Pt 4 Project 2 The Mirror Phase

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.

Fragmented body.

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

Pt 4 Project 1 Freud, The Dissolution of the Oedipal Complex.

We are asked to: Find a passage by Freud called The Dissolution of the Oedipal Complex. Read it making notes in the usual way.

Freud starts at the sexual period of early childhood that ends abruptly as he puts it “the experience of painful disappointments.” at the point when a child realises they are not the sole benificiary of the opposite sex parents affections.

Ok, I’m writing notes on these words, but I’m going to disagree as I go along. This next bit brings in Oedipus, a character in a greek tragedy who was in an intimate relationship with his mother. Freud supposes at this point that children are always at their younger point all(?) sexually attracted to the opposite parent. Which is limiting affection and love to a point only linked to your genitals, a point of the anatomy that not all children are obsessed with. I think love of a parent at that age can be an all consuming thing that is quite probably separate from the sexual love over 99% of the population grow up to become involved in.

He then states that kids grow out of this desire.

I like his theory whereby at birth its possible to work out what a baby will die of at the end of their life, I’m sure a couple of stories have been written presupposing that one.

And back to the penis.

So because we women tell boys to stop fiddling with their bits in public, apparently by threatening the removal of said outside plumbing (although this threat is apparently used by women to male bedwetters too. I found limiting drinks before bedtime and ‘trying’ on the toilet worked, which must make me the exception rather than the rule).

I’m beginning to think Sigmund’s childhood was not the norm.

So, having discounted the stopping of breast feeding and the act of pooing to getting used to the idea of castration, he suggests its the sight of the female lack of a penis that backs up the threat from being idle to genuine probability.

So, the male child at some point starts thinking about shagging his mother and usurping his father, or usurping his mother in his fathers affections?!?

So the potential loss of his nuts could stop his Oedipal enjoyment and stops him thinking in an Oedipal way.

Females also have Oedipal thoughts, although ours run along a penile envy vibe (literally Bollocks). We apparently wish to usurp our mothers by bearing our father a child. Which apparently helps us with our future role as mothers.

Getting over the general horror of this view and the fact that we still have to read into a history rife with male dominated superiority based ideas, to get to simple theories just strengthens my feelings given a friend shared a link (this week) to a short vid highlighting the lack of female lead characters in childrens books. We are pushed forward by this history and just can’t achieve equality. Partially because equality itself is difficult to define given the role our bodies give us.

Rant over.

Freud’s assertion that we are searching for the love of our parent ties into the idea that we marry what we know. but thats based more on the ideals and concepts shared by two people matching the ones we grew up with more than anything else.

Look at Edvard Munch’s Ashes ashes.jpg.html and make notes as to how Freud’s ideas help you to understand this image

The picture shows a heavily forested area disappearing into darkness at the back. in the foreground there are 2 figures, a crouched over male, hand holding his head. Dressed in black.

A female standing hands on head, hair down and dishevelled, partially over the male, creating a link between them. her white dress is undone to the waist and she wears a red under-garment that does not appear to cover her breasts, her expression appears saddened, tormented even..

The foreground is rocky with a tree framing the picture to the left. the colours (other than the red garment) are muddy.

Without using Freud to look into this picture, I would be asking what the relationship is between these two people. The state of undress shows something has occurred that the female is unhappy about, the colour of her undergarment (still on) makes me think at a connection to passion or blood.

Why is the man crouched down? Why can’t we see his face? Is he ashamed of his actions?

Have these two done something they should be morally ashamed of?

Using Freud, I have to assume it is to do with sex.

Both of these people are feeling something intense, the colours and lack of light behind them maybe hinting at a passed action.

Ashes occur after the fire and as this is the title, its also stating something is over.

The picture is filled with intensely present pain, using Freud, his use of that word is at the understanding of castration, which is an end to sexual gratification.

Is this a picture of two people that consented to sex? or two people realising that it is over and won’t be happening again? there is a link to him from her with her hair, its a purposeful link, is it possessive?

Castration anxiety may help to explain the images featuring a dominatrix or simply a large woman and a small man. Seaside postcards of the so called humorous variety often feature this sort of image. Find two or three images of this or some other genre that might be explained in part at least by Freud and by annotation show how.

Judith beheading Holophernes

This is a Biblical story about how a woman potentially seduces a general in charge of an attacking army and frees the people (Israelis) she is one of by getting him drunk and beheading him.

The pictures that are created because of this story revolve around the image of Judith actually cutting off Holofernes head.

In terms of Freud, this is the ultimate castration: after a seduction/letting down of defences against someone of the weaker sex. This picture has been recreated many times by artists such as Carravagio to Kauffmann and in modern times through photograghy where the gender roles have been played with.

