The Lens, the Mirror and the Frame: Glasses, Good Taste and the Material Culture of Looking

Timeframe: 2018

This article explores the material culture of taste, examining the ways that artifacts we look with (the technologies of looking) can mediate and produce our understanding of taste. Taking a phenomenological approach to shopping and luxury it examines how processes of looking closely, of connoisseurship and distinction are bound up with the performance of good taste. Drawing on Bourdieu’s (1984a) formulation of “distinction,” it unpacks the multiple modes of vision and roles of looking necessary to perform and maintain the capital of good taste. Much has been written on the gaze in consumer societies, building upon theories of looking and desire (Mulvey 1989; Berger 1972). Whilst recent writing has often focused on screens and the subjectivity of desire (c.f. Rocamora, 2011, 2017, Pham, 2015) this article addresses ideas of taste and looking from a phenomenological and material culture perspective, utilizing the work of sociologist Bourdieu (1984a ), and phenomenologists Schilder (1935) and Merleau-Ponty (1962, 1968) to examine the embodied and bodily experience of looking with and through things.