the pin of a gold brooch from his late mother/lover’s robe.

The additional paint splurged on this poster seen in Tottenham have loose connotations with the gory myth:


Also published on Medium.

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