The image of two strong women ignoring the strength of the dominating male and cutting the head off their oppressor when painted by women (like Kauffmann) is against Feuds assertion that there is penile envy, the story is about a woman securing her own future even though she has no penis. I prefer that view to the one where they where so envious of his obvious male power (penis) that they ‘castrated’ the head of the army to show the strength of women, in which case its the bigest case of penis envy ever.

Maybe when painted by men it has more of a link to the strength and power involved in the role of the mother or the rising up against it. However the finality of the beheading is an end you can’t come back from, perhaps as a warning not to trust women.


Freud, S(1905)The Dissolution of the Oedipal Complex In: 7. on sexuality. Third edition. London. Penguin books.



Vintage Barthes- Mythologies

My tutor suggested I read Mythologies for part 3 of UVC1, Can’t say I was looking forward to it, so I’m doing notes chapter by chapter.

The structure is essays written one a week over a 2 year period, and from the first, it seems like its the Bill Bryson article that used to be at the start of the weeks TV guide in the Mail on Saturday.

The world of wrestling

ITV on Saturdays used to have wrestling. It was showmanship and false. Barthes likens it to classical drama with key characters where the justice is a stronger requirement than the fair play. And he was right, the spectacle was everything, the wrestlers themselves, cast as good or evil.

The Romans in film

The sign of a roman, a fringe, the sign of just woken up, unkempt hair or asymmetry of the plait.

This essay is dealing with artifice, the obvious sign shouting from the rooftops and having little meaning, whereas the subtle use of signs (the flag in Chinese theatre) to highlight an overlooked aspect.

The writer on holiday

Sarcastic little piece about how writers don’t stop being writers even on holiday or dressed in PJ’s.

The Blue blood cruise

About how royalty are reported as being special and normal at the same time then rule. The french did believe there king was a god though, pinch of salt required reading that one.

Blind and Dumb criticism

I’m guessing during this week Barthes read a book critique he didn’t like. The comments run something along the lines of critiquing based on linguistic response, philosophic or its relevance to life. Then purporting to know none of these (which is supposed to draw the reader of the critique in), whilst still critiquing on a book.

At this point he notices the text understands the reader better than the reader understands the text.

Soap powders and Detergents

He looks at 2 washing powders and the words used in their adverts, assimilating the actions of washing as being the same as those of a washerwoman and their difference as a powder from a cream. (importance of language)

Whilst both being owned by Unilever

The poor and the proletariat

Charlie Chaplin portraying the proletarian in films and handing prize money to proletariat causes, the obvious contradiction here is that he had great wealth. as much as he played the bum, his bum lived quite comfortably and always seemed to have access to whatever he needed. I think Barthes is praising the character for opening political debate around what you have to offer.

Operation Margarine

The ills of an institution are what saves it, Barthes uses 2 examples, the army and the church

The army is run by a bunch of puppets, to an order with a hierarchy,  however someone joins up and gets turned from average into another member of the army, which they learn to follow with a zeal.

Army again, all it destructs in the name of science is then used to explain its necessity.

The church, narrow minded about those outside of the faith yet protective of this within it.

Then skips to a margarine advert that tries to persuade you your prejudice against the product is wrong in the same way Barthes arguments with the army and church work.

That you are better off with the prejudice and an open mind.

Dominici or, the Triumph of literature

The Murder trial of a landowner accused of killing a family camping near his land.

Barthes is disparaging about the fact this lowly chap was by a raft of literate wordy types who condemned him without physical evidence.

The iconography of the Abbe Pierre

The many images of Franciscan monks and how we define what they are like by this.

From the haircut to whether they have a beard.

I don’t think Barthes likes religion very much….

Novels and children

after seeing a piece in Elle about female writers all of whom are announced with how many children they have had, Barthes writes about this link in Elle’s mind between childbirth and creative ideas to write. Noting that while men are not discussed in the magazine, they are a watching subject that haunts all the articles.

Are we defined by our overriding procreation capability?


Moaning about how toys aid playing at life, not creativity.

This then conforms to social stereotyping, playing mum, soldier etc.

Then about what they are made from, and the time it takes to make them, finishes with old farm toys, the carefully created animals. Or the stereotype of playing at being a farmer.

He does like to contradict himself.

The face of Garbo

“Existential form from an essential beauty” I’m guessing he found Audrey physically pleasing to look at.

Wine and milk

Wine is French. Levels the brainy with the not so, and makes the blue collar workers job more bearable.

The french don’t drink to get drunk, thats just going to happen because its alcohol. Its also been talked about and philosophised over so much that even the thought of wine is as French, also if you don’t ascribe to this view you are a touch stuffed because of the large proportion of the population to whom this view is sacrosanct.

Water was suggested as the opposite of wine, Barthes suggests thats actually milk.

