The Representation of Cultural and National Identity


Pears’, a company that has nearly been in existence for two hundred years owes its success to not only the founder Andrew Pears but also to Francis Pears, son in law, and Thomas J. Barratt, a man often referred to as the father of modern advertising. Andrew Pears initially identified the cultural stigma attached to a tanned face, as this was seen to be associated with the lower classes and those who toiled with manual labour. Not only was this tanned face established from work but also from the use of inferior, harsh soaps which were then used by the upper classes. Through this abrasion caused by soap the indistinguishable colour of class was established. Andrew recognised the necessity to create a purer more gentle soap. Spotting this gap in the marketplace he continued to create a superior product to fill it. Pears product was so exclusive and expensive that he personally signed each package he sold. Thomas J. Barratt, who had married Francis Pears’ eldest daughter Mary was a risk taker, whose aggressive vision and foresight saw the revolution of the distribution of Pears products. His vision of modern advertising was to think in terms of weeks, and the campaigns to change direction like yachts in a strong breeze. His highly original publicity schemes greatly improved the company?s sales. Through extensive advertising and promotion Barratt convinced as many people as possible to purchase Pears. His radical methods struck fear into Francis Pears and he left his son and Barratt in sole charge of the business with £4000 as a loan. Barratt forced the manufacturing world to see the ad-vantages of paying good money for good advertising; in the 1880s Pears were spending between 30,000 and, 40,000 pounds a year on advertising and by 1907 the figure had risen to 126,000. Even advertising took up the phrase. Pears’ Soap claimed to be “a potent factor in brightening the dark corners of the earth as civilization advances.”

iOnly the pictures themselves changed from time to time, and it is interesting to look at a 1907 newspaper interview with Barratt in which he says:

‘Tastes change, fashions change, and the advertiser has to change with them. An idea that was effective a generation ago would fall flat, stale, and unprofitable if presented to the public today. Not that the idea of today is always better than the older idea, but it is different -it hits the present taste.’

Pears advertising on a whole aimed to provoke an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. It was considered tasteful and restrained. This helped to communicate through art to the working class illiterate masses, not only the exclusivity of the Pears product and its global domination of the soap commodity but the global success of Imperial domestication. Pears advertisements generally used black people as a source of amusement in their use as displacing commodity racism. Thomas J. Barratt aimed, he said, to make his advertisements ‘telling, artistic, picturesque, attractive, pretty, amusing’ -and of course commercially successful.

Barratt joined the Pears company at the time when advertising was seen as an afterthought. Crude handbills, posters and small newspaper advertisements were the basic methods. Barrat?s sophisticated techniques opened up new horizons and he successfully pioneered saturation advertising. Pears soap was everywhere in Victorian and Edwardian times. The image would have been displayed as a poster on hoardings and on railway stations, billboards, buses, shop fronts, newspaper advertisements and leaflets. 3W. E. Gladstone, searching for a metaphor to convey a sense of vast quantity during a debate on a topic now forgotten in the House of Commons, suggested the articles in question were as numerous as the advertisements of Pears Soap, or as autumn leaves in Vallombrosa’. After the end of the campaign the image would then be redisplayed in the Pears cyclopaedia. This form of advertising saw commodity racism delivered to the masses as it had the ability to cover all class systems and introduce art and the news of the apparent colonial conquest and civilising of the natives. The working classes would have been the general audience for this type of image and product as Pears? claimed to remove the dirt associated with the working class. This was particularly predominant with the female members, hence the majority of the advertising slogans had them in mind -‘Matchless for the complexion’, ‘Good morning! Have you used Pears Soap?’ were simple and unchanging, reflecting an era of guiltlessness and security in which the good things in life might reasonably be taken for granted -at least by the more fortunate.

iBarratt evidently had philanthropic as well as commercial motives in bringing art to the public eye: the 1897 edition claimed that: ‘It is beyond controversy that, before the popular advent of Pears Annual, pictures of the refined quality of our Presentation Plates (which surpass any works of even this high” class order ever previously attempted) were unattainable by picture-lovers at anything less than a guinea a-piece.

Our ambition has been to offer an appreciative and increasing public, which has grown to expect these advantages at our hands, presentation pictures of superior quality and of artistic values, to ensure our extended popularity, and to constitute Pears Annual the foremost achievement of this kind . . . ”

His method of delivery was through Pears Annual, which was first published in 1891 continuing until 1920.

The more recent audience for this image would be collectors of nostalgia and advertising enthusiasts Barratt created the association between product and culture. It is with this form of advertising in mind that I wish to discuss the identity established through representation of cultural and national form within an image. My aim is to deconstruct the image and through the removal of its layers perform a semiotic analysis of its elements. These elements are entwined in a multitude of ways and that culture is crucial to the construction of national identity.

My choice of image for discussion is a Pears soap advertisement (Figure 1) of the late nineteenth century where an African woman attempting to bathe her child in a wooden bath on the porch of her wooden house whilst three boys peep around the side of the domicile enjoying the infant’s misfortune. Above their heads on the exterior wall of the home is the previous successful Pears advertisement, ?You Dirty Boy? campaign.

The image was created in the latter part of the nineteenth century, some time after 1878 as the inset image is from the campaign ‘You Dirty Boy’ which was based on a sculpture created in 1877 by Focardi. I cannot establish the exact designer or artist who created the main Pears? soap advertising image I am discussing, but for the time period the artists who created Pears? presentation plates included Frank Dadd, J. C. Dollman, Hugh Thompson, Will Owen (of ‘Bisto Kids’ fame), Maurice Greiffenhagen, Gordon Browne and Tom Browne. Thomas J Barratt, who is often referred to as the father of modern advertising who from 1877 had control of the family firm A & F Pears?iii had a great influence in the plight of bringing art to the masses which confirms the image is post this date.

This form of image finds itself in the genre of advertising although if the typographic elements were to be removed the image would belong within the realm of fine art and painting. The majority of Pears? soap advertisements generally started out life as paintings. The branding of the image and strap line are clearly considered and work harmoniously with the image.

My initial discussion is the image components within the implanted advertisement of the previous successful campaign ‘You Dirty Boy’, which, are not, displayed exactly the same as the original. The original image was an illustration of the statue created by Focardi (Figure 2/3), which was then transformed into a painting (Figure 4). We can see the colours of the woman?s clothing are unlike the one portrayed within the image. In this version it shows the elderly, working class woman dressed in a crisp white apron combined with a red blouse and a blue skirt. This combination of colours reflects the Union Jack communicating the national identity of Britishness, symbolising the Imperial domesticating force that was sweeping the colonies. The young street urchin child she forcefully cleans is partially clothed. He wears trousers and shoes and over them an apron. Not the pristine white the woman is clothed in, but a seemingly dirty apron. This reluctance of the child’s behaviour with regards to being washed echoes the defiance of the cleansing within the colonies. The position of this image is significantly higher than the main subject matter contained within the picture. Through this intertextuality the meaning of the image is transformed as it acts not only as the definition of superiority within the social hierarchies, acting as an example of how to behave but demonstrates that consumer culture is bound through the processes of imperialism, colonialism and whiteness associated with civilisation. The location of the image is embedded within industrial capital relations, which were defined by the imperial power relations (the uneven relationship between the imperial western civilisations and the colonies) this definition is affirmed by the use of UPPER CASE letterforms within the advertisement verifying the dominant position of Imperialism within the social hierarchies and is also reflected through the use of Title Case within the main image containing the natives.

The presence of the previous advertising campaign poster acts as a role model and dictates how the African woman should behave and shown as an image to aspire to. Although her aspirations could never be anything more than working class.

The aspirations to develop into civilised and through the dominant influence of the West, and the heavy influence of Christianity and the aim to become closer to God through the use of soap.

If “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” soap must be considered as a “Means of Grace” — and a clergyman who recommends moral things, should be willing to recommend Soap. I am told that my commendation of Pears?’ Soap some dozen years ago has assured for it a large sale in the U.S. I am willing to stand by any word in favour of it that I ever uttered. A man must be fastidious indeed who is not satisfied by it. HENRY WARD BEECHER Nov 29, 1882iv

Moving on to the main image we are presented with this display of apparent defiance from a young child whose mother is attempting to bathe him while three young boys find amusement at his misfortune. The African woman and children are presented here as degenerates and their structure portrayed as being only slightly higher than ape like.

The African woman is in brightly coloured attire along with a headscarf. Her dress, which seems traditional, mimics the clothing presented in the poster. Her feet are oversized and the presence of shoes seems incredibly masculine and western and not the typical wear for a woman who would most probably work the fields. The shoes symbolic reference denotes the confusion of cleanliness and dirtiness as in Victorian England; shoes were seen as threshold objects. This element adds to the racist and sexist, masculine portrayal of this ‘degenerate’ woman and the fact that although she has acquired some, she has not yet reached civility. The woman is portrayed in the cultural role of domesticity, as a maid-cum-housewife seen attempting to wash a child. vAlthough her presence within the image is huge her significance culturally, is the visibility of the invisible, as being female, black, working class and presented as a degenerate she is everything hidden within Victorian England. Her character reflects the imperial domestication occurring through the globalisation of the use of soap as a commodity to civilise.

The bath unlike Victorian England is outside, although the material and structure seem to reflect the Pears’ advertisement the bench that the bath is placed on seems solid but of poor construct signifying poverty.

The house appears to be constructed of quite weathered, unfinished wood. The hinge fixtures are quite rusty on the door, which gives the home the look of a stable portraying to the western civilisation the poor way the colonials live unlike the civilised homes of middle class Victorian England whose metal fixtures shone and gleamed like reflective surfaces.

The frying pan is symbolic of a mirror (McClintock, 1995) although this, still dirty and black reflecting the cultural identity, its display in full view affirms the uncivilised behaviour of the woman as in Victorian society cooking utensils and implements that were used in manual labour were never on show as dirt was seen as a scandal. Dirt was seen as an association with waste and disorder while cleanliness with rationality and industry. Inside the house there is what looks to be a nicely polished kitchen chair with carved spindles. This is clearly of better construct than the elements displayed on the porch signifying that the ‘degenerate’ has acquired some western influence within her domicile. The woman through the influence has aspirations of achieving civility through the use of Pears’ soap.

