Read the article by Jacques Lacan entitled The Mirror-Phase as Formative of the
Function of the I on pps 620 – 624 of Art in Theory 1900 – 2000 making notes.
Formation of the I from 6 months onwards. Shows vigorous want.
paranoiac knowledge; process undermines our view of self.
This is the child’s foremost opportunity to recognise I before proper social interaction can take place, before language skills have been learnt.
The body as gestalt
More constituent than constituted;- more making than made and finalised? As yet unformed,
Realisation through movement repeated in front that the I is also that person, starts the process of projection into a visual reality that we use with other people.
Female pigeons mature after seeing another pigeon, which can be a reflection, locusts learn how to be sociable (swarm?) after seeing another locust.
So seeing more than one has a natural precedence of helping form aspects of self.
This leads us also to understand what we believe is beautiful because we have our point of reference as ourselves.
lack of reality (Dali?)
This leads from the inner self realising there is an outwardly visible self that functions with regards to others, grounds self in reality?
realising that the incomplete view of self through our eyes , in reflection gives a whole view and leads in a large part to the formation of ego
So, to recap, because we see ourselves in a mirror, we learn how to project ourselves into other situations (this is how advertising works) also we begin to understand beauty based on what we look like and the whole process begins to create our ego as we see and want things to support our view of self.
The fragmented form as seen in works by Bosch link to elements of hysteria.
The formation of I in dreams is within a defensive structure surrounded by inhospitable lands (inversion, isolation) Although I’m not sure at what age this aspect starts as I’m sure a child just understanding its feet wouldn’t know what a swamp was and would only consider its mother as a safe place.
The mirror phase ends at the start of social situations involving want and competition. which normalises through the Oedipus complex stage.
primary narcissism – mirror phase creating wants on an individual, which explains our anger with others unless we are helping them.
about existence. At this point Lucan writes about how shortsighted the modern view of being and nothingness is, how its overly negative and creates a view of society that is wholly utilitarian.
how understanding the more personal aspects, “the passions of the soul”, is potentially needed to understand the mentality of a whole city or community.
How servitude is overridden by love (abiding by social rules within a community?)
• Lacan was associated with the Surrealist movement. Find two examples of
Surrealist work that might have echoes of the mirror phase and annotate them
to show how.
Not to be reproduced (Portrait of Edward James) by Magritte.
The viewer is presented with the back view of a man wearing a smart jacket, his hair appears to be neatly tended and he stands shoulders relaxed visible from the waist up in the painting. in front of him, we are presented the corner of a very large mirror, the frame of two sides disappearing in front of the man. There appears to be a marble mantle with a book on it under the mirror, an Edgar Allen Poe story about the adventures of Gordon Pyme.
The reflection in the mirror is of the back rather than his reflection and face, painted exactly the same as the first outside mirror version. There is only a grey background reflected behind the man.
This picture is referencing the mirror phase as a point of discomfort in not seeing the expected, a man looks in the mirror and sees himself from behind, he sees himself going into nothing, rather than the relief in seeing what he always sees.
The persistence of memory by Salvador Dali
The landscape starts with a sky that seems pleasant enough, this disappears into the suggestion of water on the left which is edged by red earth to the right, topped by mountains.
The foreground is flat with a flat raised area of rectangular form in front of the water to the left. There is a suggestion of a further raised block front left emerging into the picture at an angle and into this is a suggestion of a dead grey trunk with branches off it. over one of these branches is draped a melting fob watch. Another fob watch melts off the edge of this raised area and another fob watch is next to this, face down with ants on its back. There is a portion of a face (described by the curve on the eyelash and a suggestion of eyebrow) over which melts another clock.
The land is barren and there is no life-form included in the painting.
This I believe is referencing Lucan’s question of reality before the mirror phase and the fragmented body after. The landscape is inhospitable and there is a fragment of a human. the uncertainty of time or potential ending available because of its lack gives the viewer a sense of unease as does the partial portion of skin.
• Find two examples of the way the contemporary media make use of Lacan’s
ideas and show how.
Advertising uses the mirror phase to place the viewer into a situation where they can see themselves with a product, giving rise to the libidinal urge to purchase.
Instagram users are sucked in by the mirror phase to liking someone they don’t know in an imaginary situation (unreal) because of photos that only show the best bits about this persons life. The social affirmation going back to the original poster of the photo.
Lacan, J(1966) The mirror phase as Formative of the function of the I In:Art in theory 1900-2000, Harrison, C. Wood, P. Oxford: Art in theory 1900-2000. pp. 620-624
Magritte, R(1937)Not to be reproduced [oil paint] Location: Tate
Dali, S(1931)The persistence of memory [oil paint] Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York