|Penis Cop (2002) by Art Chantry|
I can't help but to think the number of times therapists and other people use an epistemology of personal revelation. Things are true--are knowledge--because we think they are based on what we feel or think. It provides for a situation where we can be grossly wrong about our understandings of the world around us.
It's not that I'm opposed to an epistemology of personal revelation. It is a powerful way of knowing. By itself, however, it's incomplete. Personal revelation needs to be combined with disciplined observation and hypothesis testing (the scientific method). Both together are more powerful than either alone.
Chantry's poster is a perfect example of the problems with an epistemology of personal revelation. It is easy to see the condom ad as vintage based on color and design. A closer examination of it quickly changes the story. The text transforms the visual impression of a vintage poster into an impression of a more modern day public health message.
The art of David Trullo provides another example of how our revelations are easily manipulated. By manipulating vintage photos with modern technology he turns real scenes into unreal ones--unreal scenes that still look real. He provides another powerful example of how personal revelation by itself can create misunderstandings.
As you might imagine, I have added a new obsession to my collection of all things vintage. Here are a few (real) vintage advertisements for condoms. Watch my Tumblr page for more -- along with a variety of other things that challenge us to see things through the lenses of personal revelation as well as empirical validation.