The three children who appear to be laughing at the child, who does not want to be washed, seem to be clean, dressed in smart white clothes and black shiny shoes although are seen as aged and disfigured affirming the portrayal of degeneration. Their appearance seems to be civilised and their positioning within the image defines the dominance of the Pears’ image as the increasing height of each child leads to the advertisement. The children are portrayed as being civilised and ‘domesticated’ no longer savage like animals. Alongside the three children are three chickens sitting on a fence. The hierarchy continues through the representation of the chickens’ domestication who are seen as being fenced in like prisoners. This demonstrates that alongside the domestication and civilising of the colonials they have been given the information on how to become self sufficient through the domestication of animals.

The small child, who does not want to be washed, suggests that the natives are born uncivilised and that until they are washed and clothed they will remain that way. “A person without clothes is a person without language” West African proverb.  Emergent middle class values class control cleansing the great unwashed and the imperial civilising mission “washing and clothing the savage”. (McClintock, 1995) The child?s fist represents the defiance of the colonies in the attempt of Imperial domesticity, yet we see immediately above this sign the dominant presence of Pears? soap confirming the discourses of inequality and power.

Unlike the clear control demonstrated by the working class white woman, appearing in the ‘Dirty Boy’ advertisement, the African woman does not seem to have any power, necessitating the dominance of western civilisation to aid with the domestication of the natives.

The spectator is positioned in a high point of view where they view a chronotope of global history. This is what McClintock (1995) calls ‘panoptical time’. viPanoptical time is a framework of progression evaluated by an overseer in a role of dominance. McClintock (1995) states that the panoptical stance is enjoyed by those in privileged positions in the social structure, to whom the world appears as a spectacle, stage, performance. viiThe image of global history consumed – at a glance – in a single spectacle from a point of privileged invisibility.

This portrayal of colonial life would be interpreted by Western civilisation as how the ‘degenerate’ third world live and that the civilised world was expanding through Imperial domesticity. The image communicates that the company Pears’ has reached the colonies and through the use of soap has begun to civilise the ‘degenerates’. Through the use of commodity racism the company has achieved global domination in partnership with Imperial domesticity and the civilising of the colonies.

In conclusion I feel that racism as a hegemonic ideology, expressed through the display of domesticity portrayed in the use of soap is the apparent social, national and cultural

identity of  ‘Britishness’ within the latter part of the nineteenth century, which Pears’ successfully manufactured and communicated through Imperial domesticity. Thus as domestic commodities were mass marketed through their appeal to imperial jingoism, commodity jingoism itself helped reinvent and maintain British national unity in the face of deepening Imperial competition and colonial resistance. The cult of domesticity became indispensable to the consolidation of British national identity and at the centre of the domestic cult stood the simple bar of soap. (McClintock, 1995)

Dempsey, M. Bubbles; Early Advertising Art From A.&F. Pears Ltd. Glasgow. William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1978

ii 15:32

iii (1 of 2)09/02/2006 15:32


Baldwin, Elaine et al. Introducing Cultural Studies; London; Prentice Hall Europe; 1999

vi (1 of 5)09/02/2006 15:34

vii McClintock, Anne, 1954-Imperial leather: race, gender and sexuality in the colonial contest / London ; New York : Routledge, c1995


JAY, 15


JAKE, 18



The aim of this research project is to highlight the issues surrounding homophobic bullying within schools and construct a piece of communicative media that engenders a greater awareness of this issues relating to this specific form of bullying.

There are many aspects of bullying, which have been clearly identified within this research. Bullying behaviour often goes unnoticed and can include; name calling and teasing, damage to belongings, excluding people from social activities, spreading malicious rumours, abusive phone calls, text bullying (via your mobile phone), physical bullying or threats. Verbal Physical Extortion Gesturing Exclusion These forms have a proven detrimental effect on a large percentage of children.  Bullying at its most destructive claims lives.  This is clearly unacceptable.

A broad range of both primary and secondary research has been undertaken, with specific relevance being placed on the National Curriculum, its current structure and policies with regards to educating difference and sexual awareness, bullying and homophobic bullying strategies.  Focus has also centred upon existing and contemporary bullying campaigns with regard to their nature, medium and modes of dissemination.

Aims and Objectives

  • To undertake research in to the varying forms of bulling
  • To focus this research towards the varying forms of bullying within schools
  • To undertake a broad range of both primary and secondary research regarding this topic, with specific relevance being placed upon the National Curriculum
  • To identify and discuss existing mechanisms / structures which are designed to prevent / alleviate these issues within schools
  • To investigate existing policies with regards to educating difference and sexual awareness within the National Curriculum
  • To specifically refine this research towards the issue of homophobic bullying within schools
  • To identify and discuss existing strategies and mechanisms designed to prevent / alleviate these issues
  • To utilise these findings in order to create an effective awareness campaign relating to this specific form of bullying.


The repeated intimidation of others by the real or threatened infliction of physical, verbal, written, electronically transmitted, or emotional abuse, or through attacks on the property of another. It may include, but not be limited to actions such as verbal taunts, name-calling and put downs, including ethnically-based or gender-based verbal put downs, and extortion of money or possessions.”

Bullying is a complex issue that can manifest itself in many forms. Complete agreement upon one single definition is quite difficult given the nature of the subject and the fact that, in general it is very personal experience and individual specific. This said there remains common agreement and consensus that the effects of bullying are always detrimental and that as Zimmerman et al states “is a major public health issue, the risk factors for which are poorly understood”. It is with this in mind that this research project has been undertaken in an attempt to more fully understand the potential reasons / causes of bullying in general and by doing so ultimately inform and construct an effective awareness campaign that attempts to address these inherent themes and issues.

There are numerous forms and of bullying, however the more mainstream manifestations of bullying can be described as falling into the following main categories*


In classist bullying, a person is targeted for representing a perceived class or socio-economic group. This not only impacts on the individual person, but on their families and others perceived to be from that same group.


People with Special Educational Needs or disabled people may be less able or more reluctant to articulate experiences as well as others. However, they are often at greater risk of being bullied, both directly and indirectly, and usually about their specific difficulties or disability.


In homophobic bullying, a person is targeted for being perceived as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (trans) person. People do not have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans to suffer homophobic bullying. This bullying not only impacts on the individual person, but on their families and others perceived to be from that same group. It may be based on gender stereotyping.


In racist and religious bullying, a person is targeted for being perceived as being a member of a different ethnic, cultural or religious, group. People do not have to be of that group to suffer racist and religious bullying. This bullying not only impacts on the individual person, but on their families and others perceived to be from that same or similar group. Inappropriate assumptions maybe made about some one’s religion or belief because of their ethnic origin.


In sexist bullying, a person is targeted for being perceived as being a member of a particular gender. This bullying impacts on the individual person and on all men and women.

*It is important to note that people can be assigned to a member of more than one group.


Bullying in effect is a way to cause distress and disrespect either mentally of physically through the continuous tactical use of various passive or aggressive mechanisms.  These can take the form of

PHYSICAL – hitting, kicking, pinching, sexual assault, extortion, stealing, hiding belongings;

VERBAL – name calling, mockery, insulting, making offensive remarks, sexual innuendo, threatening;

INDIRECT – spreading unpleasant stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, rumour mongering, graffiti, defacing of property, display of inappropriate material

In the report entitled “Tackling Bullying” commissioned by ChildLine, funded by the DfES in 2003 saw 1000 children in 12 schools interviewed to establish why, even though the majority of schools have anti bullying policies, children are still calling ChildLine in such vast numbers.  The views of the children and young people detailed that approximately half (51%) of all primary school children and (54%) secondary pupils believed that bullying was either a big or quite a problem. However these findings appear in stark contrast when compared to the actual percentage of children who actually admitted to having personally suffered from some form of bullying themselves within the same report. Here only (28%) of all secondary school children felt that they had directly experienced some form of bullying compared to over half (51%) of all of all primary children questioned.

On a base level these research findings appear to highlight some anomalies. Indeed they even appear to actually contradict one another somewhat. Do these findings show that bullying becomes less severe / prevalent within secondary schools or are there a large proportion (26%) of children within secondary schools suffering in silence?  This attitude from children is reinforced by quotes from adults, such as:

“Bullying is a part of child hood better get used to it”

“Teasing, name-calling, excluding from games and spreading rumours have always happened and always will.”  Anonymous parent

“When nine-year-old Sebastian Clarke came home from school saying another child kept picking on him, his mum Jackie thought he was being a bit soft. ‘My first instinct was that there was no problem, or that it was just something and nothing and he’d soon sort it out,’”

Children therefore are receiving mixed messages.  Why should they report they’re suffering if they are only to be rejected further?  This lack of support from adults only adds to their isolation and misery.  I suggest that adults in caring positions such as parents/guardians and teachers need to readdress their beliefs regarding bullying and try to remove the ideology that has been firmly entrenched that bullying is acceptable and a ‘normal’ way of life. This could be achieved through a more open based form of communication where children and young people’s views are heard rather than dismissed.

It is important then to note that children have other places to turn to anonymously, such as ChildLine.  The ChildLine service counselled 141,872 during the period April 2003 to March 2004, which is a staggering increase of 18% in comparison to the 119,746 who used the service the previous year, April 2002 to March 2003.  According to Government statistics the percentage of people under age 16 fell from “25 per cent in mid-1971 to 19 per cent in mid-2004” so this increase is even more dramatic than it seems, as the youth population is the smallest it has been.  You need to confirm this for the reader.

Summary – children calling about bullying

All figures are calculated for the period 1 April to 31 March.