Also points out that if you can forget the land grabbing(?) then wine can remain the joyous drink.

Steak and Chips

Bearing in mind the love of French food that would kick after use of jump leads, Barthes links steak to life and its consumption to strength

Eulogising over the rarity of steak and its associations to our blood, taking steak and chips as a national dish.

The Nautilus and the Drunken boat

Jules Verne and his own little world with its own physics. Barthes likens him to a child creating dens and hiding from uncertainty and the infinite. Verne uses ships as a means to carry his characters, the lead owns the ship and is surrounded by all they need, take away the ship and Barthes likens whats left to an eye roving around. Then discusses the opposite of this as Rimbaud’s Drunken Boat. (deconstruction theory dealing with the opposite that isn’t present to compare?)

The Brain of Einstein

Einstein is signified by his brain. He is mythologised, he almost found the secret of the universe and then he died.

The Jet-Men

This is about (I think) a film or comic? The idea its based on is the mythical jetman who dons a nylon suit and against the laws of physics shoots through everywhere without the adverse effects of gravity or bug splatter mucking him up. How they forsake a normal life with religious values and as an inventor (?) seclude themselves and worship the myth of being the jet-person. Discusses the god like nature of the elderly mentor?

The Blue Guide

The picturesque is found any time the ground is uneven. I like that.

This essay is a review of a series of guide books called Guide Blue Its a bit condescending, in part because of Barthes slightly scathing view of hills (he sites our love of them as historic restorative) but he’s right, any time you reduce the entire population of an area to an extended noun phrase and downgrade them as lower than yourself, I would say its a book to avoid.

He goes on to point out how the countryside of Spain is reduced to its historical buildings of churches and misses out the modern town around them or the fact that the building of any of it desecrates the picturesque landscape initially discussed.

He notes that had the authors been from other publications, the emphasis would have been on something else.

Ornamental cookery

Elle again, cookery recipes that look great but are outside the financial expectation of its demographic, and are dressed for the picture in a fashion suitable to the time this article was written.

Neither-Nor Criticism

Suggests that an anonymous view Barthes read in the paper, about how criticism had to be so equal in all ways, as to be not possible to do.

This over equal view had to have no historical knowledge, in anyway, shape or form, in fact the person doing the critique should have done nothing with their life prior to writing.

This reads like Derrida’s “Of Grammatology” extract we are asked to read in Project 5 only its more openly saying that its not possible to be that bipartisan.


Barthes looks at the act of striptease, suggesting its only erotic in the initial removal of clothing and accessories, that the dance itself with its constant movement removes that eroticism. Amateurs who fumble removing their clothing and stop moving gracefully throughout the process are unwittingly erotic.

That the Moulin Rouge has turned the striptease into a profession, with aspirations which is in Barthes mind what nationalises the art of striptease. Not sure I’d be too proud of that, even if its supposed to be an empowering act.

The New Citroen

How new cars are like cathedrals, made objects seem dropped from heaven as you cannot see the making process in them, the sides smooth metal and glass.

The inside is likened to household space, the dashboard a fitted kitchen, then trying the car out demystifies everything through the reality of touch.

Photography and the Electoral Roll

Sarcastic piece about what the photo of a candidate on electoral propaganda means, from mirroring the public into believing ‘I’m just like you’ to reflecting their background in clothing or their views in where they are looking and how they are posed.

The Lost Continent

Reviews a film(?) about an expedition into somewhere Eastern. Scathing about anything you could learn as its in colour, has a christian bent to its explanation and non authentic music in the background. It also uses typical signs to strengthen and support stereotypes.


Elle again. Horoscopes as a description of their shared ambiguities and relation to the majority of the female working woman.


The endless mutation possibilities of plastic. How it can’t seem natural and is now so ubiquitous its filled our houses, and potentially us with replacement heart valves.

The Great Family of Man 

Review of an exhibition transplanted from USA, how its meaning changed with the addition of the word Great to the title and the constant use of similarities across the world in various processes are supposed to draw us together.

Then refers to a black girls murder and asks if her family feel so in tune with this view of togetherness given her killer was white.

Whats the point of reviewing birth and death, they are factually unavoidable and if you take history out of the discussion, have nothing to offer the exhibition.

Suggests that in discussing birth, the background story of the pain, infant mortality and future prospects would be more useful. That its only natural as much as it is profitable.

The Lady of the Camellias

Review of a play and about how its not a love story, as the heroine has a different placement to the love involved than the man who is supposed to be her lover, what she is looking for from him is recognition.

Myth is a type of speech

The signified is the picture of the subject, what it signifies is the meaning, and the sign is the word that means the whole thing?

The myth is the sign emptied of meaning added to the new story and combined to become a new sign. The previous history glossed over and ignored to embody something whole and complete in itself.


