Published between 1926 and 1945, Liangyou [The Young Companion] was among Shanghai’s most successful magazines during the Republican period, seeing distribution within Shanghai and across China. The magazine was the longest running Chinese-English bilingual monthly periodical, seeking to capture all aspects of Shanghai during its period of intense urbanization and modernization. It was during this period that Shanghai emerged as the epicenter of print media in China, its visual practices reflecting the city’s particular brand of modernity—“self-confident, self-reflexive, locally based but trans-locally networked, hybrid, heterogeneous, future-oriented, and unabashedly flaunting conceptual and visual curiosities and novelties.” (Pickowicz, et. al., 3).
“Blackout in Hollywood” exemplifies such hybridity and visual pleasure through its appropriation of transnational Hollywood imagery. The image is grid-like, depicting eight images of a man in round glasses looking straight ahead with intent. The images are numbered in succession from one to eight, suggesting a sequential viewing narrative. There exists an entirely different world of images within the man’s glasses. As if reflected in his lenses, we are looking at him, but he is not looking at us. Rather, the man’s glasses reflect a series of images of a woman, in what appears to be a domestic space, removing her jacket, dress, stockings, and slip. This reflected image—implying a cinematic screen—creates a striking visual effect that dislocates our gaze from any stable point of reference. At once, we see the woman, we see the man, and we watch him watch her, all while being able to watch her ourselves. This multiplicity of vision problematizes our position as viewers, allowing us to occupy multiple subject positions at once.
“Blackout in Hollywood’s” engagement with disjointed ways of looking draws out the metaphor of the kaleidoscope. While historian Paul Pickowicz has termed Shanghai’s print culture visually kaleidoscopic, this image further builds on the metaphor of the kaleidoscope by demanding fragmented ways of looking in order to navigate our unstable subject position. Looking at “Blackout in Hollywood” requires the viewer to embody a mobile gaze—one that can slip in and out of the image in order to look from a variety of vantage points. The integration of advertisements on the left side of the page—which also utilize seductive images of female bodies—further draws on our mobile gaze, calling for our eye to jump around the composition in order to grasp its many elements. This emphasis on expanding modes of vision overwhelms the eye, demonstrating a new mode of kaleidoscopic vision required to grasp the many facets of Liangyou’s printed pictures.
Lei, Jun. “Producing Norms, Defining Beauty: The Role of Science in the Regulation of the Female Body and Sexuality in Liangyou and Furen Huabao.” In Liangyou: Kaleidoscopic Modernity and the Shanghai Global Metropolis, 1926-1945. Eds. Paul G. Pickowicz et al., 111-131. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
Pickowicz, Paul G., Kuiyi Shen, and Yingjin Zhang. “Liangyou, Popular Print Media, and Visual Culture in Republican Shanghai.” In Liangyou: Kaleidoscopic Modernity and the Shanghai Global Metropolis, 1926-1945. Eds. Paul G. Pickowicz et al., 1-13. Leiden: Brill, 2013.