Table 1

2003/04 2002/03
Age Number of children % of total Number of children % of total
11 & UNDER 8498 27 5658 26
12-15 YEARS 10361 33 6911 32
16-18 YEARS 602 2 380 2
AGE NOT GIVEN * 11616 37 8917 41
TOTAL ALL CHILDREN 31077 100 21866 100

*Many children who call ChildLine choose not to give their age. Percentages are for all

Table 2

BEENBULLIED Not at all Only once or twice Sometimes(2-3 times per month) Once perweek Several times per week
OVERALL 55.5 32.3 4.3 3.8 4.1
BOYS 56.8 30.5 4.9 4.0 3.8
GIRLS 53.9 34.3 3.7 3.6 4.5
OVERALL 73.4 23.7 1.3 1.0 0.6
BOYS 71.9 24.1 1.7 1.5 0.8
GIRLS 75.1 23.1 0.9 0.5 0.4



Bullying is a complex issue and the perpetrators who carry out this kind of attack have a varied profile as evidenced by Smith when he states that: “Children who bully others can come from any kind of family, regardless of social class or cultural background.”  There is however a general theme that continues throughout, namely that something or someone is making the bullies feel insecure and self-esteem is incredibly low.  It is understood that some bullies suffer from a lot of distress caused by grief, anxiety, or unhappiness. These bullies are most likely to use fighting, alcohol and drug abuse as mechanisms for dealing with their problems. In simplistic terms these people usually bully in order to make themselves feel better and are in need of immediate support, guidance and help.  In the “Bullying  Symptoms, Strategies and Solutions That Work.” report, ChildLine established 38% of male and 21% of female bullies had suicidal tendencies.  These percentages are evidently a reason for concern but the bullying of others is inexcusable and should clearly be prevented. At the same time we need to work with these children and young people in an attempt to address the roots of the problem as a whole.  Establishing whether they have any grievances at home or school which may be affecting them psychologically, listening to their views.

The bullies’ behaviour is usually with the intent of gaining respect.  This is usually displayed in the form of attention seeking exhibitionism in order to impress, which is at most disruptive and tends to be “defiant”, disrespectful and disapproved by others.  The bully is usually unwilling or unable to recognise and distinguish the difference between respect and fear and in their attempt to gain respect through their intimidating behaviour; they frighten their peers and disrespect their elders.  This behaviour is a form of attack whether passive or aggressive. There is a tendency and inability to accept responsibility for their actions, (although this said I am sure that this could be used across the board with regards to children’s behaviour) combined with a “lack of remorse” and empathy and the addiction to the empowerment they gain from bullying, these people in effect are a destructive force that needs to be challenged.

For some people bullying seems like normal behaviour as they have not been well informed in how to behave and it is thought that bullying takes place as a natural form within their home life.  The bully may well have suffered some form of abuse or are suffering from some form of bullying themselves within their home environment.

There are also bullies who bully through peer pressure whose behaviour is so to fit in with a larger group.  Although this is still a case for concern this type of bully feels remorse for their behaviour, therefore has a conscience and is normally willing to accept responsibility for their actions.

Another factor that could cause a person to bully is the exposure to violence either on television or through video games.  This can have a detrimental effect on a child’s personality.  Anderson states that “playing violent video games has been found to account for a 13% to 22% increase in adolescents’ violent behaviour” however the Committee on Public Education states “there has not been enough time to completely assess the influence they have on the well being of a child as they are so new.”  These games increase a child’s proclivity to violent behaviour far more than passive media such as television.  Television, although not proven to cause aggression, should be limited to only a couple of hours a day.  There needs to be a good balance of parenting, including emotional support for their children and the provision of good stimulation and physical interaction. Children who watch more than this are generally being emotionally neglected.   Browne states “Parents who don’t take a great interest in their children and what they are watching are also those parents who emotionally neglect them or physically assault them”.  These children who are neglected may tend to become more violent which may increase the factor that they go on to be bullies.  Zimmerman suggests that “maximising cognitive stimulation and limiting television watching in the early years of development might reduce children’s subsequent risk of becoming bullies.”

It is impossible then to analyse the outline of all bullies as agreement of a clear diagnosis is incomplete.  We can establish though, everybody is capable of bullying.


Like the profile for a bully, the target is very varied but again has a connecting factor, this being difference.  This statement seems ridiculous for we are all different and individual which surely should be a positive thing as

”Being different is a gift…”

These differences could be such as weight, social background, race, religion, appearance, gender, sexual orientation, Special Educational Needs or disability, to name a few.  Potential targets tend to be above average academically, high achievers, imaginative and creative.  They are usually quite passive and not as physically powerful as the bully tending to avoid conflict, having a low proclivity to violence.

Children with obvious differences aren’t the only victims of bullying. Some children are victimised because they are different in some way, but many others are bullied for no obvious reason as bullies have a tendency to be opportunistic.

Moldrich writing for ChildLine understands ”that adults tend to believe that people don’t pick on others without cause,” which suggests that it is the targets fault for being bullied, however “ChildLine found in a recent survey that none of the children who admitted to bullying singled out their own or their targets individual characteristics as an explanation.”  This last statement cannot be taken for granted as I established earlier, children who bully do not accept responsibility for their actions.  Admitting to bullying is one thing, (as they are usually proud of their actions) but admitting why, requires honesty and decency and the conscience to realise that what they have done is wrong and unacceptable.


The Crown Prosecution describes homophobia as

”A fear of or a dislike directed towards lesbian, gay or bisexual people, or a fear of or dislike directed towards their perceived lifestyle, culture or characteristics, whether or not any specific lesbian, gay or bisexual person has that lifestyle or characteristic. The dislike does not have to be so severe as hatred. It is enough that people do something or abstains from doing something because they do not like lesbian, gay or bisexual people.”

In 1967 Weinberg began calling some of his fellow clinicians homophobes. Homophobia was an expression considered to be an acceptable alternative form, developed more fully in his book, Society and the Healthy Homosexual, published 1972, to refer to the psychological, irrational fear of or a dislike directed towards lesbian, gay or bisexual people.In an interview by Raj Ayyar, George Weinberg is quoted as describing homophobia as:

“Homophobia is just that: a phobia. A morbid and irrational dread, which prompts irrational behaviour flight or the desire to destroy the stimulus for the phobia and anything reminiscent of it. Because human beings are the stimulus, a common homophobic reaction is brutality in many cases, as we all know. We also know its consequences.”

Homophobia is fuelled by the inability or unwillingness to change the hatred taught during childhood.  It is manifested through varying levels, that transfer and filter into primary school children, which creates, the fear of people who are different.  Alongside this is the promotion of homophobia by the various religious organisations that see same sex relationships as a threat to heterosexuality.  How can 6% of the population who cannot breed, and rely on heterosexuals’ procreation threaten humanity?  There is also the natural feeling of repulsion, as a heterosexual would feel with regards to engaging in sexual activity with the same gender.  Although they identify that same sex activity is not for them, some tend to generalise and generate the belief that it is wrong for everybody.  This is where people need educating about difference and clear acceptance needs to be put in place so that people may live their lives how they choose. Not only is homophobia an insidious, groundless fear of homosexuality and its perceived lifestyle but the fear that they themselves may be homosexual or have homosexual thoughts.  This behaviour is most commonly described as “homosexual panic” connecting homophobia with repressed homosexual urges. Researching homophobiaAdams et al found that homophobic men are aroused by homosexual stimuli although the results need more research as it has been found that fear can arouse a man, identifying the possibility that homophobic men are fearful of their own mind and responses thus being less adjusted to non homophobes with regards to sexual difference.

It is these attitudes that filter through society to young children, as they are intuitive and realise that there are definite negative associations with the word gay and being homosexual.  Although they have no inclination what happens sexually between same sex relationships they do understand it is not accepted and undesirable.


Homophobic bullying is a particular type of bullying which is related to a person’s sexuality or assumed sexuality.  If young people do not conform to the stereotypical image of the dominant masculine or feminine role, which brings into question their sexual identity or perceived orientation, they will be subjected to this form of abuse.

“Homophobia can be manifested on a number of levels.”


This is behaviour that establishes a climate of homophobia, even if it is not intended to do so. 

The telling of jokes featuring homosexuals

The making of unpleasant abstract remarks

The use of innuendo and mockery, e.g. “lesbian time” (for “let’s be on time”)

The casual use of terms of abuse (e.g. Homosexual, bent, fag, faggot, gay-boy, woos, homo, poof, poofter, bender, queer, lesie, lesbo, lemon, dyke….)

The teasing of an individual rightly or wrongly identified as gay in a manner that they are thought, or claim, not to care about



This is behaviour that specifically harms a specific individual or identifiable group 

the social ostracism, marginalization or rejection of individuals thought to be gay;

Gossiping or spreading rumours about someone’s sexuality

Obscene graffiti

The promotion of the idea that homosexuals are per se wicked or depraved (e.g. “god hates fags” posters)

The stipulation that some activities or benefits are only open to or appropriate for male-female or married couples



This is behaviour that proposes physical violence to a specific individual or identifiable group. 

Incitement to violence against homosexuals in general

Personally directed verbal abuse

Taunting, ridicule and mockery

The use of obscene gestures

Intimidation and threats of material abuse



This is behaviour that does material harm to some person. 

Theft of property

Damage to property

Physical assault

Sexual assault



Homophobic bullying behaviour is generally established within the first few years of primary school.  Research has shown that 82% of teachers are aware of homophobic language.  Words that call into question young persons masculinity or femininity are incredibly damaging.  The use of the word gay is common homophobic language, used frequently within the playground and seen as a general insult and form of abuse. This word, although usually misunderstood and used out of context, is a word that children recognise as a “negative adjective.” Through this misuse of the word gay, children call into question others’ sexuality thus empowering and establishing their own identity.  This is particularly common within young boys as competitive masculinity stimulates this act of aggression.  The use of this word does not necessarily mean that the person receiving the abuse is gay but that he does not appear masculine enough.  Subjects of this abuse could be academic types, who work hard in their studies.  As Epstein describes, “boys who work hard at school are often labelled as gay and this may deter them from studying and achieving their potential.”  Academically bullies tend to be below average as it is not seen to be cool to be intelligent or seemingly to have good morals, hence they resort to “deceitfulness” and manipulation in order to succeed, this is especially prevalent in males, as they tend to reject studies and opt for more masculine areas such as sports.

The word gay is sometimes used out of turn to describe something that is dysfunctional or worthless.  Children may use the word to describe an object, for example “This computer isn’t working it’s being gay.”  Clearly the computer cannot feel sexual urges and so the description is because it is being dysfunctional.

