Monday 3 May 2021

Picture Post #63: The Audience

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be 
neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Martin Cohen

Girl Dancing In Front Of Her Teddy Bear. Paris, 1961

I like this image. Obviously, it's gentle, charming, and fun too. But beyond that, there is a touch of magic, in that the little girl is dancing, yes, but the bear is watching and waving. The bear becomes the active element in the composition, the girl a mere puppet, seemingly held up by invisible strings.

Not that it matters, I think it is a still from the film Gigot, that was set in Paris, so that's where this dance takes place and it was directed by Gene Kelly. However, the little girl – Nicole, in the film – is played by Diane Gardner. I believe this was her starring role!


Tessa den Uyl said...

Yes, the image is gentle Martin, for the innocence that it carries within? And at the same time there is the relationship between the girl as performer and the bear as the audience and the spectator of the movie taking the place of the bear on the screen. Then who is the puppet?

Keith said...

Such a wonderfully refreshing picture. The little girl’s make-believe world of innocence, joy, and tenderness. A feel-good, magical moment frozen in time. Complete with the teddy bear coming to life and affectionately reaching out to the girl, urging her on as she twirls in her own spellbinding world. For an instant, anyway, delightfully blocking out all else that was going on as a dark backdrop to this image in 1961’s Paris.

docmartincohen said...

Yes, thank you for the nice comments! I was a little apprehensive that you might feel it too "happy" a scene to be philosophically interesting! But yes, to me the question is as Tess puts it "who is the puppet". It's a curious switch, you see. Is she dancing for herself with the bear as merely an object - or actually for the bear with herself becoming a kind of object? Burt we don't need to over-analyse such a scene. It has an intuitive appeal and power.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

We all dance for teddy bears, I suspect.

Keith said...

Ah, I enjoyed your pithy comment, Thomas. I suspect that the metaphor of a ‘teddy bear’ audience before which/before whom we dance extends far and wide: animate and inanimate, real and imagined. Done so self-consciously and un-self-consciously.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

A further thought. We all live in a tension between cold fact and the larger qualities of life: love, beauty, purpose, and so on. Back in the day, one of my professors was the philosophical theologian Schaeffer, who made much of this tension. If the girl in the photo applies her reason to this moment, the whole purpose of the dance evaporates. Analysis dissolves our every dream.

Keith said...

In looking at this image, I couldn’t help but scratch my head about the everyday role of anthropomorphism in people’s lives, uncritically attributing human qualities to nonhuman things. Like the teddy bear appreciatively gesturing humanlike before this girl. But also, of course, innumerable other objects, animals, plants, figures in folktales and mythologies, supernatural beings, and so forth. In the case of the girl, she’s unselfconsciously creating in her imagination a make-believe world. Why adults need to employ this anthropomorphic device across various domains of their lives is a bit less clear

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