Barthes, R(1957) Mythologies. Translated revised Vintage edition 2009.London: Vintage


Pt 3 Project 5 Deconstruction

Most people who have not studied philosophy or critical theory really struggle with the writings of Jacques Derrida who is the major writer on ‘Deconstruction’, which is really the subject behind this project. Art in Theory has a piece (on page 944 et sec) by Derrida taken from one of his seminal works Of Grammatology. You may well find it rewarding to read this section and see what you make of it.

The writer has to write within the rules of text so their personality cannot completely come out. Also, the rules of how we write dictate how it comes across to the reader.

The writer includes some history in their writing, be it by the language and rules with which they write. However, upon reading, the reader should understand this history coming through.

The reader should only read the signs in the text, they should not ‘double’ the commentary by reading into it their own history.

The reader cannot as a result refer outside the text either.

And as much as they have an existence outside the text, all that is needed and real is within it.

However, if you can take your psychological biography completely outside the text, this can complement it.

Is it impossible to separate signified from signifier? We have to take into account the history of the text, the context of the text, the history of the author.

Then through some Herculean reading dismiss it all and just read the text.

Is this possible?


I’m getting a firmer grasp of how unfairly my sex has been handled down through the ages and whats worse is the knowledge that whilst this changes subtly with every generation, the background we are brought up with is underpinned by a raft of literature authored by people with a backward view of equality through their own history, written in times of less equality than our own. Given that we learn in schools through history, I don’t think we are taught how to suspend all of the stuff around the text to get at the initial message. not content with that, I don’t believe that message can be read with regards to where we are without some of that historical context leaking out.

I also think Derrida knew it wasn’t possible and was making a point.


Art = signs and imitation. Art only works through culture. signs are linked to the customs within a culture and represents itself through signs.

References music from one area not being liked by someone somewhere else, which makes sense.

Then onto gluttony which precludes taste and “uneducated un cultivated sensations” delving into Rousseau is a bit of a digression at this point.

He then argues that in art we find the value of the meaning of the sign more important than the object or symbol itself it has to “imitate an object, and, better if it expresses a passion”

The symbols work, even if stripped of colour, they appear in print as lines, in original form they already hold the ability to be beautiful in imitation because the symbols are readable?

This is the reason for the death of art, although as a personal aside, we’ve been learning how to do art on the back of other artworks for a few centuries now which means art died somewhere around the cave painting when there where only a handful of people on the planet and their ability to verbally critique was quite poor.

However, imitation leads to a copied line which loses some of the passion thus killing the art.

Also, by creating art we are supplying the bit of nature that is missing.



We are asked to search for more information on Deconstruction and make notes in your blog. Then see if you can put what you have discovered into practice on an image, a film, some literature or a piece of music.

Deconstruction;- Looking for what is absent in the document or art and comparing that to what is in it.

Andromeda 1962 by Alexander Liberman 1912-1999

Andromeda – Alexander Liberman

This painting on a circular support 1650cm in diameter. Painted in acrylic. Divided into 4 sections, the canvas shows 3 colours.

There are 2 moss green sections either side with a thick curved line going through the middle of the canvas vertically. This is split into 2, on the left, thicker at the top and to a point at the bottom is a curved wedge of deep lilac. Next to (on the right of centre) not quite parallel curved sides (slightly thinner at the bottom), is a very dark brown/black block.

This piece is called andromeda.

If this piece is referring to the Andromeda galaxy, then what it is lacking is stars. It is missing the colour and light that the stars give. It has the immensity of its size to encompass space.

stars/no stars

How does it represent the stars by not having them present? is a trace here because of the title? or is it implied in the size of the canvas?

are the stars in the galaxy absent because of the giant curve representing where they could be?

dull colour/light

Is the absence of light hinting at the galaxy’s distance from us? again referencing size.

Is his lack of descriptive detail referencing the uncertainty of the era he lived in and the space exploration that was ongoing at the time? this new style of hard edged art representing the leap in capability of man into the unknown?

According to Derrida we shouldn’t link the art to the history of the time, so should we not look at what was happening in the 60’s? or that this was a new style of art? I think it shuts off a way to view this picture if we can’t consider it and absorb it into our potential fascination of it.

It has to be said I am loving the fact that I now would really like to sit down in front of this piece and just take it in. Its not the normal thing I’d head for…


Derrida, J(1967)The exorbitant: question of method & The engraving and the amiguities of formalism In:Art in theory 1900-2000, Harrison, C. Wood, P. Oxford: Art in theory 1900-2000. pp. 944-949

Liberman, A(1962) Andromeda [acrylic on canvas] [online image]. Tate gallery London. Available from: [accessed 1st March 2017]