GAY, slang (chiefly U.S.). Foolish, stupid, socially inappropriate or disapproved of; ‘lame’. Oxford English Dictionary SECOND EDITION 1989

Amazingly one could speculate that it is society’s prejudiced view on homosexuality that has transformed this word into this negative adjective, as being gay is deemed socially inappropriate and undesirable. Children are generally unaware in primary school years about sexual difference and sexuality and this use of homophobic language sees prejudice firmly entrenched in these early years, as Jennett discusses, “are likely to be highly resistant to change in later life.”

This view clearly does not promote a healthy environment for a same sex attracted young person to consider disclosing their sexuality or ‘come out’.  This is very difficult for young people as all they know is who they are.

The famous 1948 Kinsey report came up with the unpopular and startling result that as many as 10% of the male population was homosexual, basing this on self reported homo-gender sexual activity. Recently the government, Department of Trade and Industry has recently released the first official figures regarding what part of the population is homosexual.  Statistics show that “just over 6%” of the United Kingdom is gay or lesbian” asTowney quotes the DTI.  This figure does not include the people who are homosexual that will not come out or disclose themselves as gay or lesbian, in fear of family or social ostracism.

Previous available data suggests that between 2-9% of young people may have had some same-sex sexual experience. The 2001 census found there was a population of 58,789,194 and around 20% of that figure are under 16.  That would suggest that there are approximately 11,757,839 children under 16.  If we then apply the 6% DTI figure we could estimate then that there are a possible 705,470 homosexual children.


‘I think it can make a difference if someone explains to bullies what effects they have on people, so they can understand the gravity of their actions. Maybe if the people who bullied me had heard that I tried to commit suicide, it would have made a difference.’

Rivers’ (1998) study of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth found that

82 per cent had experienced name-calling at school,

71 per cent had been ridiculed,

60 per cent had been hit or kicked,

59 per cent had the subject of rumours,

58 per cent had been teased,

52 per cent had been frightened by a look or stare,

49 per cent had experienced theft,

40 per cent had attempted suicide.


The rate of suicide among young lesbians, gay men and bisexual people in the UK is much higher than the average for young people andsince 1984 attempted suicide has doubled from 20% to 40% for same sex attracted pupils.  This is an appalling figure, which is in desperate need of attention. If there are a possible 705,470 homosexual children and 40% of those attempt suicide, the calculation suggests that 282,188 children have slipped through the net and not been helped by society or the education system.  There needs to be clear recognition of homosexual children in order to establish how best to tackle this issue.


What is wrong? Homophobic bullying is endemic in British schools.  Four in five secondary school teachers say they are aware of verbal homophobic bullying. One in four secondary teachers are aware of physical homophobic bullying. Just 6 per cent of British schools have fully inclusive anti-bullying policies which address homophobic bullying.

In civilised society it is thought that homosexuality is becoming more acceptable and homophobic bullying is decreasing but for young people within the school environment this may not be true as the tables below describe

Table 3

In 1984 a survey of LGB young people found that: In 1998, a GALOP survey found that:
60% had experienced verbal abuse 83% had experienced verbal abuse
20% had been beaten up. 47% had experienced physical abuse.

Table 4 Experiences of homophobic bullying.

Male (%) Female (%)
             Name-calling 85 69
             Public ridicule 75 54
             Hitting/kicking 68 31
             Rumour mongering 57 67
             Teasing 58 56
             Frightened by a look/stare 54 44
             Belongings taken 47 31
             Social isolation 24 41
             Sexual assault 13 5

Table 5 Homophobic bullying in secondary schools: where it happens.

Corridors Classrooms School grounds Changingrooms On way home Otherplaces
Name-calling ??? ??? ? ?
Teasing ?
Hitting/kicking ?? ??
Frightened by look/stare ? ?? ??? ?? ?
Rumour mongering ?? ??
Public ridicule ?? ??? ?? ? ?
Sexual assault ?
Belongings taken ? ?

??? = frequently ?? = regularly ? = sometimes

Homophobic bullying incidents are generally left unnoticed and go unchallenged due to schools’, society’s and religious movements’ denial of the existence of homosexual children and also the wide acceptance of the hegemonic masculine attitude boys display.  Such homophobic incidents may also go unreported, as a homosexual child could be embarrassed with regards to the situation and the social in-acceptance and invisibility they may feel.


”We need to work with these children and young people, not just to suspend them, Adrienne asserted. One young victim said that suspension just gave the bully time off to lie in bed and plan how to attack them at the end of the day! “

Adrienne Katz

Director of Young Voice


The government issued the “Sex and Relationship Education Guidance“ booklet that advises teachers and members of schools about structuring their policy.  This policy is required to be up to date and developed with input from parents and guardians and inclusive of all pupils.  There is the need for consultation of carers with regards to sex and relationship education, especially for primary school pupils.  Although as established earlier homophobic and sexist language is firmly entrenched in this educational environment and I feel there needs to be a firm policy addressing these factors before the hegemonic masculine, misogynist and homophobic attitudes are developed.  Also included should be how this information will be delivered allowing the parent/carer decide on the appropriateness of this subject regarding their child.  As it is not the sole responsibility of the school to educate children in this sensitive area, the school should work harmoniously with the parents.  This can be easier said than done, as many people find addressing the subject of sex and relationships difficult, not only parents but teachers as well.  Extra support maybe required in informing educators within the school especially areas regarding homosexuality and same sex relationships.  There is a particular need to address all forms of sexual behaviour as pupils whom adults think are not engaging in sexual activity, usually are and the rate of infections transmitted sexually are incredibly prevalent within young teens. Occurrence of sexually transmitted infections is continuing to rise and the incidence of HIV/AIDS infection remains unacceptably high, particularly for young men. 39%of those with AIDS in the UK are in their 20’s, most of whom will have contracted HIV in their teens.  This can only affirm the necessity for a more informative sex and relationship education.  There seems to be a great deal of concern for the emotional well being of children, yet the facts are evident that they go out and find out for themselves unknowing the consequences that occur.  I realise that some pupils will not be exercising their sexuality as early as others but nevertheless I feel there is a need to educate all pupils regardless.  If the continuation of this lack of information regarding sex and relationships, their enjoyment and hazards, the figures discussed earlier will only increase.  Schools therefore have an obligation to educate, along with carers the varying aspects regarding this sensitive area.  I have therefore isolated specific chapters within the policy document highlighting certain areas that incorporate the education of homosexual/same-sex relationships and difference.

Chapter 4 to the Sex and Relationship Education Guidance Head teachers, Teachers & School Governors Status: good practice shown below

4. This is the first time that schools have had a national framework to support work in this area. As part of sex and relationship education, pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children. But the Government recognises – as in the Home Office, Ministerial Group on the Family consultation document “Supporting Families”- that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore pupils should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances.


This chapter sees the recognition of same sex carers and parents as stable homes.  This along with the recent acknowledgement with regards to the civil partnership denotes this as a positive recognition.  Although this recognition does not seem to stretch to the educational environment, as established earlier in1984 60% of homosexual pupils experienced verbal abuse and 20% had been beaten up whereas, 1998, 83% had experienced verbal abuse and 47% had experienced physical abuse.  This is an enormous increase, which clearly needs rectifying.  As highlighted in Table 3 these figures are not on the decrease.

5 Pupils need also to be given accurate information and helped to develop skills to enable them to understand difference and respect themselves and others and for the purpose also of preventing and removing prejudice. Secondary pupils should learn to understand human sexuality, learn the reasons for delaying sexual activity and the benefits to be gained from such delay, and learn about obtaining appropriate advice on sexual health.

Paragraph 5 establishes the need for education with regards to human difference.  Although this is not recommended until secondary school, the removal of prejudice will become much harder.  As discussed earlier bullying and prejudice against homosexuals is firmly entrenched in primary school and prevention will be too late.  Clearly there needs to be more research into the ways of delivering the information, regarding loving, stable relationships that are outside marriage to primary children.  This information does not need to involve sex.

1.25 It is therefore important for policies to be both culturally appropriate and inclusive of all children. Primary and secondary schools should consult parents and pupils both on what is included, and on how it is delivered. For example, for some children it is not culturally appropriate to address particular issues in a mixed group. Consulting pupils and their families will help to establish what is appropriate and acceptable for them. Generally, parents appreciate support from the school, if they are consulted and involved.

There need to be clear involvement with parents and carers to ensure a positive acceptable delivery of information.  This is to account for other religious and cultural beliefs. It is necessary to respect others wishes although I do firmly believe that if consulted by a pupil information should be delivered respectfully, giving great consideration to their position.



1.30 It is up to schools to make sure that the needs of all pupils are met in their programmes. Young people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs.  The Secretary of State for Education and Employment is clear that teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support. There should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation.

No direct promotion means just that.  Heterosexuality should not be promoted as better than homosexuality; this is clearly identified within this policy, as the use of copy is not directly promotional of any sexuality.  As established earlier in chapter 4 of the booklet there are recognised stable relationships outside that of heterosexuality and marriage.

1.31 Sexual orientation and what is taught in schools is an area of concern for some parents. Schools that liaise closely with parents when developing their sex and relationship education policy and programme should be able to reassure parents of the content of the programme and the context in which it will be presented.

1.32 Schools need to be able to deal with homophobic bullying. Guidance issued by the Department (Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Circular 10/99) dealt with the unacceptability of and emotional distress and harm caused by bullying in whatever form – be it racial, as a result of a pupil’s appearance, related to sexual orientation or for any other reason.

We have identified earlier that schools do not address homophobic bullying as vigilantly as they should.  The fact that 6% of schools, the same percent of the homosexual population, have a fully inclusive policy, which covers homophobic bullying is insufficient as the amount of same sex attracted youths that attempt suicide is 40%.  This figure is in desperate need of attention and we all need to realise that there are children very much in need of our help.


In the, Bullying, Don’t Suffer in Silence- an anti-bullying pack for schools, Professor Peter Smith states that:

23. Strategies for reducing such bullying include:

Including it in the school’s anti-bullying policy – so pupils know discrimination is wrong and the school will act

Covering it in INSET days on bullying in general

Guaranteeing confidentiality and appropriate advice to lesbian and gay pupils

Challenging homophobic language

Exploring issues of diversity and difference – discussing what schools and society can do to end discrimination

Exploring pupils’ understanding of their use of homophobic language – they may not understand the impact


A selection of schools have policies focussing particularly on behaviour, but because of the varying degrees of bullying and that, as established earlier is a very personal experience and individual specific, schools are therefore looking toward different approaches which include the ”No-Blame Approach, the Pikas Method, Circle Time and Peer Counselling.” 


