Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Visualising Little Red Riding Hood" A Paper by Sarah Bonner - UPDATED LINKS (& additional excerpts)

Daughter by Kiki Smith 1999
Apparently the article that I originally posted on HERE has gone out of date where it was originally hosted but, after a reader recently asked for help, I've found it again HERE, complete with references. 

Here's my original note regarding the paper: 
This is a pretty fascinating exploration for anyone interested in fairy tales being interpreted in a visual medium. While academic in tone, it's still very readable and looks at everything from advertising and fashion to artistic renderings.

Visualising Little Red Riding Hood

Gérard Rancinan. Little Red Riding Hood, 2003
©Gerard Rancinan
In recent years contemporary artists have been appropriating and re-inventing traditional fairy tales. 

Subverting and interrogating received meanings, artists are challenging the traditional parameters of tales which convey ideas of gender role and racial identity. The fairy tale is being translated from literary text into visual culture. 

The artists recoding the tales address shifts in cultural attitude, engaging predominantly with issues of identity and discrimination.

Some additional excerpts:
The visual fairy tale has developed extensively in the twentieth century through advances in film and animation technologies. Improved technology has also led to wider dissemination of the fairy tale. The language and motifs of the tales are internalised within the culture, rendering fairy tales sophisticated communications devices that influence consumer trends, lifestyle choices and gender models. The translation from text to image relies on the repeated use of tropes particular to “Little Red Riding Hood.” The presence of the wolf and red hood is sufficient to identify the tale to the reader/viewer. Where the written text demands an investment of time and offers an accumulated meaning, the image, in contrast, imposes a direct communication: the presence of a red hood immediately identifies the tale to our cultural unconscious. The simplicity of these motifs belies the complex history and interpretation that lend the tale its meaning; and despite changing historical contexts, these tropes endure. One effect of fairy tales’ adoption by visual media is that their significance is underestimated: they are rendered invisible by their very ubiquity.  
The visual aspect of the literary fairy tale began with the inclusion of illustrations printed alongside the text. At this juncture a visual language was introduced to the tales. The broad print dissemination ensured the association and consumption of the accompanying image, effectively creating a visual language, a series of motifs immediately recognisable to the viewer. The illustrator’s selection of significant scenes has served to internalise the images in a collective unconscious to the extent that the images can exist without the text as reference.
And with regard to the image shown above:
Taking the traditional fairy tale, artists are reviewing and re-inventing the tales in both parody and critique. Gérard Rancinan, Paula Rego and Kiki Smith have all produced significant bodies of work referencing fairy tales, and all respond subversively to recent cultural pressures, particularly in relation to identity construction. In their work on “Little Red Riding Hood,” a dialogue about identity and discrimination engages viewers, challenging their experience of fairy tales and introducing cultural revelations. Rancinan’s interpretation of “Little Red Riding Hood” [Figure 1] engages with the literary tale and subverts its meaning. Surrounded by blood-spattered hanging sheets and dangling from a hook, Red Riding Hood is cast as a cross-dressing male ballet dancer watched by a wolf behind bars. The traditional tale echoes through the motifs, and Rancinan, through selection and inversion (female cast male, wild animal caged) renders meaning ambiguous. Referencing the violence of to this tale, Rancinan upsets the formulaic and saccharine fairy tales as offered by Disney. Rendered like a crime scene, Rancian’s image abandons the forest and suspends the ominous relationship between Red Riding Hood and the wolf against a backdrop of polythene sheeting. Barthes’ anxiety returns as questions outnumber answers. 
Kiki Smith. Daughter, 1999
And with regard to Kiki Smith's work:
Daughter (1999) is a four foot high sculpture of a girl wearing the tell-tale red cape and hood [Figure 8]. Despite the fact that she is immediately identifiable as Little Red Riding Hood, there remains an uncertainty as her face sprouts hair suggesting a morphing bestiality, invoking both the werewolf myth and the freakish bearded lady of the circus arena. In this work Smith undermines the clear cut definitions of wolf and girl as given in the literary tale, instead inviting the possibility of duality. 
By her difference Daughter is made a spectacle as something other. The viewer is challenged to accommodate and reconcile what we know of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. The opposites of predator and prey embodied in Daughter force the viewer to review their experience of the tale and, to an extent, themselves, recognising the equal presence of innocence and malignance. In this work the artist imagines that Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf have come together as outcasts and given birth to Daughter. Helaine Posner suggests that “their improbable offspring becomes the embodiment of male, female, and animal characteristics, the unique progeny of disparate beings” (10). In Daughter unification is found to challenge the parameters of good and evil predicated in the traditional Grimm tale.
There is MUCH more fascinating commentary to read so, if you haven't already, please do. 

As it gave me the option to embed, I am doing so below. Hope it's helpful!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This is quite interesting, and very useful to me... See, I'm making an amateur movie about Red Riding Hood (I think you could be interested in, because we take all the origins of the story into a thriller...).

    Here's the link to the movie's page:


    It's in french, I know... We'll be posting the english subtitules in a while... :)