The initial step is to interview the target, who is then asked to draw a picture or write a poem on how the bullying has made them feel and the effect it is having. The next is a group meeting incorporating a group of students including the bullies, bystanders and people who are not involved, along with a teacher.  They then discuss how the bullied target is feeling and the group then aim to find a solution through the suggestion of positive, practical problem solving solutions.

The purpose of this approach is to stop the bully from feeling threatened and that they are not being blamed for what they have done but they can be a positive part in finding the solution to the problem.  The bystanders are involved in the discussion as their lack of intervention regarding the bullying is seen as an action, which makes allowances for the bullying.

It is then each individual’s responsibility to carry out the found solution and each have a responsibility to ensure that no bullying takes place.  Thus including the bullied target in play times and ensuring future involvement.

Progress is monitored when the group next meets which is usually around a week later.  The children then discuss what they have achieved.  This is supposed to give the children a feeling of success.

If a school decides to employ this method, its approach needs to be clearly discussed with the parents/carer of the target.  It has been found that many parents seem to believe that this method lets the bully off without punishment, as usually emotions run quite high when a parent finds out their child is the target of bullying.  This said the “No Blame” approach was a resounding success in hull when it was carried out in Hull.  From the 55 cases that used this method there was an 80% success rate which seems an incredibly successful amount.


This strategy to deal with bullying is apparently quite effective.  It involves a counsellor discussing the issue with the bullying ringleader and then with his comrades before any contact has been made with the target.  This is so the target does not appear to have been naming names and placing the blame.

The discussion then sees the counsellor explaining that no blame has been placed and how the target is feeling with regard to the current situation.  The bullies are then asked how they think the situation could be improved.  If no suggestions are made then the counsellor may do so.  This method of communicating initially with the bullies prevents antagonism and the defensive behaviour a bully might feel.  Also with the removal of punishment avoids the possibilities of tension and the bully retaliating.

The next step after adequate suggestions have been made, the counsellor meets with the target and then evaluates from their point of view.  The counsellor also analyses the target ensuring that they are not provoking the situation.  If so this is acknowledged without the counsellor judging or blaming.

A series of individual meetings are held with the people involved which then leads to a whole group meeting to acknowledge that the problem has been resolved.


Circle time is used in many schools.  The structure is that the children sit in a circle and for a short period of time, play games or do something enjoyable.  After that period they are then able to discuss issues that they have as a group, which can include bullying.  This seems strange that the reward comes first but I imagine that this method eases the children into a comfortable environment so that the group can communicate efficiently.  This dynamic setting is usually coupled with the use of an object, which determines that the only person who holds it shall speak.  With the use of this implement the group cannot shout out or laugh at the person holding the object.

The teacher can use this time effectively and get to the root of issues by asking some key questions, for instance, “If anybody knows anyone who is being bullied then change places.”  The children then change places if they know of anyone.  This gives the teacher a great insight into the size of the problem.


These strategies are a combined method of communication brought together to ensure the school is a safe place and that bullying is not tolerated.  They are usually implemented in secondary schools as assurance that new pupils will feel safe.

The older pupils participating in the scheme are volunteers and are usually girls.  They undergo an intense training program for a month, learning about aspects of bullying and the effects it has on people’s lives.  These pupils are generally identified by a badge or ribbon and are there to help.  They also learn to deal with younger people who are suffering from aspects of bullying.  They do not deal with this just by themselves, as there is a strong teacher involvement as some of the possible issues that could be encountered could be aspects such as child abuse.

Alongside the support of these volunteers is a designated room for where people who have not yet made any friends, to spend time at lunch or break time, where they can interact with people like themselves and establish relationships.  Here they can use the space to play indoor games, chat and continue with their studies.  For children who are experiencing bullying or have any issues they need resolving, but wish to remain anonymous have the opportunity to air their grievances through the use of boxes situated around the school where children can post notes with their issues on.


A strategy that is becoming increasingly more popular and effective within schools is the ‘telling’ method.  If the bullied target is too afraid to report the bullying the bystanders are aware that it is their responsibility to report to a person of authority.  The bystander will not be accused of telling tales although we know that some children fear that they too will be bullied, but if the reporting continues then the bully will never get away with the crime and the school will become a safer place, although we will never actually resolve why the child bullies.


These strategies all seem very liberal in their approach and I do hope that it is because these methods have made bullying easier to report that the figures have become ever more increasingly high, even though the population of people 16 and under is far less than the last census.  I hope that bullying campaigns and strategies help to bring the numbers down.


A 60 second film is to be launched on 3 Sept by Ivan Lewis to support his zero tolerance message that all forms of bullying are unacceptable and encourages children to ‘tell someone’ if they are being bullied. We see young people in a series of everyday situations finding creative ways to share their problem with adults, including a parent, grandparents, a teacher, a lunchtime supervisor and ChildLine.

This campaign by Ivan Lewis identifies the need to tell somebody about the bullying and not to suffer in silence.  As discussed earlier there is a great deal of bullying that goes unreported, as children do not see adults as supportive figures as a huge percentage of pupils identified a great deal of risk associated with informing adults about the incidents as adults are seen as thinking that it is just part of growing up.  This campaign I feel is greatly necessary and wonderfully executed. Awareness created by this campaign identifies that the targets have supporting roles to turn to and not to be afraid of reporting the incidents. Within this campaign the children attempt to communicate with adults through various means possible.

There has also been another recent campaign involving some celebrities, such as Sharon Osbourne, Vernon Kaye and the Sugarbabes to mention a few.  This was part of the campaign, which incorporated the promotion of the blue anti bullying band.  The campaign was the delivery of a poem by the various celebrities that was courtesy of Bully Online.  For me this campaign I feel was nothing more than promotion material for the celebrities own careers.  The delivery of the poem felt false and provoked a negative response from me.  I realise that children will admire the influential people that clearly do not condone bullying, and hopefully they will take notice and not continue to bully.  Although this poem is from the eyes of the bullied, in an attempt to make the bully realise that the target is just a person like them.  We know that there are a great deal of similarities between target and bully but we also know that the majority of bullies feel no remorse for their actions. It is with this thought in mind that I continue to think that this campaign is unsuccessful in its delivery.


Rivers’ (1998) study of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth found that 82 per cent had experienced name calling at school, 71 per cent had been ridiculed, 60 per cent had been hit or kicked, 58 per cent had been teased, 59 per cent had the subject of rumours, 49 per cent had experienced theft, 52 per cent had been frightened by a look or stare, and 40 per cent had attempted suicide.”

JAKE, 18 “There was one bloke who really annoyed me. He had a funny high-pitched voice and he jumped even if you just said ‘Hello.’ We hid his stuff, pushed him out of queues, and everyone knew better than to talk to him. We just did it for a laugh. I suppose he must have hated us.” 

DARREN, 17 “I suppose I just messed around most of the time at school. I had a couple of mates and we used to make the younger kids pay us every week or we’d give them a right kicking. We must have been pretty frightening. None of that’s much good to me now.”

JAY, 15 “It got to be a habit.  I felt good seeing him cry. The others laughed and that made me feel even better. But then the teacher said that he was in the hospital because he had tried to hurt himself to get away from the bullying. It was only a bit of fun really – I didn’t mean him to take it seriously.”

I felt that there was a need to take a different point of view regarding this global problem, so my approach was to use quotes from real bullies (written above).  The delivery of these quotes would mean different things for different people, be they bullies, bystanders, targets or adults.  Although I hope that they listen to what is being said, along with the horrific statistics, described above, and acknowledge that bullying behaviour is wrong thus dis-empowering bullies.

I chose a black screen to display the statistics in white, which is very simple and effective.  This choice had to be simple, as the viewer has to concentrate on both what is being said and the information displayed.  My choice of font was, Univers Bold Extended, which I feel is incredibly effective as it’s legibility on screen is excellent.  I had attempted many other choices, which were unacceptable, such as Impact, Futura and Helvetica to name but a few.  None of these fonts displayed the horrific information with such impact, as does Univers.

The end result I feel is a hard-hitting, factual piece, which encases, cause and symptom together, effectively.


Bullying is a huge global problem to which there is no one solution.  The main problem I feel with regard to homophobic bullying is that a lot of changes need to happen within society before we can expect this to filter through to the education system.  The fact that only 6% of schools have a fully inclusive bullying policy, incorporating homophobic bullying and the current curriculum, seems to be a clear disregard for the guidelines established by the government.   It seems that schools not only deny that they have homosexual pupils but that they also deny they have any bullying at all.  There needs to be clear acceptance that homosexual children exist and are acknowledged before schools can move forward and stamp out this form of bullying.

Within British culture there is a need to censor children from sexuality, assuming that they would benefit from this.  Through this action in an attempt to preserve a child’s “innocence” they leave them ignorant to important factors such as disease, abuse and loving relationships as described earlier.  With the removal of this censorship we can hope to eliminate prejudices in the hope of making a more tolerant environment for school children to feel secure and safe.

I can only hope that bullying ceases to exist.



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Browne, Professor Kevin. University of Birmingham. TV ‘could create child bullies’ . 15 June 2006 <>

EPSTEIN, D. D. (2000) Schooling Sexualities. London, Open University Press.

HANCOX, R. J., MILNE, B. J. & POULTON, R. (2005) Association of Television Viewing During Childhood With Poor Educational Achievement. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 159, 614-618.

Moldrich, Chrissan.  ChildLine, Bullying Factsheet Information for teachers and professionals working with young people

NANSEL, T. R. & OVERPECK, M. D. (2003) Operationally Defining “Bullying”–Reply. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 157, 1135-.

OLIVER, C. & CANDAPPA, M. (2003) Tackling Bullying: Listening to the views of children and young people. Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education.

OZMERT, E., TOYRAN, M. & YURDAKOK, K. (2002) Behavioral Correlates of Television Viewing in Primary School Children Evaluated by the Child Behavior Checklist. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 156, 910-914.

Rivers, I. (1998) cited in Mullen, Andy. (2001) Mesmac Inclusive Schools.  Bradford

Rivers, I (2000) “Social exclusion, absenteeism and sexual minority youth” in Support for Learning, 15(1),13-18 NASEN  cited in

Rivers, I. (2001), The bullying of sexual minorities at school: Its nature and long-term correlates, Educational and Child Psychology, 18 (1): 33-46.

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  1. 1
  2. 2 Oliver, C. & Candappa, M. (2003) Tackling Bullying: listening to the views of children and young people, London, DfES.
  3. 3 Channel 4, 3 minute wonder, Bully for you, 1 December 2005 09:25
  4. 4 Moldrich, Chrissan. ChildLine Bullying Factsheet Information for teachers and professionals working with young people.
  5. 5 Moorhead, Joanna. is your child being bullied? 15 June 2006 <>
  6. 615 June 2006 <>
  7. 7 <>
  8. 8 Smith, Professor Peter. Bullying Don’t Suffer in Silence- an anti-bullying pack for schools(Goldsmiths College, University of London).
  9. 9 Bullying Don’t Suffer in Silence – an anti-bullying pack for schools Professor Peter Smith  (Goldsmiths College, University of London).
  10. 10 Katz, Adrienne. Bullying  Symptoms, Strategies and Solutions That Work.  A ChildLine Conference. London,
  11. 11 “antisocial personality disorder n.”  A Dictionary of Psychology. Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Salford University.  15 June 2006  <>
  12. 12 “oppositional defiant disorder n.”  A Dictionary of Psychology. Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Salford University. 15 June 2006  <>
  13. 13 The Impact of Interactive Violence on Children. Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. 106th Cong, 1st Sess (2000) (statement of Craig Anderson, Professor, Iowa State University, Department of Psychology)
  14. 14 Committee on Public Education AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS 1222 PEDIATRICS Vol. 108 No. 5 November 2001 Media Violence <>
  15. 15 Browne, Professor Kevin. University of Birmingham. TV ‘could create child bullies’ . 15 June 2006 <>
  16. 16 ZIMMERMAN, F. J., GLEW, G. M., CHRISTAKIS, D. A. & KATON, W. (2005) Early Cognitive Stimulation, Emotional Support, and Television Watching as Predictors of Subsequent Bullying Among Grade-School Children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 159, 384-388.
  17. 17 Channel 4, 3 minute wonder, Bully for you, 1 December 2005 09:25
  18. 18Moldrich, Chrissan.  ChildLine, Bullying Factsheet Information for teachers and professionals working with young people
  19. 19 <>20 Ayyar, R., George Weinberg: Love is Conspiratorial, Deviant & Magical[online]. (Vol. VIII Issue 167) Available from: (1 of 8)3/1/2006 3:14:45 pm21 <>
  20. 22 3/18/99Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal? by Henry E. Adams, Ph.D., Lester W. Wright, Jr., Ph.D. and Bethany A. Lohr, in Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 105, No. 3, pp 440-445.
  21. 23 Trenchard, I. and Warren, H. (1984) “Something to tell you.” Cited in Rivers, I (2000) “Social exclusion, absenteeism and sexual minority youth” in Support for Learning, 15(1),13-18 NASEN  cited in
  22. 25 15 June 2006<>
  23. 26 <>
  24. 27 “hegemonic masculinity”  A Dictionary of Sociology. John Scott and Gordon Marshall. Oxford University Press 2005. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Salford University.  15 June 2006  <>
  25. 28 Epstein, Dr Debbie. Section 28 makes teachers ignore bullying 7 February 2000.  15 June 2006 <>
  26. 29 “conduct disorder n.”  A Dictionary of Psychology. Andrew M. Colman. Oxford University Press, 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Salford University.  15 June 2006  <>
  27. 30 Jennett, Mark. Stand up for us. Challenging homophobia in schools
  28. 31 15 June 2006<>
  29. 32 Townley, Ben. 15 June 2006<>
  30. 33 Figures for numbers of lesbian or gay young people are based on findings from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) of nearly 19,000 people published in 2000. This asked respondents whether they had ‘Ever had a sexual experience with a same sex partner?’ or ‘Ever had sexual intercourse/genital contact with a same sex partner?’ – the percentages quoted here are for young people aged 16-24. Applying these figures to pupils under 16 whose sexual practices are likely to be different is problematic. However, the figure is likely to underestimate the numbers of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (or who think they might be) and who have not had same-sex sexual experience. For further information, see a summary of key figures from AVERT, available online at: Accessed 28 May, 2004 Homophobia, Sexual Orientation and Schools: a Review and Implications for Action Ian Warwick, Elaine Chase and Peter Aggleton Thomas Coram Research Unit Institute of Education, University of London with Sue Sanders Schools Out
  31. 34 BULLYING HOW TO BEAT IT A Child Line conference 2003confereport.pdf
  32. 35 Rivers, Ian. (1998) cited in Mullen, Andy. (2001) Mesmac Inclusive Schools.  Bradford
  33. 36 ILGA-Europe, (2000) p.17. <>
  34. 37 Bullying  Symptoms, Strategies and Solutions That Work.  A ChildLine Conference3
  35. 8 Rivers, I. (2001), The bullying of sexual minorities at school: Its nature and long-term correlates, Educational and Child Psychology, 18 (1): 33-46.
  36. 39 Bullying A Child Line conference Symptoms, strategies and solutions that work. bullyingconferencereport2001.pdf
  37. 40Sex and Relationship Education Guidance Head teachers, Teachers & School Governors Status: good practice Date of issue: July 2000 Ref: DfEE 0116/2000 <>
  38. 41 Trenchard, L. and Warren, H. (1984) ‘Something To Tell You’ – The Experiences of Young Lesbians and Young Gay Men in London, London: London Gay Teenage Group.
  39. 42 Bullying Don’t Suffer in Silence- an anti-bullying pack for schools Professor Peter Smith(Goldsmiths College, University of London).
  40. 43 15 June 2006 <>
  41. 44 Rivers, Ian. (1998) cited in Mullen, Andy. (2001) Mesmac Inclusive Schools.  Bradford


Video Art

What is Video Art?

Established in 1965, Video Art, a medium conceived by a Korean artist, namely Nam June Paik, 1 member of the Fluxus2 art movement, uses technology in an exceptionally diverse manner. In that year Sony created the Portapak, the first hand-held video camera. Paik shot his footage of Pope Paul VI’s procession through New York City from a taxi and a couple of hours later showed the first “Video Art” at Café a Go Go in Greenwich Village, hence Video Art was born. During the late 1960’s technical developments made various types of portable video equipment available to artists. Although facilitated by Japanese technology, video art was initially developed primarily by American artists within the era’s politically volatile social context. The commercial availability and portability of the early video camera facilitated the medium’s use by visual artists, including painters, sculptors, and performance artists. During the late 1960s and 1970s, video art was monitor-based and often politically charged to the point that artists formed collectives such as TVTV (Top Value Television), which infiltrated the 1972 Republican convention.

This form has seen phenomenal rise since these continuing advancements. Video Art has developed so rapidly with technological evolvement. Various artists use this mode in creating installations, performance art and videotapes for broadcast. One of the key differences between video art and theatrical cinema is that video art does not rely on many of the conventions that define theatrical cinema. Video art does not necessarily use actors, may not contain dialogue, may have no discernible narrative or plot, or adhere to any of the other comfortable conventions that construct cinema as entertainment. This distinction is important because it delineates video art not only from cinema but also from the sub-categories where those definitions may become muddy (as in the case of avant garde or short films). Perhaps the simplest, most straightforward defining distinction in this respect would then be to say that cinema’s ultimate goal is to entertain (i.e., to get someone to watch the film) whereas video art’s intentions are more varied—be they to simply explore the boundaries of the medium itself (e.g., Peter Campus, “Double Vision”) or to rigorously attack the viewer’s expectations of video as shaped by conventional cinema (e.g., Joan Jonas, “Organic Honey’s Vertical Roll”).

Some of these manners of working are a permanent issue for most artists, as the affiliation between video art and television is unclear.4 The question seems to be how to get video art out to the masses. As the German video artist Egon Bunne stated, “In modern culture, video art still has not gained the rank it deserves. Though video installations are welcome visual points of contemporary exhibitions, enriching and revaluating them upwards, video art itself is still burdened with prejudices and exposed to suspicious looks, if at all looked at.” This goes also and to a high degree for the television. Both public and private television and networks find that “video art is too extra-ordinary to find a fixed place in the program” -with a few and irregular exceptions, “but they are soon dismissed because of low numbers of viewers”.5

My preferred topic of discussion is the work of video art pioneer, Bill Viola and the sequences, Emergence and The Greeting.

Bill Viola was born January 25, 1951 in New York City. He grew up in Queens and Westbury and attended the P.S 20. Later he studied at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at the prestigious Syracuse University where he took part in an experimental program dedicated to exploring the possibilities of film making in a fine art context, graduating with a B.F.A. in 1973. During the period 1973 to 1979, Viola acquired the position as an exhibition assistant and video technician at the Syracuse’s Everson Museum, to the aforementioned Nam June Paik, Frank Gillette, a founding member of the video collective Raindance, 1969 and Peter Campus, a video artist established in 1971, on various projects. At some point in the 1970s Viola lived for 18 months in Florence, Italy, as technical director of production in one of the first video art studios in Europe, and then traveled widely to study and record traditional performing arts in the Solomon Islands, Java, Bali, and Japan. In 198081, he lived in Japan with his wife Kira Perov on a Japan/U.S. Cultural Exchange Fellowship, where he studied Buddhism with Zen Master Daien Tanaka and was artist-in-residence at Sony Corporation’s Atsugi research laboratories.7 In 1984 he was an artist-in-residence at the San Diego Zoo in California for a project on animal consciousness. Bill Viola is widely recognized as one of the leading video artists on the international scene. His work has spanned over three decades since his first original piece, Wild Horses, created in 1972. Prior, Viola was a founding member of the Synapse video group. This was a student society, which set up and administered a cable television system in 1971.8For over 30 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and works for television broadcast.9 Viola’s sensual video installations—total environments, envelop the viewer through use of image and sound, employing state-of-the-art technology which are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. His single channel videotapes have been broadcast and presented cinematically around the world, while his writings have been published and anthologized for international readers.10

Inspirations Whilst studying Viola researched philosophical ideas, exploring Christian mysticism, Islamic Sufism and Zen Buddhism, focusing on universal human experiences—birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness.11 This continuing journey of sense perception, self-knowledge was to become the backbone of his work, using video to explore these phenomena. He has been influential in the establishment of video as a vital form of modern art, and in so doing has helped to expand its scope in terms of knowledge, content, and historical reach.

Collectors Collectors of Viola’s work include Agnes and Karlheinz Essl,12 The Silent Sea (2002) Plasma screen DVD (10:07), 71 x 41 x 6 cm, Pamela and Richard Kramlich, exuberant members of the Silicon Valley elite, who have used their fortune to create one of the world’s leading private collections of media art, a catchall term for work incorporating moving images, sound, and a variety of high and low tech presentations, The Crossing, 1996 Video/sound installation13and one of Australia’s most powerful businesswomen, owner of the Sussan Corporation, Naomi Milgrom who has an installation of Viola’s work on a plasma screen.14

Viola’s videotapes and installations have been shown widely throughout the world, in major group exhibitions at festivals and institutions including Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; Documenta VI, Kassel, Germany; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Venice Biennale. He has also had one-person shows at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; ARC/Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, among other institutions. Bill Viola was chosen to represent the United States at the 46th Venice Biennale, which is the oldest and most renowned international contemporary arts festival. Five video and sound installations were created specifically by Viola for the Bienniale’s United States Pavillion. He was the subject of a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Amerian Art in 1998.15 The Messenger (1996) was commissioned by the Church of England, Chaplaincy to the Arts and Recreation for the 900-year-old Durham Cathedral in Northern England.


The Greeting

Inspired by the sixteenth century mannerist, Jacopo da Pontormo’s, painting, The Visitation, dating from 1528-1529, Church of San Michele at Carmignano. The scene depicts the meeting between the pregnant Virgin Mary and Elizabeth who was also pregnant with John the Baptist. The true inspiration for this piece of art is the following passage from the Gospel according to Luke 1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence [is] this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed [is] she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy [is] his name. 50 And his mercy [is] on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from [their] seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of [his] mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. Viola says, “This is the beginning of the project. The first part of the creative process for me is in the form of writing, with a few pictures here and there, but it’s actually words describing situations or it could be quotes from different things I’ve been reading. The Greeting was triggered directly by an encounter with a classical artist by the name of Pontormo who created a painting called The Visitation. It’s a classical theme of when Mary comes to visit her sister Elizabeth when she finds out she’s pregnant. I began to think about particularly the social aspect of the work, as opposed to the religious theme in the work, and that is the sort of greeting where two people are coming together. And then I began thinking in my own life, about meeting people. I began to think about people I’ve seen greeting. You’re at an airport. You know, those moments when you’re in an airport and you turn around and there’s two people who obviously haven’t seen each other in a while and there’s that magic of, just happens every moment in every airport in the world, people are getting on and off planes, and there’s that kind of poignancy of the good-byes, and the poignancies of the greetings happening all the time around us. I distilled from the three figures out of the painting these kind of three generic figures here, and I just literally with tracing paper began to place them in this kind of

hypothetical space. This touching point between people became the real focal point of that magic moment which all paintings suggest but can never actually reproduce because they can’t create time. They can’t embody time.” 16

Viola, through the use of video technology has effectively embodied time and brought life not only to the masterpiece but revived this biblical tale. The sequence takes place within an urban setting. The backdrop shows a collection of buildings with varying degrees of perspective disorientating the viewer. Within the back alley we see a dimly lit passage where two characters interact. Their business is unexplained and their apparent being there leaves a feeling of unease, questioning the safety of the two females. In the foreground we initially see the interaction and silent conversation between two mature females. Their dress is clearly modern-day although emulating Pontormo’s painting encapsulating the flowing fabrics portrayed in the scene. The female facing the camera head on wearing a clearly contemporary outfit together with black leather shoulder bag and court shoes has a solemn look about her. Her attempts to engage with the Elizabeth figure in a tactile manner seem in vain as any approach of contact is declined by Elizabeth, clearly making this character feel uncomfortable. We see the agitation of this character through the subconscious hand gestures that clearly show the discomfort felt. The Elizabeth figure seen here does not appear to be with child. As the story goes Elizabeth should be approximately six months pregnant and entering her third trimester17 . The flowing clothes are possibly hiding her position although we are unable to tell.

The wind, clearly symbolising the Holy Spirit, increases in its velocity and with this disturbance the two characters are interrupted by a third, being that of the Virgin Mary. The Mary character wears a bright orange dress combined with a shoulder bag of which we are ignorant to its contents. Surprisingly Viola has replaced the muted blue colour of her attire in the Visitation, with which we would normally identify Mary, with the contemporary bright orange dress. Here we can see that Mary is heavily pregnant, more obviously than that of Elizabeth. Mary at this point would be around three months pregnant18 . With this entrance we see the dynamic shift between the characters and how the solemn character in muted blue has evidently been left out of the greeting. She clearly does not know the new addition to the conversation and seemingly been outcast. Here Viola has created an awkward situation by replacing the original tableaux of four females with that of three, creating the age-old adage “two’s company and three’s a crowd”. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, depicted by the wind blowing through her clothes, greets Mary with open arms and we see the joyous expression on both their faces and experience the silent communication of their knowing each other’s predicament. The Mary character saying, “Can you help me”, breaks this silence?19 It is with this  question that Mary is seeking guidance from Elizabeth with regards to the experiences of being pregnant.20 Although we are inconclusive of whether the Elizabeth character can offer this advice, as it is unclear that she is with child even though the initial biblical passage confirms this we know that Viola’s intention was not to reenact the biblical story or restage Pontormo’s classical image. This entrance combined with the rude whispering increasingly adds to the third characters anxiety and feeling of unpleasantness. We see between the main characters and witness the expression of the character in blue’s sheer paranoia and worry from the exclusion. This thought provoking sequence helps the viewer to


relate on varying degrees the effects of all parties involved. Although the Mary character is not talking about the lady in blue, one can have compassion for the excluded character and with this realisation, take this on board and avoid the future implementation of these actions and performing in this way. Through the communication of this piece of video art one can contemplate their communicative abilities within society, questioning their own social skills. Mary steps back from Elizabeth and surprisingly Elizabeth then places her hand on the lady in blue’s back and brings her into the conversation.

She then introduces Mary to whom the focus shifts. They exchange pleasantries and the character in blue offers Mary her right hand to shake. Mary declines

stroking her pregnant bump. We see again the discomfort felt by the character who’s friendly approach has been refused. This is depicted again by the agitation of her hands and her clasping of her arm and fidgeting with her bag, not knowing what to do about the situation. Her body language suggests her insecurity and the not knowing of how to behave in this situation. Should she stay where she is not wanted? It is surprising that Viola portrays the Blessed Virgin Mary in this light. Is one to believe that Mary, the mother of our Lord was quite ignorant and she was above interaction, or should we surmise that Mary felt awkward being introduced to an already established conversation, not knowing the discomfort the lady in blue was already feeling? We can only speculate, as the outcome is unclear. The scene is ambiguous and purposely confuses the viewer. The main characters within the scene both wear sandals reminiscent of biblical times where as the third character wears more modern shoes with a heel. This difference in the footwear also seems to separate her from the protagonists, making her look even more out of place than she obviously feels. Through Viola’s thoughts of his own life, greetings he has experienced and of others he has witnessed, he has created a basis for bringing Pontormo’s masterpiece to life. Imagining the joy that Mary and Elizabeth experienced and the awkwardness of the third character with which most all of us can identify draws the audience further in to the sequence. One, feeling all the emotion evoked by the piece, and the great sentiment of affinity with this identification. Viola in effect is trying to educate society, creating an awareness of intrinsic social patterns. As each social greeting requires an awareness of all parties involved




Visual Analysis

Viola says that ‘Emergence’ began with a passing idea for a piece called ‘Woman Supporting Slumping Man’. Later, leafing through a book on the early Renaissance Italian

artists Masaccio and Masolino, he came upon a colour plate of Masolino’s fresco showing the corpse of the dead Christ in his tomb, supported by his mother Mary and John the Evangelist. 21 ‘I sketched it and put it away, ‘ he says. ‘I’m not interested in restaging historical paintings. ‘ Still later, an image occurred to him of two women pulling a dead man out of a well, and he looked back to Masolino’s composition. But since he wanted to embody the idea of birth, he began to imagine that as the body came out of the well, an unexplained surge of water would accompany it. 22 Emergence, shot on 35mm film and done in slow motion, colour high-definition video, rear projected on a screen which is mounted on a wall in dark room, 78’ by 78’23 is a piece inspired by the fresco painting of the Pietà, held at the Museo della Collegiata di Sant’ Andrea, Empoli, Italy, by the fifteenth century Italian artist Tomaso di Cristofano, also known as Masolino. This representation of Christ half-length in the sarcophagus, being supported either side by his mother and Saint John the Evangelist, suggests the biblical miracle of the Resurrection.24 Although Viola understands this to be the Deposition, this interpretation gives Emergence a base for its vagueness and ambiguity leaving the viewer open to arrive at his or her own decision. While Viola has no apparent desire to recreate or mimic classical paintings it seems the similarities between fifteenth-century Italian artist Masolino’s,

Pietá and Viola’s setting are uncanny. The positions of the actors within the Emergence scene seem to ‘reflect’ the Pietá, mirroring the position of the characters within a more contemporary setting.


Whilst researching the inspiration for Emergence I found that 25Violas picture of the Pietá is

flipped in comparison to the image I have retrieved. In effect Viola has not mirrored the image but seemingly reproduced the position of the characters according to his version. This is difficult however, to determine which is correct without seeing the actual source. The confusion seems to continue as within the book Bill Viola: The Passions26, the image is the same as the one I found not like the one seen within Viola’s note book in the film Excerpt from Bill Viola and Emergence by award-winning filmmaker Mark


Kidel. 27 Continuing the research into this anomaly, contact was made with The National Gallery, London, with hope that they could clarify the position of the characters. Chris Morton, Information Officer for the gallery states that, ‘The original painting features the Virgin to the viewers left as reflects her importance’. This importance is that the “right hand” is the place of honor28 (1Kng.2:19; Matt.20:21-23; cf. Matt.25:33-34; 26:64) With this feature now made clear it seems that Viola’s replication of the Pietá’s character positions are true to its source, although the Virgin Mary figure is that of an older woman, a young woman has replaced the Saint John the Evangelist figure. Even though the backdrop of Emergence is seemingly similar to that of the Pietá, and does evoke the feeling of a fifteenth century fresco it however would seem more at home within the confines of a shopping centre, baby portrait stall, with a sheepskin rug in the foreground.

Viola says. ‘What I saw in my mind was this man rising up out of the water, young man, and as he’s rising out the water overflowing over the top of this cistern, well or whatever and he comes out and there’s two women either side of him who are shocked and surprised and emotionally overcome with the appearance of this young man. So if I look at this from the point of view of our contemporary eye it’s the aftermath of a drowning its two women pulling a limp lifeless figure out of water if I look at it from the inner, with the inner eye what I see is a birth of water overflowing and a young man who’s practically naked being taken out by women almost in the function of midwives of bringing a being into the world so and I don’t want to specify that image and lock it in for me images have their life because their un-tethered and free flowing and that’s what I want them to be so I’ve probably said too much already29.’

With this quote in mind, the symbolic reference of

the two women seems to represent the Blessed

Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene as read in The

Holman Christian Standard Bible Mathew 27:61

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were seated

there, facing the tomb. While the two women are not facing the ‘tomb’ this beginning sequence does reflect the biblical reference as either side of the focal point, be it a wellhead, altar, column, tomb or monument, shown here in still frame 1 sits the two women. Each woman is looking in the opposite direction of the other. There seems to be no real relationship between them, implying distance. The wellhead is the only thing connecting them yet separating them at the same time. The divide that this causes emulates the possible relationship of wife and mother in law. The individual grief they seem to be suffering is representative of their connected loss of a loved one and their inability to console one another.

This distance is interrupted by the rising of a pale, meagre, naked man from the wellhead along with the unexpected gush of overflowing water, shown in still two. This symbolism emulates the breaking of a woman’s waters prior to the birth, corroborating Viola’s reference to midwifery and their participation within the labour of childbirth. The younger character is first to respond to the male’s presence, just as Mary Magdalene was the first to witness the Resurrection. She tentatively touches the wellhead whilst the young man begins his ascent. The older female has not yet received his presence although her attention has been drawn more to the opposite side to which she was looking previous. There is still no connection between the female characters and though the Christ like figure emerging from the well has the full attention of the younger female he does not acknowledge her. The young man’s eyes are closed constantly during the sequence as if he sees all without their use. One is lead to believe his focus is beyond the set and the viewer cannot participate visually with the man so the vagueness continues as the audience are left to make up their own minds regarding what the figure sees with his ‘inner eye’. This lack of clothing suggests his vulnerability, whilst the whiteness of his skin evokes not only the texture of a drowned corpse but also the purity of innocence and ignorance as with a newborn child. The younger female is the first to attend the young male while the mother figure seems to have an expression of disbelief. Each woman shows a different reaction to the man emerging from the ‘well’.

The young male pays no attention to either female while he rises. As seen in still three, this image seems to emulate the real inspiration for the whole sequence. Here we see a more intimate nature of involvement between the younger female and the emerged male. Although Viola, declaring earlier has no desire to recreate historic images, this part of the sequence quite clearly interprets the Pietá. The biblical references are somewhat clear that this is more than just a birth or a drowning. What intrigues me more is, does Viola’s research into Christian mysticism infer that Jesus and Saint John’s association was intimate? The character substitution of Mary by an older female signifying the mother figure and that of Saint John by a younger female whose individual behaviour within the scene seems of an intimate, sexual nature provokes thoughts of the possibilities of a homosexual relationship between Jesus and Saint John. It is said in the bible that John was the man that Jesus loved The Holman Christian Standard Bible John 20:2 and is thought that John was abeautiful effeminate man. One wonders that the replacement of the male figure that kisses Christ in an adoring, loving way has been replaced as not to alienate ‘people’ from the piece of work as we live within a heterosexist society. The Holman Christian Standard Bible Mark 1:9 Saint John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus, who baptised him into the faith. The unexpected gush of water could also represent this event where Christ emerges from the sea. The bible also claims that all life comes from water. Genesis: 1-31 which confirms Viola’s idea for birth from the gush of water as described earlier with the reference of waters breaking. There is the possibility that this character re-representation of Saint John could be Mary Magdalene with whom Jesus was possibly intimate. Channel Four The Real Da Vinci Code 5 February. Mary Magdalene is regarded as the wife of the historic Jesus who, as the Koran says, did not die on the cross and who came to France to live out His life with Mary and His children by Mary.30

Keeping the video art within a ‘normal setting’ makes the scene more acceptable within society. As who is to say that a male cannot deliver a child, referring to Viola’s reference of midwifery? In a contemporary setting of the twenty first century shouldn’t a man be shown as a bringer of life? Seeing that man plays a significant role in creating it. The Christ like figure’s focus is toward the heavens, as if he is ‘looking’ at God until his frail body cannot support him anymore. He collapses into the arms of the older woman whilst the younger

supports his legs as seen in still four. Here the females have joined forces collaborating in the aid of this apparent feeble man, although their centre of attention is only on the male, they knowingly cooperate while still ignoring each other. This limp lifeless body, which seems dead, although in Viola’s inner eye has just been born, evokes the feeling of a stillbirth. The ambiguity continues and the thought provoking sequence continues.

They remove the Christ like figure from the sepulchre and place him on the ground. Whilst doing this we see the male is not dead as he attempts to support himself by the use of his leg. This detracts from the supposed helplessness of the man and in my opinion also from the art. This is only shown within rehearsal as seen on the Bill Viola and Emergence video and the final sequence shown has had this part edited out so I am unaware whether the young male actually places his foot on the ground.

The older female pays no attention to the male’s indecency or natural state. The young female immediately covers the male as if to shield him from prying eyes, covering his modesty, seen here in still five. This sequence is reminiscent of when the shroud was placed over Jesus in the tomb. Although the Christ like figure is obviously not dead as the younger female only covers half his body, not all of it as one would do with a corpse, clarifying Viola’s ambiguity within this sequence, questioning again whether this is the Deposition or the Resurrection. This part of the sequence evokes the Lamentation. Amazingly the shroud is perfectly dry as it is strategically produced from a leather bag from the side of the wellhead.

Still frame six sees the mother figure gazing at her ‘child’ lovingly, nursing him whilst his head rests on her lap.

Her stroking of his head emulates the motion of a mother nursing her baby. This behaviour is joined by the somewhat sexual nature of the young female who seductively leans over the marble like figure with a longing expression. Her fixed gaze seems unreciprocated as the male is transfixed by the mother figure, although he mimics the caress of the older female by stroking the younger females head. The two women are still distant and no interaction has happened between them other than their cooperation whilst they lifted the man from the well. This separation is multiplied by the obvious difference in their roles. The positions of the characters are on different levels creating an equilateral triangle with the position of their heads indicating the holy trinity. The mother figure elevated above the others symbolising her importance of bringing the male into the world. Although the male is lower than the younger female, his importance is reflected by both females transfixed stares and the fact that she is slightly higher than him her position above his torso makes her appearance seem lower, as if she is insignificant to the family. This insignificance sees the young female take on the role of a handmaiden epitomising again the possible sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. ‘And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.’ Acts 2:1831And the companion of [the Savior is] Mary Magdalene. The [Savior] loved her more than all his disciples, and frequently kissed her on the mouth. The rest of [the disciples] [got close to her to ask]. They told him: “Why do you love her more than all of us?” The Savior responded and

said: “Why do I not love you as I love her?” (Gospel of Philip 63-64). During this whole sequence of incredible video art, one not only recognizes Viola’s initial idea of combining a literal drowning with a lateral birth but also seemingly has experienced some of the most profound moments within Jesus’ life. It is obvious that Viola’s research into Christian mysticism and Islamic Sufism has had a dramatic impact on his work and the fact that even with all the biblical references has given this piece of work a great contemporary feel without imposing his own beliefs.


Although Viola is adamant that he is not interested in restaging and recreating works of art, thou dost protest too much, as the comparisons between them are uncanny. His video art sequences described earlier are clear representations of the poignant masterpieces in which the characters can be clearly identified. In effect he is creating digital paintings, bringing the works of art to life and capturing through the use of time the emotion and feeling evoked in the originals. This seems as if he is filling in the gaps, dictating what happens before and after the actual inspiration. However with the original paintings, you can explore the hidden meanings and emotions, on a more personal intimate level. This is not to say Viola’s work is not powerful, and thought provoking, it stimulated this dissertation. His technical ability, casting of characters, creation of stage sets, beautiful colour and composition is amazing, although I cannot help but think that this recreation of old masters approach seems slightly indolent and clearly not his original idea. Viola does however; through his contemporary, poetic license relate his chosen classic themes to modern day life, effectively helping the viewer to identify the subject matter with great reflection. This method of restoration does have its positive side. It has made the video art medium a more accessible genre, as appreciators of classic art, who would not necessarily recognize the value of this art form, may find themselves with a feeling of great affinity. On the other hand it seems Viola has stopped pushing boundaries unlike technology and settled for an easy life.


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Bible Study Tools, [Online], Available: [10/25/2004]


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 5 Egon Bunne: “Videokunst zwichen Warenhaus und Television/Video Art Between Department Store and Television”, Catalogue of European Media Art Festival 1993, Osnabrück 1993, p. 307ff cited in (5 of 6)14/11/2004 8:02:23 pm

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13 e

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22 Excerpt from Bill Viola and Emergence by award-winning filmmaker Mark Kidel

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25 Excerpt from Bill Viola and Emergence by award-winning filmmaker Mark Kidel

26 Walsh, John (ed.) (2003). Bill Viola: The Passions. Los Angeles: Getty Publications ISBN 0-89236

27 Excerpt from Bill Viola and Emergence by award-winning filmmaker Mark Kidel

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29 Excerpt from Bill Viola and Emergence by award-winning filmmaker Mark Kidel


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